Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ways of teaching/learning

Things may be explained in more than one way. I remember when I was in school, I and many of my friends used to find text-books tiresome. It somehow became a task which ought to be done, simply for its sake. The tone of discourse is somewhat like this: there is something in the text which is true. Your job is to take that truth, imbibe it fully and be able to revoke it when required. It is, in a way, something that begins with the reader from the book, and goes back to the book. Take for example the last time I felt this happen. I was reading Linguistics when I suddenly started getting bored. I had started with bright prospects, and had shown some interest in the early stages. But soon, I started giving up. It got progressively boring and sleep-inducing. I was reminded of the impervious school texts and was rather disappointed that Linguistics, which had an aura of nobility and intelligence to me, was actually the same as that. I made, in fact, a decisive stand that Linguistics is not made for me. In fact, I proclaimed that no formal discipline is made for me, and I need something like writing fiction throughout my life, which is allegedly without any formal necessities. As you might have imagined, I met with failure there too. For if nothing else, writing fiction requires that disciplined regularity and concentration which other 'formal' pursuits do to. Underlying moral was that one would have to work hard for anything, and thus obviously, the problem was in my approach of finding the right bird to nail, meanwhile finding faults in every bird that came one's way. I could see an underlying snobbishness in my approach to things and it was that which was preventing me from confronting them reasonably.

This idea first struck me recently twice: one was when I was reading Premchand's Pratignyaa. In a way, it seemed that I had come out of a fast moving whirl-wind of fiction, and had entered a very calm sea which belonged to the same world, but a different hemisphere. When I try to account for the difference, this is what I arrived at: most of my reading in the past two years had been of 'modern' or 'post-modern' or 'magical realist' or some other nature which had been contrived into a movement. The idea of a movement is a curious one: it seeks to find the ideal in everything (what should be) and, once found, seeks to propagate it, in a way that reminds one of conquests. Usually though, in art, unlike warfare, the ground to be covered in endless, and thus there isn't any prescribed way that this is directed in. As a result, it is impossible to think of art as having one aim. What happened with Pratignyaa is this: having to read in Hindi meant having to pay special attention to the words (Hindi being relatively newer to me) and that automatically led me to understand it more carefully. Suddenly, it dawned on me that a text wasn't something to be read and conquered, but was like nutrition that had to be taken in spoonfuls and absorbed. The idea of time for me changed: previously, I lived in a world wherein there were loads and loads of books, and too little time to read them. As a consequence, I felt need to rush on with books. After this episode, it came across that skimming through a book is not exactly reading it; and once I followed its implications, I have now realized that I have all the time in the world to read. In fact, what is necessary to read is not speed, but consistency. The story of the hare and the tortoise would hold true here.

Similarly, would an education exercise in which the students study out of fear of exams at the month's end provide them with an opportunity to understand with a moment's peace ? Is it possible that the 'need' to assess a student's performance has now become cause for the student's shift of focus from studying to that need ? I think that is presently the case; and the shift is caused not only in students, but also in their parents. Parents have endorsed all sorts of ways to make sure that assessment comes out good: tuitions, indoctrination, beatings, etc. In a way, at all corners of discussion, the student is mostly given all ends in sight except the simple one, namely, understand what is in front of you. What is needed is that first of all the parents and teachers must take back all force from over the student. Secondly, it is necessary that as studies, they imbibe the habit of uniting the text with the world to the student. Thirdly, they must not make the assessment an object of their performance, but must simply act as disinterested mentors.

1 comment:

  1. education, in my opinion, is anything that equips you to pursue things that truly interest your heart, to learn new things, and new ways of doing things...
    sadly, we live in a world where education only amounts to what a piece of papers says, not the ability of your mind. Not that formal education entirely discourages free thinking...
    this is an issue that has to be dealt with wisely, and, if I may say, creatively...