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Allow Students Freedom, Space To Think Out Of The Box

Emphasising that humans are natural learners, hence the challenge and primary goal of education must be to nurture already curious, flexible, and potentially critical thinkers, a noted educationist and behaviour analyst has raised questions whether our schools are killing creativity, and whether we are not snatching the children of their childhood?

Delivery a colloquium lecture, 69th in a series, on the subject “Need For Educational Transformation: Why, What & How” on the Panjab University Chandigarh campus recently, Prof. Santoshi Haldar, from the University of Calcutta, observed that for a significant proportion of children enrolled in schools, the quality of education being imparted to them remains in question.

Allow Students Freedom, Space To Think Out Of The Box, Lifeinchd

Prof. Santoshi Haldar delivering the PU Colloquium Lecture on the topic “Need For Educational Transformation: Why, What & How” on the Punjab University campus.

Photo By: Life In Chandigarh

In her presentation, she reflected on some of the evidence-based strategies and approaches of experiential learning from some of the best minds in the world. It also carried some excerpts from the presenter’s own research findings and current ongoing work.

The occasion exposed the ill-preparedness of the university authorities in handling exigencies during such important events. First there was a power failure at the venue, the SS Bhatnagar University of Chemical Engineering & Technology Auditorium, with apparently no viable power backup. And, the presentation would not run on the laptop, with the organisers failing to find another one. Finally, the issues were resolved but not before a substantial delay.

The poor quality of projection of the presentation on the wall for the benefit of the audience and output of the sound system thoroughly exposed the university’s outdated infrastructure.

Coming back to the insightful and thought-provoking presentation, Prof Santoshi pointed out that the important questions before us today are: Are we preparing students for a meaningful future? Are we making good human beings and responsible global citizens with desirable moral and ethical code of behaviour and actions?

Among other questions are: Are we going in the right direction? What’s lacking? What are the gaps? What are the appropriate strategies for the right direction and how to go about it? What is education, and what should be the goal education for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable society?

In response, she quoted Sir Ken Robinson, British author, speaker and international advisor on education, to say “If you design a system to do something specific, don’t be surprised if it does it. If you run an education system based on standardisation and conformity, that suppresses individuality, imagination, and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.”

Robinson advocates that “Clear, critical thinking should be at the heart of every (teaching) discipline in school, and a cultivated habit outside it too.”

Stressing on the need to give children, and students, freedom and space to think on their own, and encourage them to go beyond their boundaries as part of their learning process, Prof Santoshi quoted another expert to say that when children are in charge of their learning, and it’s engaging, they explore for the answer. They own the information in a way they don’t when you just tell them the answers.

So, the teachers have to learn to let go, and not over condition their students. A teacher’s job is not to provide the answers, but to pose “Big Questions” that motivate their students to do their own investigation, she added.

Dwelling on the importance of emotion-based pedagogy in learning, Prof Santoshi said we only think deeply about things we care about. Therefore, meaningful thinking and learning are inherently emotional.

Emotions are powerful motivators of learning as they activate brain mechanisms that originally evolved to manage our basic survival, which is why educators must find ways to leverage the emotional aspects of learning, she explained.

Presenting another quote she said to unlock their confidence and find their passion, students need help in overcoming emotional barriers that cause them to resist studies. She motivated teachers to play a major role in this process.

Focussing on the urgent need for re-skilling especially in the light of the fact that by 2030, Indians are expected to account for 18% of the global population, she said it is important to ponder over how we are educating our youth, and whether they are sufficiently skilled to face the future.

In this context, she quoted political scientist and public intellectural Andrew Hacker to say that “The world economy no longer pays for what you know, but for what you can do with what you know…. this challenges not only the content of what we teach but the ways in which we teach.”

In conclusion, Prof Santoshi advocated that school cultures need to promote entrepreneurship, global awareness, and a humanistic outlook that includes an appreciation of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. At the same time the importance of traditional knowledge and practices for sustainability cannot be underestimated, she said, adding that youngsters need to be made aware of their local and traditional knowledge.

About Prof Santoshi Haldar

Prof Santoshi Haldar, a post graduate in Education and a Ph.D in Applied Psychology, is also a certified Behaviour Analyst from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, USA. Recipient of several national and international awards and prestigious fellowships, Prof Santoshi has been working for the past over two decades in various international and national academic and research endeavours for the inclusive growth of people from secluded and marginalised communities through engaging and effective pathways.

Dr Santoshi also provides behavioural intervention services, especially to people with autism spectrum disorder along with training the parents and practitioners.

 

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