Learning without suffering
Author: Vismit Joshi
Have you ever asked yourself ”Why do most students abhor university?” or ”Does university, especially at the post-secondary level, really teach anything to students?” or” What is the whole purpose of real learning and are today’s schools fulfilling that purpose?” In this complicated world that we call home, a world filled with dark pasts, politics, rigid norms, and corruption, the answers to these questions are simple but at the same time difficult to understand for some people.
Lectures … do you secretly feel that they are an unproductive way to learn? Or that in today’s fast-paced and rigid curriculum you can’t truly learn something or remember it once exams are over? Or that you wish school was a bit more satisfying and joyful? Or that you had more to your school memories than just movies, hanging out, and complaining about school? No one really talks about these things because we have all come to accept the education system as the norm, just as we undeniably accept life and death.
Do you realize how much of an impact the education system has on our world? It determines the quality of engineers, doctors, psychologists, scientists, artists, teachers, and even politicians that we will get in the future. It is that fundamental. Realize that everything starts with education.
The truth is that the education model we use today has long expired. What we consider the modern model of education was created about 150 for a world that had a smaller population, lower dependence on advanced knowledge, and different priorities. Back then, the goal was to teach children to read and write so that they could become factory workers, farmers, or sometimes academics – who would go on to learn further if they chose. I define academics as people whose sincere passion is to study, research, and draft reports of their discoveries so that the world can use their knowledge. And these academics went to university. And it was perfect. University was the perfect place for academics, and the rest of the system worked as well.
But today, our world has transformed significantly. Our priorities as humans have changed. However, nothing about the way we teach our children has changed. No matter how much technological bling we add to our classrooms, students still find themselves copying text from a 2-D surface and superficially demonstrating their skills by filling out an exam paper. What’s worse is that most students go to university or college in order to become artists, athletes, businesspeople, doctors, engineers, and manual workers. But we just determined that universities are only meant for academics, not for people who want to do practical things in the world. I am not conveying that learning in general is not meant for practical people. I want to let you know that we have had the wrong image of what a university is, all along! Students must learn what is necessary to pursue their dream, but that place may not be university for most people because the purpose of a university is something different.
There are many problems with today’s teaching and learning methods. I will not state all problems because you have most likely experienced them as a student. I can say from my experience that today’s school educate students inefficiently. Knowledge has grown, but the timeframe in which we teach our children using this inefficient approach has not. Also, there exists very less actual learning and a lot of institutional torture and policy politics in a students daily life. For instance, no person ever becomes truly successful by doing what today’s education system asks you to do: attend class and score high marks on exams. One has to join extra-curricular activities, practice their passion at home, participate in conferences, and take a lot of initiative. Most of the time, successful people – namely Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg – have had to ”hack” the education system in order to do what they really wanted. Now we are starting to see how the whole structure starts to crumble.
Our students need a temple (no dramatic effect intended) of skill-development which does not exist today. We need it badly because yes, this is an emergency. It is an emergency because students feel trapped and frustrated, happiness is not a priority in today’s learning, and education is seen as an industrial process rather than an organic one, and you know this if you’ve ever been a student. So let us begin to look at learning in a new, more correct perspective and tell ourselves that learning is beautiful and that students lives – especially of those who study engineering must – not be hindered and crippled by the gross view our policy-makers have of excellence and success.