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Monday, November 07, 2011

From Education To Learning

11:30 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal , No comments
We had an economics teacher in 8th or 9th standard (not too sure about the class). In every economics period, she used to dictate questions and their answers to us as soon as she use to enter the class, throughout the duration of that period. She use to do this religiously. No discussions, no exchanging of ideas, just dictation. This was her way to prepare us for the exams. I do not remember how much I scored in economics, but I do remember this - because of her teaching style, I started to hate economics. I hated the subject till I grew up and started taking interest in the world around me, on my own. Then during the MBA I just fell in love with economics. We had amazing professors who used various media to teach us the wonders of micro and macro economics, and their relevance in our lives. 

It is ironic, but since the time I have completed my MBA, I have started to question our whole education system. Okay, my economics teacher might be a bit of an extreme and uncommon example, but the underlying problems in the education system stay the same, and even global. These problems - such as emphasis on passing exams and getting higher grades, focus on teaching instead of making students interested in learning, a standard curriculum for all students instead of customized courses based on each student's ability and interests, and focus on hard skills - plague our education system almost on a global level.

Think of the people who have changed this world. Do you think it was their college degrees that helped them accomplish their goals? At least, PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor, Peter Thiel does not think so, that is why he started the controversial "20 under 20" initiative. I agree with Peter that you learn much more in the real world than you do in the confines of a classroom.

One of the biggest problems that I find in the current education system is its emphasis towards teaching and not learning, its focus towards the institution not the student, and its closed nature instead of open. In fact, I think the problem here is that the focus is on education, instead of learning. While education is a system driven by society, learning is part of the basic human nature driven by curiosity and desire. While education is institutional, learning is individual. While education is something that is imposed on you, learning is something that you want to do. I am not sure about you but the moment I hear the word education the first images that come to my mind are benches, classrooms, teachers, periods, report cards and assignments. The feeling is much simpler, when I think of learning. 

Learning can be done anywhere and anytime, and has two key constituents: content and media. In our fast moving world, content is generated every passing minute of every hour of every day of every year. Once it is generated, this content can reach people all over the world through various media - books, television, internet, radio, friends, parents, relatives, etc. You can learn while playing games, talking to people, listening to radio, watching TV. Basically anytime you interact with anything in this world (or even outside it) is an opportunity for learning. It is one of the basic human characteristics, and cuts across all demographics, just like music.  

I think while our education system was established with the noblest of motives, we have lost it on our way to this point. The education system has turned into a breeding ground for preparing us to join a life-long rat race. I understand that this problem cannot be solved quickly, but many people and organizations are trying to do their part. There is an ongoing movement to emphasize on the importance of learning. It also helps to know that transformation of education is not just a charitable cause, but a profitable one too. Many entrepreneurs are leveraging the transformational capability of technology in order to change the education system - with more emphasis towards the individual, rather than the institution. I think one of the most interesting and pragmatic motivation in exercising your entrepreneurial aspirations in this field is the fact that there is no dominant player in education. Unlike music or movies or mobile phones, there is no monopoly or oligopoly here. 
Changes in our education system are now long overdue. There is a need and, thanks to the advancements in technology, potential to replace the institution with the individual at the centre of education


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