Learning with delight
Responding to children’s curiosity and making ‘learning’ a fun process will bring the best out of them; write Debapriya Mukherjee & Arnab Chatterjee
Education forms the foundation of any society and is responsible for the economic, social and political growth and development of the society. But our education system has measurably failed to awaken the desire of the students for lifelong learning because the level of positive interaction between teachers and students is low. Many students are reported to feel bored or even hate school and abandon their studies. The possible reason is that our education system is unable to make the learning process fun.
Against a background of tests and targets, unscripted queries go mainly unanswered and learning opportunities are lost. Children are born curious. The number of questions a toddler can ask can seem infinite – it is one of the critical methods that humans adopt to learn. According to the researchers, children ask an average of 107 questions in an hour. One child generally asks three questions a minute at his peak. Unfortunately, during teaching, teachers do not encourage them to ask questions in the classroom. As a result, children's creativity and conversational skills do not increase. Promoting curiosity is a foundation for early learning that we should be emphasising more when we look at academic achievements. When teachers teach young children not to ask questions during their lecture, high-performing students are found to be less curious, because they see curiosity as a risk to their results. Whereas curious students who ask lots of questions get better results by understanding topics more deeply.
But unfortunately, questioning drops like a stone once children start school. The youngest children hardly ask two or three questions in two hours. Even worse, as they get older, the children give up asking altogether. As soon as they are at primary school, they have to shut up and learn. Children have an inherent curiosity to ask questions at any time on any topic that interests them. Incidentally, it is our education system that kills the curiosity to ask questions. It is rare to see children full of activity and intellect because no one is talking about their inner mental lives. Many people in the educational communities emphasise on the behaviour of the children while their learning and performance in the examination. Often, educational bureaucracies have shunted curiosity to the side.
Many of us as guardians, educators, students or politicians forget that education does more than just to impart literacy, it empowers students to take risks and face the world with confidence. One silver lining is that NEP 2020 is expected to inspire a shift from rote learning to in-depth understanding. The curriculum content will be reduced to core essentials and create more space for critical thinking, discussions and analysis. Teaching and learning will be more interactive, exploratory, collaborative, and experiential. The age group of 3-6 years under the school curriculum has been recognised globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child.
Education is not just about learning how to be a problem solver, but a blazer of trails, a setter of bars, and a raiser of stakes. The researchers gauged levels of curiosity when the children were babies, toddlers and preschoolers, by visiting parents and circulating questionnaires. Reading, maths and behaviour were then checked in kindergarten (the first year of school). It was found that the most curious children performed best. In a finding, critical to tackling the stubborn achievement gap between poorer and richer children, disadvantaged children had the strongest connection between curiosity and performance.
Keeping in view, I (DP Mukherjee) opened a "Rural Science Centre" in my village named Moutorh, Purulia district, West Bengal in a personal capacity to convince the children that learning is fun. In this centre, when I started to teach a group of students, I realised that It would become increasingly difficult to hold their attention through the full day of learning. So, the best possible option is to present the required curriculum to my students in an interesting and relatable way because there was one thing in common among all the children — they did not like reading textbooks. Students were most receptive when I could make analogies that they can relate to their enjoyment. This applies to all subjects. Now every alternate day, one experiment is being carried out to make them understand that science is fun and exciting.
While teaching maths at the elementary level, I made the examples that helped students to understand it better. Instead of asking them to divide 20 imaginary apples, I asked them to put their 20 friends in teams and they visualised the problem and understood what operation to use. Most students enjoy listening to stories to which they can relate, and tend to remember the lessons associated with an experience. In biology, mutualism is an equal relationship while parasitism is like that friend who keeps eating your food but never brings any to share. This is why we need to make the process of learning fun and as easy to absorb as possible. Nothing motivates learners as much as fun does because it comes from genuine interest from within instead of pressure from others. Students are much more likely to invest extra time in the learning process if they enjoy it.
Initially, I found it difficult to hold their attention during a lecture, so I started to watch a clip from a popular movie and then analyse it scientifically. For instance, the film "Three Idiots" is a great example to encourage students to be always creative in their answers and the work and things they do. It helps them to become more capable. The film pointed out that the students should not run behind good scores in examinations. Students should achieve excellence first and then the success will automatically come to them.
Let our children create their own structure or timetable for the day by combining their ideas and home learning. It is high time to encourage our children to do research in something that is of interest to them and show their learning through creative projects. Also, positive and constructive praise that targets effort, behaviour and specific aspects of a child's work is much more powerful than just saying "well done for completing your monotonous home task".
Views expressed are personal