Monday, May 20, 2013

Are parents ready for a more demanding type of learning-centric school?

You must have heard of different kind of learning-centric schools. If you have seen this blog, you will appreciate the difference between learning-centric school and development-centric school.

Today we will try to focus on three different types of learning-centric schools and how they rate visavis each other.

1. Experimental school

This school advocates experiments to teach the concepts. The concept of science could be taught through  laboratory experiments, while concepts in biology could be taught through direct experiencing of vegetables and ecology and so on. Essentially, the concept is 'isolated' in the form of experiment so that the student 'gets' the meaning of concept. I have seen that one school uses 'the process of election through the election of class monitors' to teach the concept of democracy.

Advantages: This method is powerful in teaching the complex concepts of physics, chemistry and biology. 2> This method promotes development in student by forcing him to ask 'why'
Disadvantages: 1> This method is difficult to use in teaching the concepts of Geography, because of the large scale of the experiment required. For instance, how can you set the experiment of tectonic plates to show one of the causes of earthquake?  2> Schools surprisingly do not use this method in art-oriented subjects like English and  History ( perhaps due to absence of expertise) although one can easily set up the experiment of drama or story in these subjects. 3> If the experiment is designed improperly, this method degenerates into 'experiments' that have no correlation with the learned concept in the class. For instance, if you browse various websites that have beautiful experiments on the net, you will be surprised to find that most of them are unrelated with the concepts in the class.

2. Experience-based school ( Project-based school) 

This school advocates 'experience with real world' to teach the 'application of concepts'. As you will guess from above, there is lot of similarity between this method and the experimental-school method. In this method, the approach is to apply the concept to deal with 'real-life challenges'. This type of school is also called as 'Project based school' or Practical school. This kind of school came into the limelight after the school in '3 Idiots' was shown.

Be it the challenge of solar power, rain water harvesting, or setting of wind power, these real-life experiences help a student in understanding the concepts in depth.

Advantages: 1> This method is useful in teaching the application of concepts in real-life 2> This method is also useful for teaching problem solving skills and creativity - the two critical development traits- that are very useful. As students learn to respect the real constraints they become more creative.
Disadvantages: 1 > Unless real-life project is carefully structured and designed, this method degenerates into copy/pasting of already available projects in the internet with no learning. 2> This method also suffers from the handicap of the experimental method when the real life project does not have any correlation with learnt concept.

3. Outcome-based school 

This learning format advocates that 'visible outcomes' ( such as making a car or bridge or writing a story or enacting a drama) should generate the motivation for the student to take meaningful actions, which should however require the students to learn the underlying concepts.

In a way, this school is an amalgamation of experimental and experience based school. Instead of experiments, real life projects are picked to ensure that students apply the learned concepts. This method was always used 'partially' in schools, especially in subjects like physics and science. Engineering based school is a concept that has come into vogue because of this method.

Advantages : 1> Because of the focus on visible outcomes from real life, right kind of 'projects' are more likely to get selected. Even cooking is used to explain the concepts of chemistry in such school. 2> Both the principles of isolating the concept ( from experimental school) and using real-life experience ( from experience based school) are used to set up the outcomes. 3> This is more development friendly school because students learn 4 development traits: problem solving skill, constraints based creativity, social skills of getting help from others and helping others, and above all the ability to present one's thoughts cogently.
Disadvantages: 1> It also suffers from the disadvantages of the above school. But, because of the focus on visible real-life outcomes, the chances of picking wrong projects are less. 2>This method requires teachers who are either experts on those subjects or should be supported by experts. 3> This method is time-intensive and can often demand a lot of time from students. However, this disadvantage can be converted into a strength if the student chooses to spend less time on attending coaching classes which essential help students to get more marks.


As you will observe, all three schools have one common theme. The end purpose is to help the students understand the concepts deeply enough. Without understanding concepts the learning does not happen. And because uncooked concepts cannot be applied to real practical situations, development also is hampered. One should not forget this important objective of learning-centric school. Some schools tend to forget this important purpose and include 'experience' in the curriculum just for the sake of it, not for learning any concept.

Although outcome based school, the amalgamation of experimental and experience based school, seems to be the better choice, it demands a lot of teaching resources to make it work. Not just the right pedagogical principles of teaching are required, but subject experts ( in mathematics, history, and geography) are equally mandatory in making this method successful. And above all, it requires parents who are willing to understand the demands of school and take the decision to go against the mainstream thinking of mark-centric education system.

Do we have enough such parents who are willing to take the pain to support such schools?