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Posts Tagged ‘learner’

People keep on going on about there being so much shortage of good quality faculty. That, they bemoan, is the most important factor behind the problems that we face in K12 or Higher Ed today. It is definitely true to an extent.

I believe the bigger challenge is to find learners. Not students. But learners. Or capable students who take greater responsibility, initiative and interest in their own education as well as the education of their peers.

If we flip the problem, we can perhaps leverage the scale of learners to overcome most of the problems in education. To do this we have to break from the belief that students have to be led. They don’t. They need to be helped to become more capable of learning in an environment mediated by social and technological networks.

This can reshape how we think about teaching and learning. Teachers then need to make sure that students become more capable (instead of becoming more knowledgeable) and that they have help and facilitation when needed. Students have to acquire critical literacies (and heutagogical capabilities) to transform into Learners. The Government needs to reshape the ability of these new generation of capable learners to acquire credentials that can be interpreted (and later perhaps even replace) at par or higher (or differently) than existing credentials. Our institutions and employers need to reshape structures and practices to allow all this wonderful learning led by the ones that are most impacted by it.

This is why, in the FICCI Vision Paper on MOOCs in Higher Education that I co-wrote, my vision for MOOCs (and in general the educational system) was:

Learning through Massive, Open and Online courses (MOOCs) will enable all Indians who want to learn, earn, teach or innovate, the capability to realize their true potential and transform our country.

The vision talks about building capability, not creating trained engineers or research scientists. Replace “MOOCs” with “our Educational System” and the vision would hold, really.

Are we really chasing the wrong problems?

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We have often, actually most of the time, decided to focus on teachers, teaching methods, institutional structures, assessments and certifications, but what is the responsibility of the learner herself in this experience? I am not talking about defining learners by the characteristics (autonomous, takes responsibility for her own learning…) under the category of responsibility, but trying to pinpoint a share of the responsibility in the current scenario.

In scenarios with multiple available educational options, one of the ways learners demonstrate responsible behavior is through making explicit their choice and preference among alternate options. This choice may not be voluntary (viz. parental pressure, social influences) and is influenced heavily by media advertisements, the tell-tale sign of private participation in education. Of course, in scenarios where there are no real options (either due to availability or other socio-economic factors), choice is non-existent too.

This is at the point of entry into the organized educational structures. But there is also learner responsibility that is demonstrated at the point of exit (at the award of a degree) which relates directly to employability and any possible threat to it. This was exemplified by the massive upheaval witnessed all over India (with perhaps the first instances of suicides related to education, linked directly to livelihood) in the wake of the Mandal Commission of 1990 in India which proposed strong affirmative action (through 27% reservations) for the underprivileged backward classes in central government jobs, universities and affiliated colleges and recruitment to public sector undertakings and government aided private institutions. There are more examples of student activism influencing their wider ecologies.

An interesting example happened in 2009 in Germany as a consequence of the Bologna process calling for all educational systems in Europe to be integrated. Examples of student activism from India also exist, primarily as polarized “youth” vehicles for the larger political parties/parents from which they obviously derive.

And I came across the International Students Movement as well which is a platform for “groups and activists around the world struggling against the commercialisation and privatisation of public education and for free and emancipatory education to network, share information and co-ordinate protests together”.

In between entry and exit, there is mandated responsibility (by the institution) with norms related to attendance, conduct and grades.

However, when, where and how does the learner have any control or choice of redress over the quality of the learning experience? And as a corollary to this question, what should be the responsibility of the learner in  the system – really what should the duties be – and how do they change or adapt to new influences such as privatization?

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