Liberate learning


G. Balasubramanian
Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School, New Delhi

Schools, boards, institutions of higher learning and educational administrators need to be more focused, pro-active, participative, engaging and authentic in their approaches towards facilitating learning. Learning needs to be liberated!

Preparing for uncertainty” appears to be the hallmark of all developing systems worldwide. The impact of global technologies and the speed of their re-engineering into new Avatars in short spans of time capsules, has forced synergetic thinking and processes of enterprise and exploration that are previously unknown and unacceptable, relevant, possible and viable today as we engage into newer models of learning and thinking. Our social perspectives, life-longings and consequent practices both personal and social, are undergoing faster change than ever the world has witnessed or calibrated.

The speed of change and transformation is holding the future to an acid test. How would the future of the world would be? Says Patrick Dixon, in his book “The Future of (almost) Everything” – “We face the greatest threat to survival in human history, while new technologies will give us the greatest opportunities ever known to create a better world. Some decisions made today will affect life on earth for a thousand years.”

Education is the most powerful instrument for preparing the current generation to meet the challenges of the future. Stepping into the knowledge society has been the result of our cumulative experience of over a few thousand years. This has resulted in understanding knowledge from different perspectives both for the personal and the social constructs. The way knowledge is accessed, stored, processed and packaged will define the ‘knowledge economy’. Contribution to the knowledge economy will not be from the select few who are sitting on the ivory towers of philosophical temples of knowledge, but by the common who practice and articulate knowledge with skills. Multi-dimensional knowledge practices would be the requisite of any vibrant society to empower the entire spectrum of people with differing aspirations. No wonder, Peter Drucker, the renowned Management Guru observed, “The knowledge society will inevitably become far more competitive than any society we have yet known for the simple reason that with knowledge being universally accessible there are no excuses for non-performance. There will be no poor countries. There will only be ignorant countries. “

The relevance and importance of building learning organizations and institution of knowledge dynamics can never be underplayed. It is in this connection, the urgency of re-engineering the existing curricula and pedagogical patterns of our schools and institutions of higher learning assumes the top priority. Countries, who, for their political reasons or other priorities marginalize this issue and do not participate in this cutting-edge competition will lose the race in their economic superiority. While the arguments relating to celebrating our well-earned legacy, the universally articulated heritage, the strong social bonding that supports the rhythm of co-existence and a single humanity need not be put on shelves as irrelevant, it is equally important to let the learners reach out to global knowledge through all available corridors for their pursuit, so that they become active participants and engage in global productive platforms to enhance their economic and social power.

The school curricula and what more, the textual and support materials of the country should enable freedom of thinking, critical analysis, enterprise, forward mobility and productive engagement with futuristic perspectives. Limiting the knowledge of the learners to the walls of a text-book, imprisoning thoughts that would facilitate only a scoring in well-defined examination structures, inhibiting their extended learning and thus their creativity will only produce a generation of “customers” rather than “producers of knowledge.” This perspective is further substantiated by the recent revelations of neuro-cognitive researchers.

Dr V.S. Ramachandra, the renowned neuro-cognitive scientist asserts, “We can now say with confidence that the brain is an extraordinarily plastic biological system that is in a state of dynamic equilibrium with the external world.” Ben Jessen, the author of “Brain-based learning” clearly points with evidences that the brain’s learning is not linear. It is a multi-dimensional process and thus learning is unique. It varies from individual to individual. Hence learning inputs need to be learner-friendly and should cater to the needs of differentiated learners. Any linear input to the brain would be non-stimulating to the learners. Hence learning should be facilitated through a variety of learning inputs. No wonder, the latest conceptualization of the school curricula in Finland, supports this idea of assimilation of knowledge from various sources, thereby negating the primary role of any singular text book or pedagogy. Learners are expected to learn through critical evaluation of any idea through a variety of considerations, approaches and strategies. It would lead to greater possibility of construction of new knowledge.

The educational philosophies have taken cognizance of these emerging dimensions and hence have metamorphosed from behaviorism to cognitivism, to constructivism, to connectivism. Each of these approaches have a contribution to make and a role to play: hence there is a need for co-existence of all these approaches

The fact that the human brain has been continuously evolving, has been acknowledged world wide and the developmental psychologists have enough evidences to support. Hence what are the likely future directions of change?

Michio Kaku, the renowned Futurologist writes in his book “The Future of Mind” : One day scientists might construct an “internet of the mind’ or a brain-net, where thoughts and emotions are sent electronically around the world. Even dreams will be videotaped and then “brain-mailed” across the internet.” Leaving aside, what the future holds, it appears important for us to prepare our younger generation for the possibilities of a future world, which is more open, more interactive and more dynamic. Education systems have possibly no option but to sensitize themselves lest the people of the country remain only road-side gazers of the celebration of knowledge.

Schools, boards, institutions of higher learning and educational administrators need to be more focused, pro-active, participative, engaging and authentic in their approaches towards facilitating learning. Learning needs to be liberated!

G.Balasubramanian, Editor-in-chief of The Progressive School Magazine is a leading educator in the field of school education, curriculum designer, author, HR trainer and educational administrator. Widely traveled, he has authored several books for schools, educational administrators and is a premier teacher-trainer both across the country and abroad. He has authored – Mindscaping Education, Case Studies in Classrooms, Quality Spectrum – A school’s bandwidth and Safety in Schools – Issues & concerns.