Learning can no Longer be Rote Based, Teachers Need to Trigger Critical Thinking Skills: Poonam Kochittyadmin
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Poonam Kochitty, Principal of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Lucknow has over 38 years of teaching experience during which she has primarily served as founder principal in some of the prestigious schools of Lucknow namely City Montessori School (1981-97) St Mary’s High School (1998-2001) Lucknow Public School Sahara States (2002-2005) and Shri Ramswaroop Memorial Public School (2005-2014). She writes on how New Learning Implications By Schools can improve Elementary Education.
According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), in 2018, nearly half of all rural students in Grade 5 couldn’t read a Grade 2 text and two-thirds couldn’t perform simple division. India was ranked second last among the 73 countries in PISA held in 2009.
Both the above examples amply testify that things are not right at the early childhood and elementary levels in India. Maybe the ASER report would have shown better results with urban students, but data proves that teaching and learning need to improve dramatically in the foundation years.
The educational reforms envisioned by the National Education Policy 2020 have for the first time prioritized Early Childhood Care and Education and Foundational Literacy and Numeracy. It is interesting to note that the PISA test does not assess students on their memory, but on the application of the knowledge they have gained through primary and secondary education.
To understand the new learning implications for elementary education, it is important to assess and keep in mind the world as it is today.
We are currently living in a rapidly changing world. Information explosion is difficult to process and navigate through. The past two years have disrupted lives and livelihoods globally, and the education of children has been badly hit. Students had to adapt from physical to online classes. The uncertainty is not over yet and it is difficult to predict what turn events might take.
What is clear, however, is that:
Education can no longer be as it was. Pedagogy and teaching strategies have to change. Learning is highly customized because each learner is unique. Teachers must be equipped to handle and address these differences through personalized teaching and support. Learning must be meaningful and make sense to the child. It is therefore important that all learning is linked to the real world for it to be relatable.
Learning can no longer be rote-based. Teachers need to trigger critical thinking skills through thought-provoking, open-ended questions.
Knowledge today is readily available through the best online tutors and video content. The children don’t need a teacher for that. However, teachers are required to help students become autonomous learners and thinkers. They need to facilitate the development of multiple skills and train students to construct knowledge.
Technology must be tapped to enhance learning anytime anywhere. Even for the elementary child, various technology tools can be used to engage every learner and also assess their progress instantly.
The potential and capacity of the human brain to learn is at its peak from birth to age five. Addressing this research-based evidence, it is of paramount importance that elementary schools re-think the curriculum, make it experiential, inquiry-based and interdisciplinary.
New-age literacy like financial literacy, media literacy, digital literacy, coding, gamified learning must make early inroads into the teaching-learning process and planning, to equip these bright minds with the 21st century skills that will enable them to be future-ready. There must be ample opportunities provided for collaborative learning and creative thinking. Art integrated learning, and incorporating STEAM activities will give further exposure to the children and build a strong foundation of core concepts, both mathematical and scientific, from an early age. Skills like adaptability, problem-solving and decision-making can be developed by giving children the freedom to make choices. The transformation in pedagogy is imperative and cannot be delayed any further.
Flipped classrooms can give greater ownership
The best efforts in elementary schools will come to naught if the progress of the students is not assessed in an ongoing manner and instruction is re-directed accordingly. It is also essential that both the students and teachers are aware of the learning objectives before the commencement of the lesson, so that learning outcomes can be achieved. Flipped classrooms can give students greater ownership towards self-learning, thereby enhancing their self-confidence.
Crucial to optimal learning is the creation of a vibrant and conducive environment and infrastructure that is both child-friendly and safe. Schools must provide ample opportunities to explore, experiment and play. Physical development and sound health lead to better cognitive growth and social and emotional well-being. Children learn best through play, and elementary schools must ensure that they provide the best learning resources they can in a fun-filled non-threatening environment.
The pandemic has shown us how educators can learn from their counterparts in any part of the world and pick up the best practices. Today, schools must engage in virtual collaborations and exchange programs to provide students with much-needed exposure. Schools must join a growing community of professional learning networks and take advantage of the best ideas and teaching strategies.
Schools must invest in hiring the best as elementary teachers, constantly ensuring their ongoing professional development and paying them at par with secondary teachers.
Finally, what the world needs today is peace, citizens who are tolerant and compassionate, and who show respect to all forms of life, the environment, and the planet on which we live. The seeds of kindness and respect need to be sown from the start. What better place to teach than in the elementary school? Life skills, mindfulness, and practicing silence should be mandated in every school if we want a more equitable and sustainable planet.