The Future of Learning..


G. Balasubramanian
Former Director (Academics), CBSE

I am no soothsayer.. but one doesn’t need another Nostradamus to predict the course of events that would make the process of learning, new, challenging, complicated yet more friendly. The last few decades have witnessed a sea-change in the processes that define learning, the tools that empower learning and the environment that provokes and compels learning. From a world where the ‘Joy of Learning’ was celebrated, we have moved to a world where the demands of Learning have necessarily provoked stress and urgency. The challenges thrown by space and time have been conquered to enable learning as an instant takeaway. The emergence of ‘Learning Organisations’ and ‘Learning Communities’ appear to impact our learning styles, targets and purposes. It leaves us with the question–Where we are heading to…both as individuals and as a community?

The early steps

Learning is a natural inquisitive spirit of all living species, in particular, of Homo sapiens. History is evidence to the reorganisation of the learning behaviour and learning systems from time to time. The evolution of the Printing press as a gift of the industrial revolution was the most prominent landmark that triggered learning from indirect sources rather than one-to-one or one-to-many personal contacts. The scope of learning enlarged given more time for consideration of knowledge, its analytics, as well as its authenticity. It offered better scope to scientifically evaluate the concepts, the proofs and the interpretations and challenge the inputs as well as the outputs of knowledge processes.

The informatic society

The emergence of Informatics society ushered in a technology driven encapsulation of knowledge and facilitated better analytics at a reasonably reduced period of time. Further it brought down the distances for knowledge sharing and triggered social construction of knowledge both in the closed structures as well as in open structures. The resultant impact on the knowledge economy was mind boggling. It impacted both the cognitive dimensions of the universe of knowledge as well the fiscal considerations that arise out of knowledge sharing and transactions. Transfer of knowledge from a given domain to others became easier, cheaper, economical and speedy. Hence the evolution of newer knowledge and co-construction and synthesis of knowledge acquired a newer perspective.

The knowledge society

The Knowledge Society, given its multifaceted mobility in all knowledge corridors, today calls for a purposeful reconsideration of our existing understanding of the acquisition, management and processing of knowledge as Knowledge has become a social and global wealth. The objectives, processes and styles of learning have, therefore, to be in harmony with the magnitude and direction of the flow of knowledge, as that would determine, the wealth of a nation. Rightly says Peter Ducker, “In the Knowledge Society there will no poor countries, but there will be only ignorant countries. Poverty will be determined by the level of ignorance a country has.”

Impact of Technology

The educational institutions of a country need to respond meaningfully to the emerging scenario, by re-engineering their physical and intellectual infrastructure. This is essential to ensure their learners to be a part of the concurrent structures across the world. In this context, one cannot underrate the impact of technology in learning spaces. Technology has taken up the role of a culture catalyst. It has redesigned the way we communicate, the way we store information, the way we process knowledge for productive work.

In the new scenario, learning happens beyond the four walls of a classroom. With better access to knowledge, the learners would aspire for more freedom for examining their knowledge in classrooms, questioning their credibility and contextuality. Learning will be a co-constructive activity with the teacher, the peers and the physical support systems in place as facilitators. The challenge of the classrooms would be to overcome the boredom arising out of the repetition of knowledge that is already contained elsewhere.

What are the directional possibilities?

  1. There will be focus on construction of new knowledge. Extended learning, collaborative learning and interactive learning will trigger newer interpretations of the existing knowledge domains in the emerging social and geo-political contexts. Classrooms would be expected to be more open where the teacher would have no option, but to be a co-learner.
  2. There will be a greater focus on the power of knowledge than the content of knowledge. Emergence of newer knowledge systems, apps that would provide packed skills embedded with knowledge and the speed of delivery of knowledge applications would be better sought after. There are likely to be repeated questions on – what do we do with this knowledge and why do we have it? – rather than mute acceptance because of a top-down delivery of knowledge.
  3. The styles of learning would undergo a sea-change as more ‘encapsulated forms of knowledge’ would be available. We have already started realising its impact on the Reading styles and Writing styles. The emergence e-books has transformed the reading habits among learners. The retention of knowledge over a given period of time is considered more as a pain than a necessity as the same is available at the touch-down of a button. Short reading, fast reading and time-bound reading skills are being practiced. Similarly, the impact of technology has transformed the classical language structure with new words, newer grammatical styles and newer modes of addressing people and issues. Such changes would continue to evolve and the learning spaces need to be conscious of this dynamics, whether they like it or not.
  4. With virtuality on the forefront, the experiences with knowledge and skills would be more fun-filled, edutaining, with a greater thrust on accuracy, accountability and authenticity. Performance evaluation would become a more explicit profile input for learners than other modes of certification.
  5. The results of many neuro-cognitive researches that explain process of learning more intrinsically would force a reconsideration of our understanding of learning theories and appropriate our methods of facilitation in classrooms to trigger learning. The teacher empowerment programmes will have to re-designed to bring contextual and global skills to face the newer challenges.
  6. The complexity and inter-dependency of various changes will seek newer approaches to curriculum design with focus on inter-disciplinary, multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary learning to consider knowledge in a holistic perspective.

The future of learning appears to be a scenario which would be adventure driven, more targeted, with wider avenues for learning, yet funfilled. The educational systems, wherever they are, would have no scope for re-tracking their footsteps, but will be under an obligation to run a race with or without a choice. \

Meeting the challenge

Educational institutions would become ‘Learning Organizations’ – engaged in a continuous process of learning, both through external knowledge inputs and of course, with their own periodic learning experiments.

The words of Peter Senge in the introduction of his book The Fifth Discipline makes an interesting observation:

“There is an old adage ‘The eye cannot see the eye’. Learning, that changes mental models is immensely challenging. It is disorienting. It can be frightening as we confront cherished beliefs and assumptions. It cannot be done alone. It can occur only with a community of learners.”

G. Balasubramanian
G. Balasubramanian

G. Balasubramanian is known for his innovations in curriculum development and interactive pedagogy. He has been instrumental to the introduction of several innovations in CBSE curriculum, which includes communicative approach to language teaching, IT, biotechnology, entrepreneurship, fashion studies, disaster management, among many others. He joined CBSE as joint secretary in 1984 and worked in several capacities in academics, examinations, confidential and administration branches of the board. He was elevated to the post of Director (Academic) in 1997 and served in the capacity till his retirement in 2006.