Stay hungry … to learn

Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

first-steps We often go bird watching with a birding group. Whenever somebody spots a bird, many are keen to know which bird it is. The moment the name is established – satisfaction dawns on the birders’ faces. Many of them stop watching the bird further. The newcomers to the group invariably learn that the identity, the name of the bird, is the most important thing. They quickly scribble and make checklists of the birds seen. The number of birds seen soon becomes the ‘glory’ factor.

But some are least bothered about the name. They just look on and on – they see how the bird looks, the kind of wings it has, how it hops or flies, what it is trying to do, how its neck moves, how its call sounds, what kind of tail and beak, the colour of its eyes, what tree or place it has chosen to perch on, and so on. Some of these bird ‘watchers’ have no notebooks; they just fill their stomachs with wonderment.

In learning too, a similar parallel exists. There are many who are keen on naming the learning, defining it, finding the end result, the right answer. A child asked, “What is this, what is it used for?” Pat came the reply, “It’s a sickle; it is used to cut crops.”

So the boy now “knows” the name (sickle) and its usage. Knowledge is gained. Everybody is happy.

But not I. Yes, knowledge is gained but without labour, without any usage of the mind, muscles (abilities), without involvement of the creative juices. Yes, knowledge is gained, but it is limited and superficial. Yes, knowledge is gained, but without emotions, without love (for learning).

I am least bothered about the name. I would ask, “Let’s see how it looks, what shape it is, is it sharp, what is it made of, how it is similar yet different from other things that look like this, what else can we use it for, and so on.

Why are people in a hurry to reach the right place, the destination? Why are people in a hurry to know, to establish, to finish, to conclude? Perhaps we want an end result so that we can feel good about it, feel satisfied that we know, feel complete. So maybe it is just convenience, it is quick and simple and it serves purposes like examination, or image, or social confirmation.

That naming, defining, concluding, “limits learning” is immediately not so obvious to many. For instance, your child exclaims, “Mama, see sugar has gone” when you are stirring the sugar in a glass of water and you mutter, “Yes dear, it has dissolved.”

The authors are educators, trainers for teachers and parents. They belong to – an organisation out to empower learning, learners – teachers and children alike.

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