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Self learning: the gateway to the future

By G. Balasubramanian

In a world that is getting increasingly inundated with new knowledge and skills, the quantum of learning that could be designed, capsuled and delivered to any learner within the framework of an institutional system is indeed becoming a matter of concern. With knowledge both on the convergence and divergence modes, apart from its synthesis into new avatars, its multi-level, multi-layer and multi-polar dynamics to fulfil human emotional and consumers needs has made the entire world to get into a rat race for an unknown destination. The painful task of setting priorities for learning to keep the learner relevant to a timeline appears less possible, though desirable. This, further enlarges the gap between what the learner intends to learn and what the institutional learning provides, either as a ‘fast food’ or as a ‘healthy nutrient food’. The impact of such educational endeavours is causing serious concerns to the mental health of the learner causing avoidable learning stress. The increasing irrelevance of one’s knowledge and skills add to one’s existential security both at the professional level and societal levels. The thrust on ‘learning’ as against ‘schooling’ is setting unhealthy targets for achievements making the deliverers’ and the ‘consumers’ defining (re-defining) the objectives of learning for their own profits. No wonder, Sir Winston Churchill remarked “I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”

Questions have been raised for centuries about the impact of teaching on learning. Sri Aurobindo says “The first true principle of teaching is nothing can be taught.” On a similar note, Dale Carnegie, the popular advocate on self-growth, points out “You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him to find it within himself.” Issues relating to the gap between ‘teaching and learning’ and ‘learning and learnability’ have always been a matter of debate on several intellectual platforms. The advocacy of Albert Einstein that “I never teach my pupils. I only create conditions in which they can learn” is becoming increasingly contextual.

In a world, where any kind of learning is no more restrained to specific geographies, cultures or age groups, the timeline of learning has expanded to the entire life cycle till one breathes the last, immaterial of the pursuits of people in life. In such a situation, a third-party intervention to enable or cause learning, (either long periods of time or on a sustainable basis) if at all that would be possible, is no more adequate, enough or filling. Self-learning is the only gate way for any individual to remain current, competent, contextual and contemporary to an intensely vibrant and dynamic social evolution. Says Jim Rohn “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune”

Over the years, a straight-jacketed linear learning system preparing the learners for competitive learning directed towards passing an examination system or gaining an entry into a specific course of learning, has led to conditioning of the mind in a large number of cases. It has promoted a self-defeating atmosphere for ‘learned helplessness.’ Further, it has strangulated the learnability of the learner through suffocative and restrictive learning tools and practices, (designed with commercial intents) and dominant training procedures (to celebrate authoritarian models of ivory towers) which incapacitate the learner for a full and free intercourse with knowledge. The resulting distorted and unproductive learning and growth curves have been a reflection of the latent confusions prevalent in a society that doesn’t celebrate healthy thought architectures. It is time the learning institutions take cognizance of this and re-engineer their models of learning delivery systems, to be more supportive, scaffolding, empowering and enabling, rather than authoritarian models articulated on ivory-tower approaches demonstrating supremacy of knowledge with a given few. The NEP 2020 has indicated clearly the need for developing self-learning practices with meaningful use of technology, liberating the learner from the constraints of time and space for learning. The time is ripe for an attitudinal change for systems handling learning packages and their delivery systems. Not to rule out the urgency for the parents and stakeholders to develop better understanding of the process of learning especially in the context of newer revelations of brain functions by the neuro-cognitive psychologists.

Why self-learning?

1. Self-learning is a self-directed process to fulfil one’s goals, ambitions and aspirations for learning.

2. Self-learning is enterprising, confidence building and pragmatic.

3. Self-learning is largely driven by curiosity for growth and development.

4. Self-learning is authentic and a chosen commitment

5. Self-learning is liberated from external conditions of time and space.

6. self-learning helps choice of learning styles and learning paths.

7. Self-learning facilitates active and accelerated learning, whenever intended, as one doesn’t have to wait for any team dynamics.

8. Self-learning is non-intrusive and allows questioning, critical thinking and seeks to be alive till authentic, logical and convincing knowledge is received.

9. Self-learning facilitates freedom of choice from customary learning resources and is therefore not bound to prescriptions of knowledge.

10. Self-learning can facilitate authentic measurements of learning free from external tools/definitions of assessment Periodic self-assessment to have honest and authentic learning profiles is possible.

11. Self-learning helps in establishing firm goals which can be re-engineered whenever needed.

The future of learning will largely be defined by the ability of the individuals and communities for self-learning, given huge opportunities and support systems for knowledge acquisition in short times and at the tip of a terminal. The most important challenge in this paradigm shift to learning dynamics is then need to convince the parents and the social systems that learning is not necessarily consequent to any remittance of fee or the brand of an institution. Nor does it depend upon a long-term relationship with institutional curricula or their latent power. With all their facilitation role, it will be largely defined by ‘the fire in the belly of the learner’ to be an aware and articulated learner through personal efforts, to stay relevant through the entire life-time.