Monday, April 15, 2013

Do we want our schools to make students develop or learn?

Learning and development are two different objectives of school although both are inter-dependent. Learning is about learning a subject, say English, Science or History. It is understanding the subject in depth as well as  its breadth so that one can use the learning to 'deal with the real world'. On the other hand, development is about developing soft qualities such as Willpower ( should i study mathematics even when i do not like?), Emotional regulation ( should i take help on mathematics from my friend even though i do not want it?), Attention span ( what should i do to sit uninterruptedly for 30 minutes?) and so on.

To be accurate, Learning and development are inter-dependent. If you stop 'developing', sooner or later it starts affecting your learning. For instance, if your child has wrong understanding of 'marks', his learning stops like Mathews, because the child is unable to use feedback of 'marks' to re-direct his efforts . He is stuck. His learning also stops if he does not have the Willpower to focus his efforts on something, or does not meditate to increase his attention span, or understand the turbulence of adolescence to regulate his emotions.

On the other hand, insufficient learning also affects child's development. If i cannot understand that 'English' requires a different learning environment than Physics, i will not learn English well and not be able to communicate my thoughts to my parents. That will affect my development. If i do not understand the 'physical world' of science, i will assume that 'things happen due to wrong reasons' and become superstitious and biased. If i do not understand that 'rice does not cause fatness, but fatness is caused by eating of carbohydrates', i will have wrong knowledge about 'rice'.

Schools do not prefer to 'develop', because unlike learning, development requires setting of environment, until the development traits 'emerge'. Learning can be direct, development is always indirect. You can direct a child to learn 'xyz', but you cannot direct a child to have more willpower. To develop Willpower, Montessori method, for instance, sets up environment and 'guides' the child to make 'choices. Or if you want to develop 'social interaction' quality, you cannot direct a child to tell the child to be 'more communicative', or 'speak'. Instead, you have to set up the school environment in a way, so that child learns social development. The quality of 'social development' emerges from the environmental conditions. One cannot force the emergence of development qualities. One has to nurture it through different 'anchors', and hope the buds turn into fruits sooner or later. Of course, psychologists now know that even learning cannot be forced as we think. 

Schools have an option for setting development-centric schools or learning-centric schools. Development centric schools such as Montessori-philosophy schools have lost the race because parents want their children to learn yesterday and compete with others to get the best colleges and degrees. Although development centric schools also promote Learning in a different way, parents are impatient to wait for results. Development-centric schools like Montessori, Waldorf, or Gurukul are still relevant today, if parents understand the purpose of education, and can actively work with these schools to 'collaborate' for the betterment of their children.

On the other hand, Learning-centric schools , which are the dominant type of schools today, can also promote development indirectly to certain degree. They can, for instance, help students to learn and apply concepts in real life. They can follow these five characteristics to simultaneously promote development. Or they can adopt the three best practices of best schools in the world. More importantly, if they want to promote development, they can use technology to enable teachers to 'connect with the child' despite the class size of over 50 students. They can 'relearn' the use of imagination in the school so that students do not  get mixed with fantasy. Or they can learn to use the intrinsic motivations of children, instead of externally motivating them by rewards. Or help students practice internal discipline instead of external discipline. More importantly, they can actively partner with parents to ensure that 'development' is also actively promoted at homes, and not just take the responsibility of developing the child on themselves.


Parents, out of eight stakeholders, have the most active role to play if we want schools to really develop our children. More importantly, parents have to get actively engaged with the schools. To get engaged, they have to understand the 'different philosophies' of education, find what schools are doing to promote learning, supplement the efforts of schools actively, and give feedback to schools to fine tune the method. Instead of finger pointing at schools, parents must actively collaborate with schools. We must do this for the sake of betterment of our own children, not for the sake of schools.

Are parents ready to actively participate with schools for this change? 

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