Learning that Endures

How many of us remember the atomic number of Oxygen? Who can name all the halogen gasses? When did the first Panipat battle occur? What is the formula for calculating the volume of a cone? What is the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?

We all sat in Science, Social Studies, Math and Language classes all through school. Yet today as adults, we can’t recall much of what we learned in school. What then did we learn in school?

In today’s world, knowledge is free. Or almost free. Basic web searches can give us facts about virtually anything we want to know. Any of the questions above can be answered by ‘googling’ on one’s smartphone in a matter of seconds.

If the only thing teachers teach is factual knowledge, then all that effort will have been in vain. Students will barely remember any of it- at most till their next exam. While factual knowledge is necessary to pass exams, it can’t be the only reason for kids to attend school, especially since all that knowledge will be forgotten in short order.

Forgotten in all the exam fever and tension about completing the syllabus is learning that endures. This is the learning that endures beyond school. What remains of Science class after all the periodic tables and chemical equations are forgotten? What remains of History class after all the dates and dynasties are forgotten? What remains of geography class after all the rivers and mountain peaks are forgotten? What remains of Math class after all the quadratic roots and volume formulae are forgotten?

If the answer is that nothing remains, it’ll have been a wasted educational career for both student and teacher. If a Science education does not create a scientific temper in students, if a humanities education doesn’t impart a strong critical reasoning faculty, if a decade of Math education doesn’t provide a strong foundation for applied skills, what then is the usefulness of such an ‘education’?

College bound students definitely need all the factual learning. It is the springboard to college and career. Any student capable of college is also somewhat capable of self-taught ambient learning (learning that endures). But not every student goes to college; there are several students for whom factual learning is merely incidental, and who would benefit from some ‘real’ learning.

So what is the difference between academic schooling and learning that endures? “When we do attempt to measure learning, the results are not pretty. US researchers found that a third of American undergraduates demonstrated no significant improvement in learning over their four-year degree programs.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/universities-should-ban-powerpoint-it-makes-students-stupid-and-professors-boring-2015-6?IR=T) This clearly implies that whatever is being taught in the classroom is not necessarily ‘learning’; and I agree.

Then what is learning? What did they measure for this study? “They tested students in the beginning, middle and end of their degrees using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, an instrument that tests skills any degree should improve –  analytic reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving and writing.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/universities-should-ban-powerpoint-it-makes-students-stupid-and-professors-boring-2015-6?IR=T)

Our education system needs to focus on learning that endures in addition to short term exam skills in order to create a useful and relevant education for the next generation.

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Coming Soon: SV Center for Continuing Education

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Samam Vidya is launching a free continuing education center for school dropouts and students with learning disabilities over the age of 14. Students who leave school too early are unable to join the workforce, and these valuable years between school and employment should not be wasted. We want students to be in a positive sphere of guidance and supervision during this time so they do not make bad decisions and engage in petty criminal behavior.

We are offering an informal environment: While they might not like to learn in a formal school environment — with textbooks, syllabus, and exams — a non-threatening informal setup will help them to improve their knowledge and gain important life skills, which in turn will help them find jobs and success. They will learn time and project management, personal finance skills, computer skills and cyber safety, public speaking and communication, and ethics, among other subjects.

In addition to teaching literacy and numeracy, we will take students on field trips, and encourage them to make art and do yoga. We will also bring in guest teachers who can talk about their careers and passions, and give students different perspectives.

Every student is unique, so we treat them uniquely, according to their abilities and interests. We can’t wait to see our students flourish as happy and productive citizens.

Teaching a Heterogenous Classroom – A Workshop in Chamarajanagar

On November 18, Samam Vidya revisited Chamarajanagar, outside Mysore, Karnataka for the second workshop in our series: showing them some ideas on how to teach a class that includes students with disabilities. We got to work with the same teachers as last time, when we taught them how to recognize learning and developmental disabilities in the classroom. It was a great group of teachers organized by Mobility India, and we enjoyed very much working with them.

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Teachers play a grammar game during the workshop.

We did a series of activities that teachers can employ in the classroom that can be used for students of all learning levels in the classroom. Teachers learned how to use the visualization technique to assess comprehension in students. They also learned how to use groups to maximize participation and learning. Teachers learned a few remedial as well as enrichment techniques. We also did an activity-based science lesson that involved station teaching. We also used grammar games to make the grammar lesson more fun. All the teachers we worked with were game for this and had so much fun with all the classroom activities!

Samam Vidya looks forward to working further with these teachers. If you and your school would like to have as much fun teaching kids as we do, please reach out to us at info@samamvidya.com or at 77600 21966 to schedule your workshop today!

 

Foundational Questions

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The first questions that are asked in any teacher training program — or should be — are, ‘What is the purpose of education? What is the mandate of schools? What do we expect that they will do for our children? And lastly, who is education for?’ Unless these questions are answered, the entire educational system will be an inequitable, rudderless ship, full of busy work for the achievers, and baby-sitting for the strugglers. Continue reading

Samam Vidya partners with LifeDream

LifeDream is 90 day spoken English, computers and lifeskill program,and it will be starting a new batch on September 15th, 2016 in Koramangala in association with Samam Vidya. The target student is a low-income student or school dropout (minimum education is 8th standard, and students average 18 to 30 years).

This is a FREE course with 100 percent job placement following course completion. If you know any school dropouts, please convince him or her to join our 90 day boot camp. Spread the word! There are hundreds of them, and let’s get as many of them back on the track to education as possible!

A LifeDream student accepts her certificate of completion. We hope to help many more students like her!

A LifeDream student accepts her certificate of completion. We hope to help many more students like her!

This will be held at Samam Vidya’s premises in Koramangala, 3rd Block. This is a very effective and useful program, teaching practical skills that students need to hold a job and live a good life.

For enrollment details, please contact Safina at +919986261577 or email lifedream.course@gmail.com.

Soft Skills are an Education too

kids-909715In the past couple of days, two people referred to the practice of social promotion, or age-based promotion, as a less-than-ideal practice. As a teacher I have mostly advocated for my students to be advanced to the next grade.

A commonly cited reason for holding students back is that they haven’t mastered the academic material. “How does a student reach 6th without knowing multiplication tables?” Continue reading

Education for all?

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The key to successful inclusive education is teacher training. Teaching to a heterogeneous classroom is a skill that has to be taught in teacher training programmes, writes Padma Shastry.

When the word ‘sarva’ was included in the name of the governmental organisation ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’, a certain high and ambitious ideal was defined for India’s future. How well is it being realised?

It is early days, for sure, but are we on our way to achieving it? Or are personal prejudices, inadequate training, and policies undermining that high ideal? Continue reading

Accommodations and Modifications

Why do we get all hung up about trivial stuff? Does it really matter how fast a child writes, especially in this digital age of typing? The purpose of writing is communication. Is writing speed or legibility a barrier to effective communication? Should lack of motor control be a barrier to Science education? Can’t a child in a wheelchair get a Science education? Will our education system stop the development of our own future Stephen Hawking? Continue reading

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Our Workshop In Chamarajanagar

Last week, I joined with Mobility India to give a Kannada-language workshop to government school teachers in Chamarajanagar, near Mysore.

Mobility India runs after-school support classes for struggling students and students with disabilities. Over the last few months, I’ve been to Chamarajanagar twice for sessions with after-school volunteers. These volunteers are dedicated, curious and eager to understand the problems of students. Each time has been an eye-opening experience for me when they told me about the practical problems of working with students with developmental or learning disabilities in their jobs. It’s commendable that they are so involved with their students and care so deeply.  Continue reading