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Schools need to develop their unique learning culture

By G. Balasubramanian

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:

  • It provides a growth mindset to the entire school community.
  • It sets the agenda and action plan for continuous learning.
  • It infuses a sense of confidence in every member of their learning possibilities and learning opportunities.
  • It enlarges the thought architecture of the learning community .
  • It facilitates every member to remain current and competent.
  • It opens the vision of the learners to an entire learning universe.
  • It would help the learners to review, reflect and relate to things outside the classroom walls.
  • It builds a positive relationship between all members of the learning community.

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:

  1. The schools need to put in place a “Think tank” that would define their unique ‘learning culture’ that could be periodically reviewed and re-engineered.
  2. The school curricular architecture and pedagogical systems need to be modified and articulated to cater to a learning culture that is progressive and growth oriented.
  3. The work schedules of the teachers and students might need some flexibility to facilitate them to be active in the learning culture.
  4. The schools need to understand that the development of school is a process and ongoing; hence any effort to structure to a time schedule and work schedule will be inappropriate.
  5. A free interaction with informal learning models and experiences needs to be encouraged by opening the windows of learning beyond textbooks.
  6. Opportunities for experiential learning with active engagement and participation both with organized and unorganized sectors of work systems should be explored.
  7. The top-down approach to learning from a delivery model needs to be replaced with a better collaborative, participatory and peer-enabled model to encourage debates, questions and researching.
  8. The school libraries should become resource centers for learning both for the teachers and the students by recapturing the imagination of library scientists.
  9. Facilitation of technology should help in exploring and understanding global efforts in knowledge management, synthesis and delivery.
  10. Defocusing examinations from a prescribed syllabi to a captured syllabi would help in testing deep learning and inter-disciplinary thinking.

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.