NEP Experiential Learning is not brief

Children’s games- their likes and their need

Ask a child what game he likes, and pronto comes a series of names from the action-adventure space. These games are endlessly engaging; most parents are proud to see their children behind such consoles. There is also a section of parents, who apply their discretion at what games their children play, being mindful of what is good for them and what is not. The truth is that while online games are not harmful, identifying the right ones to help them in their holistic formation is a difficult choice. Gaming also comprises activities that involve Simulation and Real Time Strategy that can help build a child’s mind constructively. Making the right choice is a challenge for many; but if you can identify the child’s real need, you have been a responsible parent.

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The smoke-screen of learning

Coming to education, most schools, administrators and parents are wooed by the reigning buzzwords- Robotics, Coding, IoT, Aerospace etc. There are a host of companies offering services that encash on the pull which these buzzwords exert. In fact, today our educators and administrators are troubled with a problem of plenty: too many knocking at the school doors, blurring the vision and confusing the mind. The real need lies hidden, rather is not allowed to raise its head as it challenges the ability of these companies to handle and implement them real time in the classroom.

De-coding the need

Let us imagine ourselves getting trained and skilled as an automobile driver through online training. Without a connection with the real world, we are all aware of the disaster it can cause. Unfortunately this is exactly how these terms are being used for learning today. Robotics has been reduced to a plug and play activity, which broadly teaches how to make a robot move with the use of coding. Secondly, multiple coding languages are being taught today without a first-hand understanding of their applications. It is a mindless act to enrol our children for coding classes which are otherwise available free of cost and can be easily accessed by any self-determined learner. Robotics in its real sense, is a seamless integration of Mechanical, Electrical, Electronic Engineering, Mechatronics, IT and a host of other disciplines. In fact, we need not teach children at all. If a student develops a self-determined or heutagogical mind with curiosity, we shall be naturally empowering them towards learning. Coding online is as wasteful as taking a driving lesson online, without having a real-life understanding about the right application of their skill and knowledge. If one does not have the ability to harness the individual transferable skills necessary for successful project management, higher employability and salary will remain an illusion. Thirdly, comes the ability to integrate, where one needs skills to communicate, collaborate, and critically think with creativity- the 4Cs of the 21st Century. Beyond developing specific skills, learners need to reflect upon them in the Design Thinking methodology, with a sustainable outcome in view.

Getting closer to their need

We need a learning system that encourages students to think, relate, apply, fail, redo and relearn- all in a collaborative mode. The process helps them become mindful learners and problem solvers in a sustainable world. Today Experiential Learning has been declared mandatory for all schools in India, as per the National Education Policy 2020. School curriculum teaches the different branches of Science, Art and Mathematics. The application of the learnings of these branches, integrated with the 4Cs and implemented with a process-driven disciplined Engineering approach, is what STEAM Experiential learning is all about. Going by the exponential growth of technology, 80% of the future jobs are related to it, making it necessary to integrate Futuristic Technology with Design Thinking. Such an approach in implementation keeps the learning process dynamic, relevant and engaging. This is also what makes Experiential Learning through hands-on S.T.E.A.M activities the most sustainable way forward. This dynamism behind the concept of STEAM, i.e. integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, along with its challenges and complexities, are difficult to fathom and implement for most companies. Most of them are prompted to take the easy route: misinterpret, misinform and leverage through the confusion. It is generally considered a smart plan, but is not necessarily the SMART one (i.e.,Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-bound). At the root, it does not address the true need and puts the future of our own children at peril.

Ultimately, it is the moral and ethical responsibility of school managements to holistically empower their students with S.T.E.A.M Experiential Learning by partnering with well-established and equipped S.T.E.A.M research organisations, who are able to provide their service as regular activity within the school to students of all grades year after year instead of just a few hours of Robotics or Coding classes for a select few.

After all, the Experiential Learning that the NEP2020 refers to is not a one-off or a brief engagement, rather it is about consistent inquiry and research-based learning throughout the school life of a student. In fact, the more hours students engage in S.T.E.A.M Experiential Learning, the more Future-Ready they become.