Is There Another Way to Learn?
Learning, a staple component of all forms of life, has become a matter of challenge, as far as humans go, if the proliferation of tuition centers can be taken as an indication. For all other species of life, no difficulties have ever been observed in learning the arts, each of those is required to master. And we humans are taking no note of this, saying, all species of life (except human!) are natural learners. And we have no problem in accepting happily, the rather incongruous conclusion that a superior species needs to be taught. Why is learning a problem for humans? Is there an easy way to study?
What is turning learning into a problem? Can that be made simpler?
These are some of the questions that crop up most often. And I have encountered many answers.
Choosing an appropriate time to study, ensuring an environment conducive to learning, and presenting the matter in an easily comprehensible manner, are only few of the more popular ones.
But strangely, the most significant factor in our understanding of things, our desire to know more of that thing, does not seem to have merited enough attention. Humans need not be told at all, of what one wants to learn, for, one can always find new and better ways of acquiring further information about whatever is of interest. Teaching, in fact to such a person may at best provide that information, in a structured manner, making the process of learning, a bit easier.
Thus the best form of study should begin by developing in students, a natural inclination for whatever we would like the student to learn. That is because familiarizing the students with its popular and practical applications will make them eager to know more. For, that will enable them to identify with the topic of study quite closely, as they are already aware of its utility. This will also offer them a chance to derive pleasure from involving profitably in societal transactions, where superior knowledge could be of significance.
In this light, if we are to analyze the present pattern of learning, a couple of things stand out. Fistly, we are pouring down the throats of children, what is most difficult to visualize. Whereas, what is the easiest part to link with daily life is, what we are giving to those already studied enough, on a platter. We know, this is causing stress among students. And we have setup elaborate counseling arrangements as part of our teaching system. But we haven’t thought about any change in our pattern of studies.
Take, for example, electricity. All the abstract ideas related to this subject, like potentials, energy levels, atomic structure, etc. are the ones that are taught to children and adolescents. A high degree of imagination is essential to visualize these precepts, which necessitates the students to be well aware of its practical applications at home, in industry and elsewhere in our world. To take this into account, as the students are likely to be unaware of such usage, we resort to heavy investments in sophisticated learning aids and frequent visits. Whereas, when it comes to the relatively attractive ideas connected with this, like operation of complex mechanisms of daily use, these are reserved for those doing higher studies and research. Also, in this case, the actual equipment or system can be shown to the students while discussing the methods of its use, discounting the need for any other aid.
Now suppose it was the other way. The young ones are taught about the use of complex machinery of our daily life, at home, office, bank etc., and those in the higher studies and research learned about the fundamental precepts. The young one would have been naturally attracted to learning, as, they can easily identify the practical utility of those ideas with one’s own life, and would have had a natural affinity to learn well and stand out easily, at all times. Whereas, when it comes to the abstract, fundamental, ideas, those doing higher studies and research would have been already inclined to mastering these topics, having seen them in many a phenomenon that necessitated such precepts for greater erudition. Even without the need for considerable investment and complex learning aids, training would have completed successfully.
To understand this further, let us go into the mechanism of learning itself. Let us re-examine, what we understand by the word ‘study’. I mean what we should have been gaining and what we actually gain.
Every new principle we learn is effectively preventing us from knowing about many a truth. For example, let us see what all could have happened had we not learned in our childhood itself, that light travels in a straight line. We would have been conducting much wider studies on this field, not tied down by the inertia of the ‘truth’ that light always travels straight. And, we would not have had to wait for the time of say, Einstein, to shed more light on light, and also, many such instances of re-illumination would have been following. Two, mankind would have been much ahead in harnessing the power of light, for whatever needs.