It has often been suggested that schoolchildren should be allowed the freedom to explore, learn and unlearn things on their own. However, the prevailing ‘learn by rote’ system in India doesn’t allow that freedom and suppresses children’s natural ability to learn things on their own. Even Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore warned of this over 100 years ago, when he said, “… the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected, and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead…”.
One of the biggest problems faced by schoolchildren these days is that they rarely get the attention of the teachers as classes are overcrowded. However, as India embarks on its journey towards a digital era, all of this may change with the help of what Microsoft founder Bill Gates calls “personalised learning”. This combines digital tools, project-based learning and traditional classroom work. It allows students to learn things and move up the academic ladder at their own pace. Gates says this also provides more time to teachers who can use it to give personal attention to the one who requires it the most.
The Microsoft founder writes on his blog gatesnotes.com about a personalised learning school, Summit Sierra, in Seattle’s International District in the US.
Gates says the personalised learning at the school allows the students to work on their own and moreover, makes them in-charge of their own academic growth. Summit Sierra belongs to a network of charter schools which has worked with Facebook to develop a software that guides the students’ learning. The software allows the students to set up their academic goals. In return, it provides them details of all required courses, feedback on their performance in the class and information about how they can get the required grade.
Wishing that he had access to such a system when he was a child, the Microsoft founder says personalised-learning marks a “big shift” for teachers also. At Summit, teachers are matched with students whom they monitor for four years. The software allows the teachers to keep a tab on students’ activities, he writes.
Though Gates writes in the US context, such a system, if introduced, in India would certainly change the way we have grown up learning.