The evolution of teaching methods
Moving from gurukuls to classrooms to smartschools, imparting education has evolved with time
Vibha Sharma

Smartboards and tablets are making inroads in various educational institutions
Smartboards and tablets are making inroads in various educational institutions

India has a rich educational heritage. Nalanda University was the first educational institution where students from all over the world flocked to. It can also claim to be one of those nations which has experienced the whole wide spectrum of methodologies of imparting education to students.

The gurukul system which began in the Vedic age advocated disciplined in early years in a person's life. Students stayed with the guru in ashrams, learning to renounce the comforts of home for savouring the treasure of knowledge while leading an austere life. The focus was on learning the art of self control, character development, social awareness, purity of thought and action, besides seeking knowledge. It was more about learning directly from guru, observing and implementing so that the implementation becomes a part of the character and nature. These gurukuls happened to be the comprehensive learning centres and gurus depended more on oral (maukhik) and exemplary mode of passing on the knowledge and wisdom. Gradually gurus and education came out into villages and cities, in buildings called vidyalaya(schools). Imparting education began to get slotted in times through writing on blackboards. Simpler environments, slow-paced lives and lesser distractions still allowed retaining a good combination of knowledge and character building. It felt like a good option, mix of both worlds education and home care. Knowledge base, in terms of written books, kept getting wider and broader making learning more accessible. However, the austerity, which was so easy to imbibe for the students seeing a practicing guru, started needing the crutches of moral stories and stories picked up from the lives of exemplary individuals.

Wave of change happened again and this time it was much stronger, steering the direction from knowledge and understanding-based learning to tests-based learning. The joy of learning is seemingly fast dwindling in the cut-throat competition at every step of a child's development. From getting admission in a good school , to securing a seat in coveted engineering or medical colleges to receiving an offer letter from a big company with 7-digits salary. In a desperate attempt to equip children for that ultimate goal, the little ones have been robbed off these little pleasures.

While many changes are happening in various other aspects of education, apparently blackboard teaching is all set for a reincarnation and in some cases extinction. Electronic gadgets are fast trying to reclaim this area as well, as a preferred medium of imparting education. Smartboards and tablets are making inroads in various educational institutions. In an attempt to use the excitement of the young children which they show invariably for electronic gadgets, moving pictures, changing scenes knowingly and unknowingly more hyperactivity is being injected among the children.

A speech therapist, who works with speech-delayed children, says we need to calm down the environment in which we interact with the children. If the surrounding environment is full of distractions and sudden changes, a child struggles to comprehend the written text or the oral instructions. If we go by this logic, children are being subjected to heightened levels of distractions through multiple screens that we are introducing in their lives at home and in schools.

Not just that, the time of regular teaching is invariable getting compromised under the garb of the overall personality development. Plethora of activities, mass participation, long, practice sessions which edge towards drudgery or battery of tests which seem to be going on forever make for a perfect recipe for a confused mind and chaotic system. Under the modified education system which claims to reduce the work load, the life of students has been segmented under tests and evaluations only. There are semester tests, cumulative assessment, summative assessment, weekly tests, quizzes, revision tests the list is unending. The situation of the children who are undergoing schooling in the current times, is apparently quite pitiable. They do not and perhaps will never experience the charm of devoting a week to one subject, knowing one topic fully, diving deep into a particular problem and unravelling the mysteries of great inventions, discoveries or serendipities.

The problem is not with technology or with the quantum of accessible knowledge, it is more about the right timing. As a human child doesn't start walking the day she is born, similarly the mind needs sufficient time to get prepared for accepting, understanding and comprehending knowledge immaterial of mediums, at that ready stage. The generation, which is parenting or mentoring the young generation, needs to introspect more and this soul searching has already begun, though in small pockets. There are parents who are opting out of the grind of the school system and taking up the challenge of home schooling their own children, allowing the children to learn at their own pace and to explore the world themselves without the pressure of evaluation at every step. May be this is an indicator that we are heading back to our roots again.