Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018

Does only Changing Paths of Learning Change the Motives?

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March 29, 2018


Let me start with a few lines from ‘The Road not
Taken’ by Robert Frost –
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This situation arises in everyone’s life and those who take the untrodden path make a big difference for themselves and for the onlookers. The poet’s perception is, it is not only the changing path but the changing mindset of the individual too makes a difference.

Learning paths are of four types viz Aural/Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual, Reading /Writing. Learning can take place in scholastic and co-scholastic subjects. If one wants to be good at a particular sport, he has to learn that particular sport; similarly if one wants to be happy, one has to learn what happiness is. Learning the subject means mastering the skills therein and gradually elevating oneself to the level of expertise and finally making a living out of it.

Let me talk about scholastic subjects where learning paths have undergone a change. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and so when the need arose, the policy makers have made amendments to the learning paths or have designed new ones.

In the classrooms where scholastic subjects are taught, we have evolved from the traditional chalk and talk to the audio-visual learning to smart classes to Mobile Assisted Learning (MAL) and still counting many more innovations. The techniques are countless. In the coming years there are going to be more additions to this list. The reasons for this change are –

  • Change in curriculum
  • Change in the temperament and mental attitude of the learners
  • Change in physical facilities provided by the learning centres
  • Change in the policies by different boards/organizations/ bodies designing the curriculum

In the wake of these factors, research is going on to develop or evolve new methods of learning. With the passage of time learning has shifted from being ‘teacher centred’ to ‘learner centred’. Hence, researchers and developers are working round the clock to meet the unending demands of the learners. This is done to ensure that the learners –

  • do not have to give up their comfort zone.
  • feel at home and get a conducive atmosphere for learning .
  • do not feel the stress of learning
  • do not quit learning because they are over burdened by the learning methods.
  • are able to withstand peer pressure and many more such reasons

Since the learning methodologies have undergone a change, the testing methods too underwent a change to match the means adopted and the ends to be achieved. Some of the changes in testing scholastic subjects are as follows.

  • Changed from testing rote memory to application
  • Changed from more subjective questions to proportionate objective and subjective questions
  • The time limit for learner to answer the examination has increased by 30 to 45 minutes
  • Use of calculator instead of log tables
  • Introduction of internal marks given by the school has been an additional benefit for the learners
  • Scrapping of practical examinations for science stream subjects, and if at all it exists, the school has to conduct the same and send the mark list to the respective boards

All in all learning is now made lively, dynamic and marginally difficult for the learners. There are institutions like Open School, which give access to learners with learning disabilities. Dyslexics, those suffering from Dyscalculia, slow learners, learners with special needs and many more can now avail of several facilities and live up to the expectation of fulfilling their ‘right to education’. Similarly there are institutions imparting education in co-scholastic subjects to suit the needs of the learners of present day.

Let’s now go to the other side of the coin.

  • Are the learners making the best of this situation?
  • Are they serious in pursuing the learning of their choice?
  • Are the learners making any effort to overcome the hurdles, obstacles, hindrances in their path of learning?
  • Do the learners have the zeal, enthusiasm to think ‘out of the box’?
  • Are the learners ready to discard their comfort zones in pursuit of a comfortable future?

There may be exceptions to this. There are innumerable such questions that come to the mind of a teacher. The answers to such questions depend on many factors; some of them are as follows –

  • Upbringing of the learner which includes the surroundings, physical amenities, environment.
  • The place of upbringing i.e. urban/rural
  • The educational institution where the learner is seeking learning
  • Socio-economic background of the learner
  • Influence of friends, acquaintances, neighbours, people around the learner
  • Peer pressure if any i.e. helicopter parents, hyper active parents

Today the learner is free to choose a subject of his/her choice and assimilate the learning required to establish oneself in some walk of life. The learning path will keep on changing to suit the needs of the learners but the learners too will have to develop receptivity for it. They will have to adopt the change and adapt to it in order to carve a niche for themselves.

The bottom line is ‘one can take the horse to the water, but the horse has to make an effort to drink the water’. The policy makers will make all the possible efforts to make learning easy, stress free, lively and enjoyable but the learners too have to play a vital role in the system. Jawaharlal Nehru once said, ‘If the ends are right but the means adopted are wrong it will vitiate the ends or deviate us from the ends’. Hence, if the learners do not make the best of the opportunities provided to them in different forms, they are losers more than the policy makers.

Gone are the days when academics were the only barometer to measure the progress, aptitude, proficiency and development of the learner. Learning can be done in any field and by any method but it needs to be retained for a long term in order to get benefit out of it. This can be achieved only if the learners are serious in the teaching-learning sessions. It is possible only if the learners make it a point to learn the skills irrespective of the learning paths. It is possible if the learners make up their minds not to waiver even if the learning paths are difficult. Thus, the words of Robert Frost can come true.

Ajit P Thosar teaches English at St Joseph ET High School, Bilimora, Gujarat. He has been working as key resource person (KRP) in several workshops on different subjects arranged by different government agencies. He is a writer, reviewer and translator of several projects by Gujarat State School Textbook Board and a member of ELTAI and IATFL. He was awarded Best Teacher Award 2010 by Knowledge Olympiad Society, Hyderabad.

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