I will end this series of blog posts on the theme of Student-Centered Learning by going back to the issue of competition once again. Agreed, there are many things that we cannot change in our present day school education system in India. We cannot change the manner in which Board examination are taken and given; we cannot change the manner in which selection for higher studies and jobs are currently carried out, we cannot change the manner in which sporting events and games are organized – all these have at their core an unrelenting spirit of cutthroat competition that leaves an adverse influence on the tender hearts and minds of children. The irony of it all is that in spite of an all pervasive environment of competition surrounding our school education system, we still hope to build and sustain a harmonious and cooperative society!
If we agree that we cannot change these things, then what is it that we can do? I think there is a lot that we can do, or more precisely, a lot that our teachers can do. If we cannot reduce the degree and extent of competition, can we not at least try and increase the instances of cooperation? Can we not do things slightly differently so that children learn to work more harmoniously together, and cooperate together for their own progress and that of their peers? This is something that we can and should do.
The real challenge before teachers and school administrators is to find ways by which to enhance the instances of cooperation at school, both within the classroom as well as outside it. This is something that we can ignore at our own peril.
Most children, youth and adults, having been brought up in a competitive society and probably within a traditional, competitive educational system, need to internalize a more balanced view of the realities of the modern world. They should understand that without greater emphasis on cooperation and reciprocity, the great spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical potentialities of humanity and the individuals within it cannot be more fully developed.
Adopting a student centric approach to learning, introducing cooperative learning and games, and employing innovative yet humane classroom management approaches described here are effective, simple and proven ways of achieving this cherished objective.
The rigidity that most schools experience in content and delivery is at the higher levels, generally grade 8 and above. Frankly, schools have a great deal of flexibility in primary and middle school levels. There is no stopping schools from introducing cooperative and innovative approaches in the way teachers teach and students learn in, say std 1 to 6 or 7. In any case, these are the most crucial years where key concepts and attitudes begin to form and crystallize in children.
More than anything, schools will need to muster the will, courage and determination to want to bring about necessary change in their classroom teaching-learning. The path will then unfold before them with ease.