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Teaching Vs Learning

October 27, 2010

In last 2 days I had two instances when I remembered the now-famous movie 3 idiots ( a Hindi movie talking about/ questioning the current methods of education & teaching).

The first one was when i was interviewing a candidate for the position of research analyst-trainee. The candidate , an MBA in finance with statistics & economics as electives, from a reputed college, talked about economy & showcased his vocabulary full of Jargon. It was quite impressive.

Midway through, I asked him what he knew about inflation ?  He gave me a long explanation and finally concluded that higher inflation meant higher prices while lower inflation meant lower prices. He was absolutely sure that a lower inflation meant prices were going down. After a discussion that was going nowhere, i gave up. I tried again and asked him what was meant by real interest rate. I just wanted to understand if he was able to relate our earlier discussion with this. He took me on a tangent & talked about how compounding worked and how the real interest rate was nothing buy the effective yield. The candidate was extremely confident & probably was under the impression that confidence & common sense were interchangeable.

The second instance was an interview with a Economics graduate (pursuing Master’s in Economics). Excellent communication, great confidence  but almost nil practical knowledge. One of the panel members asked her why prices go up in general. she was shocked and mumbled that she had not brushed up her concepts before coming to the interview. My friend was gentle & tried to help her by suggesting if there was any relationship between demand, supply & prices. ” Of course there was. Prices went up when demand increases. err… i think it is the other way. oh i can’t remember. we studied this in our first year ” . I asked her to give up the remembering part & to just try to think logically. She said her macro-economics was weak . I finally had to ask her as to why she chose Economics as a stream. She said she could not get admitted in science stream and she was told that economics was next best.

These are not two isolated instances where such situations present themselves. This is not even related to career counselling or choice of subjects., it is more to do with ability to enquire and about logical thinking processes.

I wonder if we are growing a crop of graduates & post-graduates who study to pass exams only? They are not encouraged to ask or to think while studying. By the time they want to choose a career, their thinking capacity is dead.

Many of them end up in routine jobs where they are encouraged NOT to think & to just follow instructions.  Their colleges are happy that their placement season was successful. What will these people grow up to be ? what sort of children will they bring up ?

Am I trying to exaggerate and hype up the issue ? You just need to look around & see that the issue is much deep-rooted than what we imagine it to be.  We are becoming slaves to degrees.

Of course there are brilliant minds & there are excellent institutions but then, they are very few compared to the numerous others who churn out degree holders.

The big question then is,  Are our institutions & teachers focusing so much on teaching that they become a barrier to learning ?

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  1. Gaurav Goel
    December 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I think there are lots of peple from my generation who faced a similar dilemma. Enforced teaching, enforced careers, lack of options, lack of exposure and guidance. Many of us are byproducts of destined careers rather than careers of our choice & interest. Interestingly, most of us are still doing well in our respective professional careers!! I wonder what would have been the success rate, had they opted for the career of their choice.

    The modern world does present a different perspective. I see a changed attitude in parents of this generation who are guides rather than decision makers for their children. I sincerely hope the trend continues.

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