Our world, as we can see, is changing rapidly, much faster than anything else on earth. Since the beginning of this century, we’ve been seeing exponential growth, development & change in our world. In fact, this period has seen the maximum developments in human history. Almost everything has been changing. But what is it that brought such an exponential change? The answer, as one might expect, is computer or information revolution. It’s the computer technology which has brought in such exponential changes in this world. But what is it that is mother of everything & still left almost untouched by this computer revolution? The answer is EDUCATION. Since, the very foundation of modern education system, it’s left almost untouched. There were changes in it over the period of time. But not as this changing world demands for.

Here we’ll look into why education is needed to be reinvented to fulfill the demand of 21st century & what can we do to do so.

I’ll begin this discussion with very simple questions. Just say yes or no where possible.

Do you really think that every student in this world is suited for or adaptable to classroom, a teacher with an hour long lecture, a blackboard, & bunch of students? Do you think every student has same learning strategy? Do you think every student wants to study during morning? Does every student want to learn in group? Does every student have same learning speed? Is it necessary to know how many states are there in our country or how many meters are there in a kilometer or how many bones are there in a human body to be intelligent? Does intelligence or creativity lie on pieces of paper? Can intelligence be compared with marks only? Is it necessary to sit in front of your study table & open a book in order to learn? Can’t we learn somewhere else than our study table? Should we cope with the education system which was made decades or hundred years ago? Is it fair to give preference to science and math only? Is it necessary to give exam to study? Should we not study if we don’t get passed? Should education stay as a scale to compare students on the basis of some exams? Should we compare someone on the basis of his/her performance in exams? And yes of course, should we compare someone? Is it fair to compare intelligence in scale? Do you think, while taking education, we do something creative other than mugging the concepts & writing in exams? Do you feel our current education system will affect our future in a positive way? Will it make us capable of facing the future? Is our education system capable enough of taking out our potentials? Does it open our creativity out or does it keep it uncovered or hidden? Is mathematics more important than arts? Do getting full marks in exam make you intelligent? And does getting zero make you fool? Does knowing all the elements of the periodic table make you smarter than those who don’t know? Is it more important to memorize a poem than to simply understand its hidden meaning & enjoying its beauty? Does your general knowledge make you smarter than those who don’t have? And more importantly, what is more important – having information or creating information, i.e. knowing what’s out there in the world or inventing your own ideas? And finally, do we need to reinvent our education system?

So…lot many questions with puzzling answers. Internal mind saying something else & external something else. Right? But think on these questions. Read out each of them loudly (if silent reading doesn’t let your brain to ‘think’!!). Then, think & rethink. Try to find answers to each & every of them. Don’t ask others. Just try to answer what your internal mind says. If all the answers are in ‘NO’, then, the last question would be definitely ‘YES’. And do you want to know my answers?? A big ‘NO’ to every questions & a big ‘YES’ to the last one! Ok, if you’re in my side, come with me. And if not, then, also come with me…to explore why we need to reinvent education?

Well, let’s start with the first question – Do you really think that every student in this world is suited for or adaptable to classroom, a teacher with an hour long lecture, a blackboard, & bunch of students? Ok, so what’s your answer? Yes or No? Whatever, your answer is, mine is a big NO. Not everyone in the world is suited for a same kind of environment. To cite my own example, since my very childhood I’m not interested in school. Now guess why. It’s not because I’m not interested in studies. It’s because I’m not suited for that kind of environment & may be partly because I don’t get a good study environment in my school. But I’m really interested in self-study. I love to study alone where I’m both the teacher & student. I love reading books. I love reading online. The point I want to make clear is that no one in the world is suited for every environment. You may be different from your friends. Earlier, I used to think why I don’t like going school despite the fact that I’m interested in studying. The answer which I’ve found is that I’m not suited to the as usual classroom environment. My reason may be slightly different because I don’t get that much good classmates & study environment. But for the majority of students, the main reason is this inadaptability.

Now, think about this in a little bit different way. When do you love to study the most – early morning? Mid-day? Evening? Mid-night? I think most of the students study in evening (at least school students). Well, my answer is almost similar, though bit different. I love studying at night or you say late night the most. So, the thing is that study period changes from person to person. But if so, then, why do we go to school in morning? Is that good? Think over…

Till now, we’ve 2 conditions followed in a school –

  • A classroom with teacher with an hour lecture, a blackboard, & bunch of students.
  • Classes are held in morning.

But let me ask you a natural question – does this system of education affect the learning process of students? Of course, & why not?? If you are one who loves studying during night, love studying alone, love 2 min. lecture than an hour long lecture; it’ll definitely affect your learning process & so of others. No matter what’s the quality of education is it’ll not do anything special for you. And this is one of the biggest causes of low performance among students. This is not because they don’t study hard, but because the conditions in which they’re adapted to study in are not fulfilled. So expecting anything is worthless.

Here’s another question – does every student have same speed of learning? Think what makes you learned most – fast lecture? Slow? Or medium – not so fast, not so slow? Well, this’ll also differ from person. I love medium speed lecture – not so fast, not so slow. But there’ll be those who understand the most when listen to fast lecture. There’re also those who loves things to be taught slowly. So requirements are different, but provisions are not as required. There’ll be teachers who teach things fast, those who teach slow, & those who teach medium (speed). And there’ll be also students with different learning speed. But in a class of fast teacher, students with medium or slow learning speed would not be able to capture all the concepts.

Like the speed, there’s also concept grasping. There’re some students who understand some concepts at once. Likewise, there’re students who understand the same things when taught twice or may be thrice or even more. This is not because they’ve different intelligence level, but because they’ve different learning strategy. You may be good at arithmetic, but at the same time you may be average at geography. And there may be some other students from your class who are good at geography, but average at arithmetic. So when taught in class, you’ll grasp arithmetic the most, but you’ll take some time to grasp geography. And the reverse is for those who are good at geography & average at arithmetic. But you don’t get this condition in a classroom. Your teacher will not teach the same topic multiple times & in practice, he/she can’t. And if your teacher teaches arithmetic thrice or more for others who are average at arithmetic, you’ll find the class bore. And if not, they’ll not get the concept. The point is that everyone has different requirements. But the requirements are not made in current system of education. Now education has become personal. Everyone has their own requirements. But they’re not fulfilled. And this is one of the biggest FAILURE of current system of education.

Now, let’s shift to the way things are taught & what are taught. I had asked a question in the beginning – Is it necessary to know how many states are there in our country or how many meters are there in a kilometer or how many bones are there in a human body to be intelligent? Well, these are the matters required in our education system – no. of states, meters in a kilometer, no. of bones in human body & all these. Ok, now what’s the problem with these questions, to be honest? Before answering that, I’ll ask you another question – do you find anything different, anything creative, and anything unusual in these things? All geography books will have the no. of states in countries. All math books will have no. of meters in a kilometer. All biology books will have no. of bones in human body. What’s different? These days a computer also has these information. Your phone which you keep in your pocket also knows these answers. So what’s the difference between computer brain & human brain? There’s nothing creative about these things. But creativity is the biggest thing you need to stay alive in 21st century. It’s not just a thing which is good to have, but it’s a thing which is among the requirements of a good living. But unfortunately, this system of education doesn’t demand for creativity. Human is the most creative creature on this planet, but still our education system doesn’t want to unleash it. Is this not quite awkward? Things which are taught in school have nothing special. Knowledge given in school is repetitive rather than creative. Number of bones in human body has nothing to do with creativity. It’s not at all different or special. So what’s the importance of that kind of knowledge? Well, I’m really not telling that such knowledge are worthless, but I’m telling here that such knowledge are required as just general information, & not as important academic requirements. So what should be taught in school? Our curriculum must include questions, assignments, projects which require critical thinking, problem-solving. Courses should be such that they require thinking skills of students. Everything those are included in courses should be creative & innovative. And this shouldn’t be for high school students, but for kindergarten. Now, things shouldn’t be complex & serious. They should be fun, engaging & yet require little bit thinking. If this process goes on till the higher level, students would be able to process their creativity & would develop a good problem-solving skill. And this system of education wouldn’t give pressure to students because this requires one’s own thinking, & this would be fun. You don’t need to memorize a poem, you just need to understand it & answer simple questions which require your understanding. For a kindergarten student, he/she needs just to sing the poem & feel its beauty. Memorizing a poem is both meaningless & poses pressure on minds. A K-12 student wouldn’t need to memorize the whole periodic table & the atomic weight of all the elements. He/she would just need to solve questions which would require his/her understanding of the topic & where things like atomic weight would be mentioned in question paper. Right now we’re focusing more on things which require rote learning & not understanding. Remembering the periodic table doesn’t make you smarter. In fact, it wastes your brain power & energy. Instead of remembering these things, it’s better to understand, explore, & learn with fun. In this way of learning, learning must also be very fun. In a conventional classroom, teachers lecture of half-an-hour or a full hour or even more. But according to studies, it’s found that one’s concentration period doesn’t last more than 18 minutes. So, whatever the topic is being discussed or however the teaching is, it doesn’t add to learning of students. Lectures shouldn’t last more 10 min. or maximum 18 min. After a very short lecture of a topic, students must be asked to discuss the topic in small groups (4-5 students). They should be allowed to discuss freely whatever they want to with their mates. Moreover, teachers shouldn’t judge them as it can create nervousness & seriousness. They should just be given to discuss freely whatever they want or however they want. After that, there should be a session of exploration. This session should have diagrams, pictures, video clips, small projects (where possible), & that type of exploration-related things. After that, there should be a short & bit creative MCQ-type written (or may be oral) quiz to test their understanding. And the session is over. After that, another session with another new topic…

Now tell me what’s the benefit of such creative learning? Students become more creative. Such type of learning keeps the mind working. They make the mind to think, to question. Moreover, this is also very important to meet the challenges of 21st century. We no more need learning machines, those who memorize without understanding. Computer can process much more information & faster than an ant. But an ant is more intelligent than a computer because it can learn by exploring. But a computer can’t learn a single thing by itself. It just stores information & nothing more. And our current system is just doing the same. It’s creating computers & not humans. You just need to memorize the lessons & write them in exams. And nothing more, nothing creative. If not changed, it’ll have a big impact on the future of students. In fact, it’s impacting. There is handful of students who later went on to innovate. Others are left with as usual repetitive works. Right now, those without innovation, creativity are also getting jobs. But within the coming decades, there’ll be a decline of such jobs. Moreover, no company would be able to survive without innovation. They’ll need to keep on innovating. So it’s a must to keep on innovating.

Now, let’s shift our topic to another question – Can intelligence be compared with marks only? This is another big & important topic to deal with. We often see us compared with marks. But are your marks your ultimate intelligence? Do they really reflect your abilities? Ok, I don’t know your answer. But I’ll say with ultimate confidence that – NO, intelligence is not comparable nor do marks show your intelligence. Do you know about IQ test? IQ means intelligence quotient. This test shows one’s intelligence, one’s thinking skills. But since I know about it, I’m a big opponent of such tests. I don’t believe one can be compared with mere marks. In such tests, there’ll be mental tests like patterns, connecting related things, arithmetic, odd man out, puzzles & things which require you to think. But do you believe everyone has skills for these things? There’ll be people who are good at painting. There’ll be those who are fantastic dancer. Those who are singers, writers, & lots more. So how can a test show one’s actual intelligence? Let’s think of another disadvantage. May be you’re better in these things than your friends. But you get more nervous than your friends. When you sit in the exam hall, your heart would begin to beat faster. If you get a tough question, you’d get nervous. And so on. As a result of which you’d not be able to do better than your friends. They may not be as good as you’re, but because of your nervousness, you’d be marked less than your friends & that would mean you’re less intelligent than your friends, which is actually not true. And that’s the matter. Moreover, there’re various reasons one can’t do well in exams despite being smarter. So how can you say intelligence is comparable? Not only this, intelligence is a very complex ability. It’s not something that’s so easy to measure. It lies in various activities of life. It’s multi-dimensional. It’s really hard for anyone to measure one’s intelligence, or say impossible. Exams should just be a way to check understanding of a concept & that should be self-based. It should neither be used as a way to measure one’s intelligence & nor to compare with others.

So, again let’s shift our topic a bit with another question – Is mathematics more important than arts? This is a very important matter of education system. Our education system was formed decades ago during World Wars & rise of industrialism. So it’s quite natural that importance was given to mathematics, science & engineering. But subjects like arts didn’t get much importance. But this system is going on & that’s quite shocking. Today things have changed. We need people of different backgrounds – arts, science, philosophy, math, media, history, sociology, engineering, design & lots more. Today we don’t just need scientists, engineers, & mathematicians. We also need sociologists, artists, designers, lawyers, historians, philosophers, dancers, singers. And this is not what I’m just saying. It’s the demand of world right now. We now need people of all backgrounds. So why does our education system give more focus on subjects like mathematics, science? In order to meet all the challenges of this century, we need to train people of different backgrounds. So preference should be given to all the subjects & these subjects must be included in curriculum. Those who’re interested in arts will apply for arts. Those who’re interested in math will apply for math. As there’re students of different skills, subjects must not be made compulsory. Students will apply for their respective interests. If this model is implemented, we’ll get highly skilled professionals in different backgrounds.

Our education system is making students rote-learners. It’s not making their future, but destroying. It’s teaching students that marks are the ultimate results of life. It’s teaching students that if you’ve degrees, you can succeed. It’s actually making students pessimistic. It’s making them less creative. It’s making students to dream less. It’s making them to do something for life which they don’t like to. It’s making them hopeless. It often seems that education makes people more civilized. But I think those with education are more uncivilized because if you do something bad without having education, then, it’s not your fault. But if you do something bad despite having good education, then, it’s a shame. We’re social being. Still we’re most unsocial in compared to other animals. There’s something which is wrong, that’s responsible for all these miseries. Is education just confined to a school, books, lessons, exams, marks? Is just knowing everything make us educated? Is opening a book before the study table makes us learned? Does just earning a degree make you more learned than those who don’t have one? Definitely NO. Education is not just confined to these things. It’s beyond that. In fact, it’s boundless. Infinite…without any boundary. Education is everywhere. It’s at your home, your workplace, market, restaurant, ceremony, street, park, forest & everywhere. Education is everywhere but still nowhere. Why? We think just by going to school, just by reading books, just by scoring high, we become educated. But humans are fools who can’t realize the true meaning of education. We never try to find education other than school. Education, in reality, is the all-round development in personality of a person. And such developments are multi-dimensional. They don’t exist in school only.

So, there’re a lot of problems with current system of education. There’ll be a lot more than discussed here. But I tried to cover the most profounding ones. Education is the root to everything that exists in the world. But if education itself face problems, then, expectations from other things are meaningless. Due to problems in education, problems are arising in other things too. Why there’s low performance among students? Why people are not getting jobs despite of academic qualification? Why we’re behaving as uneducated, uncivilized despite being educated? Why there’re handful of people in the world innovating? Why everyone chooses some common career options? These’re some of the questions which push us to education. There might be some problems with education. Otherwise, despite beings highly educated, why do people do highly uneducated activities. Education is getting more & more personalized. It’s now no more of groups, but of individuals. Everyone has their own requirements, & because these requirements are not properly fulfilled, they can’t learn well. The emergence of online education is the solution to this personalized education problems. Online education seeks to promote education everywhere. Moreover, students can learn in their own pace. You can study in morning or evening or night or whenever you want. You can study individually or in group. You can adjust the speed of the lecture & whatever you want.

Not only these, education also needs to be made flexible. There shouldn’t be an age barrier for it. Anyone, with any background, should be allowed to take education. School should also not be made mandatory. If anyone wants to study at home then, he/she should be allowed. Education shouldn’t be any rigid system. It should be something that people can enjoy throughout their lives. Moreover, education should not be aimed in information-related stuffs, but in analytic skills & personality. As stated again & again, we don’t need computers, we need humans. Education should make us more humane than computerized. Its aim should to make people more & more creative & create a hunger of learning. Education is not all about forcing, it’s about desire…desire to learn & explore. So, its aim must be to develop that hunger. And to develop that hunger, we need to make it more & more interesting. And to make it more interesting, it should be more flexible & need to fulfill all the requirements.

So, problems after problems & still we don’t realize them. When children can’t do well in exams, their parents often say that they don’t study hard. But they never try to look into the problem. There’s nothing like they don’t try to study hard. They also feel bad when don’t get good results. But the real thing is that education itself is not made interesting & don’t meet the requirements of everyone. Not everyone likes classroom, not everyone likes an hour long lecture, not everyone likes to study in morning…and the list doesn’t end. So, it’s the appeal of this century itself & of the coming generations that education needs to be reinvented. As the world’s becoming more & more complex than before, this form of education wouldn’t be of any worth to make us able to face the problems of 21st century. No one is able to see this need. But it’s one of the biggest problems ahead of us & that needs to be solved as early as possible to survive in this century. So without saying any more, I just want to say – WE NEED TO REINVENT EDUCATION AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF 21st CENTURY…

 Copyright©2011-13 Sandeep Deva Misra