Reignite the spark of knowledge seeking among students

On this day let us pledge to enhance the knowledge capital of our students and help our society emerge as a knowledge society
Representational Image
Representational Image Flickr [Creative Commons]

Knowledge seeking is an arduous and tiresome yet fulfilling, rewarding and soul-nourishing journey. It calls for an unwavering commitment to a cause, dedication, devotion, determination, hard-work, patience, perseverance and passion to undertake this voyage from the known to the unknown.

While we see and observe what everyone else has seen and observed we need to think and ponder upon issues that nobody has ever thought about and ventured into.

Here it needs to be emphasized that seeing and observing is not the same. While everyone had seen apples falling on the ground till late nineteenth century, it was only Newton who keenly observed and looked at it with a different perspective and ultimately came up with the path-breaking law of universal gravitation. We need to search as well as create new knowledge through deep learning and research and thus travel the distance between an idea and its realisation.

Our students need to learn the art of scientific investigation through deep thinking and systematic review of literature for finding new facts. For this to happen our teachers need to be open to new ideas, new concepts, new theories, new approaches and new conclusions.

We need to teach our students how to search for existing and new knowledge through objective and systematic scientific methods for finding solutions to our day-to-day problems.

Of late there has been a disturbing trend among students to somehow complete their degrees and gain some skills with a view to find jobs and settle down in life with no passion or commitment towards seeking knowledge and evolving solutions to the problems being faced by the mankind.

This has led them to superficial learning aimed at passing the subjects and completing the degrees rather than gaining knowledge through an in-depth understanding of different subjects. Consequently, we are miserably failing in enhancing our knowledge capital and emerging as a knowledge society.

On Teacher’s Day that is being observed nationwide on September 5th every year on the birth anniversary of a great teacher, diplomat, scholar and former President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, let us take a pledge to make sincere efforts towards reigniting the spark and reinvigorating the zeal of knowledge seeking among our students

In the present-day context, particularly in light of NEP-2020 era, teachers have to play an enabling role in the holistic development of the students.

This involves not only imparting knowledge and skills, but also developing critical and innovative thinking, engaging them in research and extension activities, furnishing instructional material with the aid of information technology tools and above all counseling them for their personalized educational needs.

Modern day teacher has to be a friend, a philosopher, a guide, a counselor and a mentor.

Apart from teaching he has to mentor, guide and counsel his students, handhold them and steer them towards the right path of seeking new knowledge, improving their intellectual capital and motivating them to achieve great heights in life.

We need to impart multi-disciplinary and holistic education to our students with a view to produce multi-dimensional, well-rounded individuals equipped with all types of knowledge, skills, competencies and know-how about life, people, places, arts, sciences, languages and technologies.

Apart from building capacities, enhancing abilities, shaping attitudes, promoting aptitude and proficiency, improving motivation and efficiency, multi-disciplinary education has to be offered to build their character, persona, intellect, physique, positive insights and outlooks and transform them into ethical, rational, compassionate and caring citizens, while at the same time preparing them for gainful, rewarding and contributing employment that enables them to leave a rich legacy behind and pay back to the society in one positive form or the other.

Mentor-mentee relationship is fast gaining momentum worldwide in this regard. A teacher just teaches and delivers content whereas a mentor’s role is to guide and to inspire; to give advice and to support the mentee. A mentor can help his mentee improve his or her abilities and skills through observation, continuous assessment, monitoring and counseling.

Good mentorship evokes and engages practical and analytical thinking, critical evaluation, constructive mindset and problem‐solving skills that can be applied in a variety of settings and perspectives.

It leaves a positive impact upon mentees’ values, commitments, ideals and mindsets. Mentoring is critical to good teaching, especially to teaching emotionally disturbed, stressed and behaviorally challenged students.

It provides an ample opportunity to know the students’ world in the way that they live it, to interpret that understanding back to the pupil, and then provide boundaries of reality so that they may function more competently. Mentoring is also needed by the students looking for fully or partially funded opportunities for higher education, scholarships, fellowships, internships, both within and outside India.

We need to create a pool of mentors having a philanthropic spirit, who are always willing to guide our youth in this regard at no additional costs. They need to be networked for offering timely help to budding youth in search of guidance.

A big question staring right into the eyes of all teachers on this very day is whether we harness and exhibit empathy in our day-to-day teaching or we fail to inspire awe or for that matter even touch the hearts and minds of our students in a manner that is essential to foster a positive and constructive change. This is where we need to pool all our efforts for regaining the lost glory of this pious profession.

“What is most thought-provoking in these thought-provoking times is that we are still not thinking”, Martin Heidegger once said. ‘Thinking’ here includes a set of cognitive activities that we use to process information, make connections, solve problems, take decisions and create new ideas. It will be prudent to take a pledge on the teachers’ day today to transform our students into thinkers - creative and analytical thinkers.

Only when they become good thinkers, they can be creative innovators, knowledge seekers and credible nation builders. Creative thinking refers to the ability to conceive new and innovative ideas by breaking from established thoughts, theories, norms and procedures. It involves putting things together in new and imaginative ways. It is often referred to as “thinking out-of-the-box.”

Analytical thinking on the other hand refers to the ability to separate a whole into its basic parts in order to examine the parts and their mutual relationships. It involves thinking in a logical, stepwise manner to break down a larger system of information into its contiguous parts.

By way of analytical and creative thinking we actually need to promote critical thinking among our students that refers to the ability to exercise careful evaluation or judgment in order to determine the authenticity, accuracy, worth, validity or value of something. In addition to precise, objective analysis, critical thinking involves synthesis, evaluation, reflection, and reconstruction.

Rather than strictly breaking down the information, critical thinking explores other elements that could have an influence on the conclusions. Once we succeed in our mission of fostering creative, analytical and critical thinking among our students goals of our education will be met in their real sense.

Positive, constructive, sequential, convergent as well as divergent thinking will automatically fall into the place. At present we are not allowing thinking of any kind, we are only spoon feeding and storing information in their brains without allowing them to process it.

Teachers’ Day celebration should mark the beginning of an irrevocable transformation of student-teacher relationship into the one that encourages questioning and critical analysis, that fosters creative thinking and helps build constructive insights; one that dwells into different perspectives on every topic of discussion, that explores new possibilities and evokes innovative solutions to our intriguing problems; one that is based on empathy and compassion, care and companionship rather than being a whip-wielding master.

Our goal on this day should be to minimize the importance of mere degrees, marks, grades and certificates and maximize the significance of knowledge, skills and competence among our students. Let students be the masters of their own choices and destiny and let teachers be the torch-bearers and path-finders of their bright and magnificent future.

Let us transform students’ yearning for marks and grades into their quest for knowledge and learning. On this day let us think about ways and means how to break the shackles of degrees and certificates and make our students effective contributors of the knowledge society who can contribute significantly towards nation building and building our knowledge capital.

A minor shake-up will be of no avail, a massive restructuring is needed for the same and the new National Education Policy (NEP-2020) provides that necessary framework and guidance that could facilitate this revolutionary and historic transformation of our education system.

(Author teaches at the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Kashmir)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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