Can Ein­stein help re­form our sys­tem?

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Education - Ujjwal Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ The au­thor is Vice Pres­i­dent­Prod­ucts & In­no­va­tion, Growth Mar­kets, Pear­son.

Al­bert Ein­stein, the Ger­man sci­en­tist who gave the world the the­ory of rel­a­tiv­ity, had fa­mously said about him­self, “I have no spe­cial tal­ent. I am only pas­sion­ately cu­ri­ous.” This ‘cu­rios­ity’ quo­tient is most rel­e­vant to­day for the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. As students ap­pear for fi­nal ex­ams, we must re­assess our over-em­pha­sis on cut-offs and scores to re-look at a sce­nario where our kids may have learnt the an­swers but have for­got­ten the art of ask­ing ques­tions. It is a clas­sic case of putting the cart be­fore the horse. As a gen­er­a­tion, we are so ob­sessed with the ‘util­ity’ of ed­u­ca­tion that we seem to be los­ing sight of what all it should in­clude and how it should be de­liv­ered.


Ein­stein had once re­marked, “Ev­ery­body is a Ge­nius. But if you judge a fish by its abil­ity to climb a tree, it will live its whole life be­liev­ing that it is stupid.” I see the same phe­nom­ena in class­rooms to­day. Every­one wants their kids to be not only bet­ter but faster than ev­ery other kid. How­ever, in the class­room, we are spend­ing time teach­ing learners what they al­ready know, in­stead of us­ing that time to build on the prior knowl­edge. We keep for­get­ting that we live in the in­for­ma­tion age, and chil­dren al­ready have an ex­ist­ing knowl­edge base.


To quote Ein­stein again, he said, “A per­son who never made a mis­take never tried any­thing new.” The prob­lem with as­sum­ing all learners to be hav­ing the same abil­ity is that it means that we are ig­nor­ing the fact that dif­fer­ent learners have dif­fer­ent paces of learn­ing. When the child has not grasped a con­cept, and we have rushed to the next topic in the class­room with­out plug­ging that gap, we are lead­ing to a false start.

We are forced to re­visit ear­lier top­ics in terms of re­vi­sions and re­me­di­als be­cause we never as­sessed the child while the learn­ing was hap­pen­ing and took a one-size-fits-all ap­proach.


An oft-quoted state­ment from Ein­stein ‘you can’t blame grav­ity for fall­ing in love’ rings true in the con­text of tech-tools in learn­ing. When the tools don’t ap­peal to the learner, the pace and ef­fec­tive­ness of learn­ing slows down. Learners spend more time learn­ing some­thing sim­ply be­cause the tools don’t talk to them.

While the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor has been ex­cited about the use of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy with buzz­words such as Aug­mented Re­al­ity, Vir­tual Re­al­ity, Ex­tended Re­al­ity, we must dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the fu­ture of ed­u­ca­tion from the fu­ture of tech­nol­ogy in ed­u­ca­tion.

Ed­u­ca­tion is a com­plete ecosys­tem, and tech­nol­ogy an en­abler of it. For ed­u­ca­tion to evolve, all key sub-sys­tems must evolve si­mul­ta­ne­ously. What is hap­pen­ing cur­rently is that tech­nol­ogy is mov­ing much faster than any­thing else. As­sess­ment needs to keep pace with tech­nol­ogy. Imag­ine cre­at­ing a VR jour­ney tak­ing the learner in­side a plant to see the cel­lu­lar struc­ture, how pho­to­syn­the­sis hap­pens, how leaves wither and re­grow.

The learner goes through that VR les­son, and in the term-end exam, all the child is as­sessed on is – “Name 5 parts of a plant.” Clearly, tech­nol­ogy alone can­not im­prove the learn­ing ef­fec­tive­ness yet it may be the big­gest cat­a­lyst in achiev­ing it. Sim­i­larly, the over-em­pha­sis on the ‘right’ teacher which is con­strained by a global hu­man re­source chal­lenge must give way to a fo­cus on ‘right’ teach­ing. Evo­lu­tion of our learn­ing tools with the help of tech­nol­ogy in tan­dem with the evo­lu­tion of our as­sess­ment frame­work and teach­ing will to­gether spell suc­cess for the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

We need to cre­ate an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem com­pris­ing con­tent cre­ation, as­sess­ment and teach­ing method­ol­ogy that grows holis­ti­cally and to­gether.

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