Education and Learning

March 7, 2018  Few  weeks ago, on February 16th, an event that has stayed with me in my memory forever, popped up again!  67 years ago my brother Prakash and I were indoctrinated in beginning our formal education through a celebration of “Upnayana / Yagnopavit” ceremony! For those who may not know, this is a Hindu custom  – a rite of passage type samskara- one encounters in a life. Upnayana  literally means “the act of leading to or near”. It is an important and widely discussed samskara in ancient Sanskrit text. The rite of passage symbolizes the leading or drawing towards the self of a child, in a school, by a teacher. It is a ceremony in which a Guru (teacher) accepts and draws a child towards knowledge and initiates the second birth that is of the young mind and spirit. I was 8 and my brother was 6. This ceremony was performed in a tent in front of our house and in the presence of may be few hunderd people. My father was a physician, so for us education was very important. If he was running his own business or a farm, we might have learnt and devloped a different type of skills.

My entry into the education was by learning about reading , writing and numbers. I was already in 3rd grade and in my first school near my home.  I distinctly  remember one routine.  All students would come out in the open ground in the school  and recite tables of numbers. I recall, we used to do multiplications, divisions and fractions of integers for 20 minutes everyday.  This practice has helped us do the arithmetic calculations in head without using pencil and paper throughout life.  Can you come up with the answers to these problems without using pen / paper or calculator?

37 x 3/4  = ? ;  59 x 1/2 = ?; 73 x 1/4= ?

This practice also has helped me remembering numbers in general. I still can remember the apartment number of where I lived 40 years ago. I don’t have to look up a phone number of some one we know and call at least once a year.

Now I realize that new education methods recommend that one need not be bogged down in memorizing techniques for learning, but develop a method to think critically and cultivate creative skills. What I have observed that there are indirect benefits of these earlier education learning methods that we should not completely give up on. I will expand on the man and machine role in education and learning in the blog next week!


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