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By G. Balasubramanian

My memory goes back to eighties of the last century, when ‘Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL)’ was put forth as a suggestive benchmark for learning. Though the fundamentals of this idea were not carved to further learning, but to demonstrate the scalable performance of educational administration, achievements and to compromise with some contemporary inadequacies so that they don’t get highlighted in educational debates, the idea did not take off well due to poor advocacy and negative interpretations in a heterogeneous education system. . Nevertheless, this idea was a distorted version of what could have been put forth as a model to revamp the learning strategies and ensuring a better reach; further to remove some imported explanations of ‘what learning is all about.

The idea of minimalism which started initially in sculpture, painting and in other associated arts in the post world war society of United states, it slowly entered into other fields. The initial objective of the concept was to engage with larger pictures of systems with minimal interventions and to diffuse extensive use of tools, appliances and strategies to represent concepts, ideas, views and objectives. In due course, it penetrated as a concept for developing a meaningful life style that embraced – simplicity, intentionality, focus, elimination of wastage, flexibility, tolerance and achieving maximum and real freedom. The concept which is not necessarily an anti-thesis to consumerism, it offered to liberate human consumerist tendencies more voluntarily and by choice. It intended to relieve the stress associated with thought cultures, compulsive behaviours, unhealthy competition and for greater acceptance of reality. “Sometimes, less is more.” Said William Shakespeare

It is in this context we could examine the relevance of ‘Minimalism’ as a possible strategy to redefine learning and to put powerful knowledge processing in place. Some of the issues that work negatively in empowering learning could be brought to rest through minimalism

1. Quantum of learning doesn’t reflect knowledge

In the current scenario, there appears to be an over-emphasis on knowledge assimilation, whether relevant or not. Over a period, eighty percent of these exercises carry neither a material value nor a personal value or a social value. Such exercises are carried out more to prove a point over others both as an individual or as a system. Beyond that, the outputs of such exercises get liquidated in a short span of time without any further value. With several abodes for storage of knowledge especially with the explosion of technology, many of the pre-dated information considered vital is becoming increasingly less relevant. All that is required is to engage in reflection, thinking and in deep learning.

2. A lot of content leads to purposeless learning

In the learning domain, the fancy for including more and more of data and information perplexes the learner. Oftentimes, the learner doesn’t attend the purpose, the goal, the objective of such pieces of information which have a short shelf value or display value. In the exercise of acquisition of such information (not knowledge) the learner wastes a lot of his time which could have been otherwise used to further the desirable competencies. The concept that ‘Try to learn something about everything and everything about something’ advocated by Thomas Henry Huxley has to be understood and interpreted in a right context, lest it might lead to meaning that is more convenient rather than correct. We are today in a situation where everybody wants everything in learning to promote consumerist attitudes for markets, while unwilling to drop the deadwood from its infrastructure.

3. Consumerist approaches to learning might lead to intellectual trauma

There appears to be a lot of pressure on learners to learn something because ‘somebody else is learning.’ This forceful landing of information into the intellectual portals creates a trauma for the learner, oftentimes incapacitating them from purposeful deliberations of topics of personal interest or those in which there is an aptitudinal hunger. ‘The lust for affluence of knowledge’ has to be replaced by ‘the love for aptitudinal knowledge’ so that the output of the individual through the gains from knowledge shows efficacy. Any learning which neither produces joy in its process or any utility in its products, is as good as faulty learning.

4. Competitive learning causes stressful experiences which have a long-term negative impact.

Both competitive learning and learning for competitions entail stressful experiences. In a large number of cases such studies are not driven by pursuits, or by preferred or informed choices, but more by a social myth of a glossy future which is virtual. Several models of people who have achieved are not really indicators for others to follow.in all such exercises the royal conflict between “Being and Becoming’ puts the individual into avoidable issues of mental and emotional health. “Not being the other person” is one of the psychological challenges that has been into the minds of the young learner.

4. Self-learning is not an option, but a pathway for growth

In a world that is increasingly inundated with information, knowledge and skills, it will be simply ridiculous to wait for knowledge to knock at your doors. To remain contemporary, one has to make efforts to remain current, relevant and informed. That really doesn’t mean that you have to obtain mastery over everything by comparing notes with the pursuits and performances of others. Self-learning is driven by choice, aptitude, preferences, environment, time capsules and geographical, social and economic contextuality. It paces its own dynamics and defines its own growth. It is helps to stay stable, free and personal. It is not led by quantifications of content, methods or assessments. It ensures reasonable joy of actions and engagements. It helps you for reflection and understanding.

Hence some of the concepts of minimalism might help to redefine learning. What are the advantages of minimalism in learning?

  • Minimalism facilitates choice, aptitude and preferences

  • Minimalism engages with informed choices for learning

  • Minimalism doesn’t quantify or qualify learning forcefully

  • Minimalism relieves stress and discontent in learning

  • Minimalism helps in effective time and learning management

  • Minimalism is non-restrictive

  • Minimalism offers freedom of learning, for learning and in learning.

  • Minimalism liberates from the fear of compulsive growth, external scales, competitions and demanded performances

  • Minimalism trains life styles which is self-driven and contentment oriented

  • Minimalism helps in sustainable expansion and extension of resources, actions and choices

In a system, where we have yielded ourselves to unhealthy competitions among learners with several of them finding themselves inadequate, low or victims of competitive consumerism, it is time to re-visualize the basic concepts and approaches to learning systems, both formal and informal, to make the learners live a life where they are able to seek some inner joy and enlightenment.