Skip to main content

Making a radical departure from the school system’s assembly line mentality


By Moin Qazi*
Never let formal education get in the way of your learning. — Mark Twain
A Rip Van Winkle who may wake up today after having missed the information revolution would be extremely dazed to see the changed world. We now have Wikipedia instead of libraries, and Google to provide round the clock access to information. In the new social and educational explosion we have lost the pursuit of knowledge .Our brains are powerful creative processors, but we have made them receptacles for storage and retention of inert facts. We are slowly devaluing the human mind which has sparked the creation of so many great civilizations.
Socrates would have been a sworn enemy of Wikipedia. Plato recorded that Socrates’ detested the written word because it allowed people to parrot facts without understanding and assimilating them. There is a difference between a disaggregated collection of facts pulled in and out of storage as needed and the kind of knowledge that comes by constructing knowledge. We need to garner concepts, synthesize them, draw inference and apply the learning to the real world. True learning can best be done in a format that infuses enthusiasm and meaning into the educational experience.
Learning has for long been administered by conventional pedagogy. We are slowly becoming a counterfeit generation faithfully producing clones. To remind ourselves of the words of T.S. Eliot, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
Yet not everything is bleak.There are still a number of visionaries and champions , may be islands of hope, who are committed to preserving education as tool for intellectual nourishment and empowerment. The Knowledge Centre at Priyadarshini Institute of Engineering and Technology (PIET), Nagpur is one of them. This initiative aims at facilitating natural learning through a cafeteria approach with a focus on four Es —enjoyment, employment, empowerment and enlightenment of the learners. It aims at discovering the syllabi through a process that builds knowledge and skills and generates wisdom. Its core idea revolves around the spontaneous way of learning — curiosity — and builds form there. It makes a radical departure from the school system’s assembly line mentality.
KC is the brainchild of Professor Sanjay Jain, who teaches Applied Physics at PIET. Dr. Vivek Nanoti, Principal of PIET is the inspirational co-architect of the project. Resourcefulness is one of the defining traits of successful entrepreneurs, and it is something India has in droves. Whatever the academic background of these visionaries, the motive is always the same: how can they solve a practical problem? India now has a rich ecosystem of established entrepreneurs; and education and learning is the most fertile area for them.
According to Jain, the rapid integration of technology in education sector is recasting the landscape and making learning more personalised. He feels educatin needs more rigorous, serious attention than it has attracted so far. Every student who walks into a classroom comes with a different story. Online learning platforms can provide content tailored to individual patterns of thought and learning, Adaptive assessment is one of the well-known examples of personalised learning where learners face questions as per their depth of understanding.
What is prime purpose of a Knowledge Centre? Jain provides the answers in pithy templates:
  • Inspire a spirit of exploration, curiosity and questioning in students
  • Make available world’s best books in each subject for reference
  • Provide dedicated but overlapping ‘curiosity corners’ for all subjects
  • Provide a knowledge cafeteria for students to work on a concept from classroom to industry
  • Impart syllabus-aligned learning through discovery and experimentation
  • Develop varied skills in students as per their strengths and aptitude
Jain feels that the bane of the modern examination system is its regressive testing regimen which we stubbornly refuse to reform. Inefficient teaching methods, such as rote learning, which focus on memorization as opposed to critical reasoning, are ruining our new generation. Our education system is not knowledge-based but examination or ‘marks’ oriented, with even competitive exams focusing on rote learning and cramming ability of students. Jain believes that the focus of any curriculum should not simply be on attainment – the current buzzword – but on producing confident, well-rounded citizens who feel as though they have value in society.
“Tests have their place, but both assessment and accountability should be about much more than test results. Rather than a diagnostic tool, tests today take a more judgmental tone with a demoralizing effect rather than an empowering one. When we reduce students’ intellectual ability to a single number or grade, we overlook the diversity of talents and strengths that they inherently possess. Instead of just focusing on results learning should also foster intellectual, spiritual and social growth” avers Jain.
Jain advocates a more “playful” learning approach to younger children, rather than making them exam machines which are pushed through “exam factories”. He uses the medium of quotes, jokes, cartoons, visuals to enliven his knowledge aids at th4e Centre Jain’s work has been commended by APJ Abdul Kalam, Dr Sam Pitroda and CNR Rao. The concept has also got international recognition in the form of many published papers.
KC periodically organizes exhibitions on topical themes. Interestingly it has an archive of posters of these exhibitions. These include, ‘Wonderful World of Science, Technology and Engineering’, ‘Beyond Marks and Degrees – Knowledge, Skills and Wisdom’ ,‘International Year of light – 2015’ ,‘Learning through Stories’, ‘Learning through Jokes’, ‘Learning by Doing’, ‘Seamless and Holistic Knowledge’ and ‘Wonderful and Exciting Knowledge’. They are virtual encyclopedias containing facts that have been very judiciously culled from rare sources by Jain.
There is a very interesting folder titled “Science, Engineering and Education from a Gandhian Perspective”. It is a collection of posters designed for an exhibition, held to commemorate 150th birth year of Mahatma Gandhi. Each poster is a valuable knowledge sheet they unfold a panorama of entire Gandhian philosophy-embracing Gandhi’s vision of science, his models on the philosophy of truth and nonviolence and Gandhi an Engineering technology and its relevance to modern day problems.
Through the Knowledge Centre and its outreach work, as also through his writings in journals, Jain is promoting the alternative learning approaches so that h distortions in our education system are addressed though an overhaul of processes .Processes designed to judge and grade success on a limited spectrum of learning cannot be a measure for monitoring the students’ entire educational attainment .Traditional forms of assessment are intimately tied to conventional methods of educational delivery. We need to have better metrics for defining success, ones that go beyond simple test and exam results. The traditional format dragoons pupils into rows where they passively listen to their teacher, being stuffed and force-fed with inert facts.
Jain argues that effective teaching should involve recognizing and overcoming the teacher’s expert blind spots. We tend to access and apply knowledge automatically and unconsciously (e.g., drawing on relevant bodies of knowledge, and choosing appropriate strategies). Students need instructors to break tasks into learnable silos, explain their interrelationships, and model processes in detail. Jain has already designed a framework for knowledge based reorientation of engineering physics.
Nanoti is an education entrepreneur in the true spirit. He believes every student has a creative potential which has to be channeled and mentored .He agrees that the future belongs not to job seekers but to job creators.
Initiatives like Knowledge Centres need to be adapted and replicated widely and percolated to the grass root levels. They are the best allies in India’s revolution towards a knowledge society. In a world where finding the right inspiration and insight is often one click away, KC is medium for introducing students to authentic resources.
There’s an old proverb: From tiny acorns grow mighty oak trees. Entrepreneurs like Jain are planting and nurturing seeds that should breed more sturdy trees to provide fruits for intellectual nourishment for the new age. The reward for them is in knowing that they have made a positive impact in the learning of children – a reward that has lifelong results for the future aspirations of the children .We need legions of imitators and replicators if we have to achieve a new superior equilibrium In the field and create a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for children and society at large.

*Development expert

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat