3 R’s to 4C’s – Rethinking Education

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Susant can be described as literate but uneducated – for though he has a degree, in Engineering no less, his education hasn’t made him employable in any of the sectors that he would like to work in. Instead, he today earns a living by delivering food – an occupation without job security or prospects of a career.

When asked what his plans for the future were, he stares blankly for a little while before mumbling that whatever the future brings, he will face it.

As a society, we have thousands of such young people trapped in such temporary occupations, without any idea of how they will be able to afford to transition into their next phase in life – as spouses, as parents, as support for their parents.

The tragedy is that we are continuing to add to this population by not taking steps to ensure our youth are prepared to face the future.

Our education system, and even the much vaunted National Education Policy 2020, continues to perpetuate the myth of creating employability through the existing system of formal education.

But never before has our society faced the prospect of such rapid growth in technology, and it is practically impossible to predict the knowledge and skills that will be relevant going forward.

This is why an education system that is based only on the 3 R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) and stresses on memory and recall of subject knowledge, without incorporating the 4 C’s – Curiosity, Creativity, Compassion and Courage, will be woefully inadequate in preparing children for the approaching challenges.

Children by nature are extremely curious as they explore the world around them. Unfortunately, our education system douses this instinct by forcing them into the straitjacket of formal learning that is linear in nature and completely inflexible, treating every child the same way. This leads the child to internalize that curiosity is something that killed the cat and hence should be avoided at all costs. This stifling of curiosity does immense harm going forward as the child is taught to accept and not question. While this could be an ideal attitude for a soldier, an assembly line worker or maybe a member of the bureaucracy, it portends disaster for anyone preparing to face a future filled with uncertainty. Encouraging curiosity needs a different breed of teachers and educators who do not patronize or look down upon children, but instead, treat them as equals and make learning a joint exercise.

We are conditioned to think of creativity in terms of the arts and literature – a mysterious talent that is the preserve of a few. Truth is, creativity is very often a direct consequence of curiosity. Questions posed by a curious child, when encouraged, help in increasing unconstrained knowledge enabling the child to make previously undiscovered connections and relationships, leading to the creation of something entirely new. The foundation of all forms of entrepreneurship is this creativity, that enables the recognition of an unfulfilled need that could become a business opportunity. While earlier this was limited to traditional business models, thanks to technology, curiosity and creativity have enabled young people to create innovative products, services and business models that drive the economy today.

But it isn’t money alone that drives the world – and it is only when the ‘haves’ recognize the existence of the ‘have-nots’, and understand their responsibility in bringing about an inclusive society, that true prosperity and harmony can come about. For this to happen, children need to be empathetic in order to develop the compassion required to motivate them to work towards a greater good. That the rewards of compassion include achieving self actualization – the path to true happiness, is an added bonus.

The current system also destroys the ability and desire to exhibit courage. By promoting the path of least resistance and avoiding conflict, our children learn that it is acceptable to only choose battles that are winnable and avoid those that are not. Hence in addition to teaching what is right and what is wrong, it is also essential to instill the courage to stand up to anything that is wrong, if we want to ensure a safe and just world. Without this courage, it would only be a matter of time before our society is brought under the subjugation of those with power – monetary or physical.

Which is why, it is essential that we begin preparing teachers and infrastructure required for an education incorporating the 4 C’s as soon as possible.

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