For several decades now, the art of institution building in the school education sector has remained stagnant. The focus has been extensively on infrastructure building and maintenance, competition management, brand building, financial scale ups and a few more. The academic exercises have been mostly to fulfill sustenance needs by compliance with the prescriptions rather than pursuing innovations, creativity and experimenting with unfathomed oceans of knowledge. The focus on results and building the learning environment to meet the needs of examinations rather than exercises relating to acquisition and expansion of knowledge, have made many of them pursue mediocrity. In this process, the learning environment has been a casualty. There is no visible development of ‘learning culture’ in institutions, both at the higher and the school level. With explosion of knowledge all around, this process may not help institutions survive long unless they change their operational strategies to develop learning cultures unique to their geography and ecosystem.
The 'learning culture' of the school is the brand and the stamp of the school that sends the most powerful message to the community. It has the following advantages:
Unfortunately, the schools lost in the game of competition management tend to lose their identity, competence, capacity and creative pursuits and engage with “I am also on the race” model. This is a negative approach that meets some of the existential requirements, but depriving them of the use of their huge, diverse human potential to learning.
While it may not be appropriate to suggest any single model that could be adopted to the schools, as they need to evolve in their own context, some suggestions that could be considered are as under:
Stepping into the domain of ‘learning culture’ is not a difficult exercise provided the school organism absorbs a shared vision for the ‘learning culture.’ Any exercise to develop a learning culture should be non-invasive to the existing architecture but should be supplementary and non-threatening. It should facilitate multi-level, multi-layer and multi-dimensional growth of learning and not linear, prescriptive, dominant. Persuasive and motivational exercises to meaningfully involve the participants is the responsibility of the school leadership, who should pioneer and lead the model.
The future holds promise for ‘freedom to learn’ and adequate tools are already in place both for self-learning and self-directed learning. To a future world where skillsets would define the relevance of an individual to any workstation, learning cultures would help the learners to gain the competency for transfer of knowledge wherever necessary and to position their relevance.
Schools need to think differently than on a linear mode, for their own future relevance.