By Blesson Gregory:
Scientific innovations, philosophical revelations, revolutionary outbursts and most things of value in the world around us are manifestations of the creativity of individuals or groups. Creativity has the power to incredibly alter the ways of the world for the better. Instead of fostering this highly valuable and exceptionally rare trait, our education system relentlessly and mercilessly quells it.
Creativity is neither valued nor incentivized in our system, while rote learning is highly rewarded. This tempts students to memorize rather than understand concepts in a desperate attempt to produce results in the face of cut-throat competition.
A scrutiny of the competitive exams across the country will reveal the extent of the invasion of rote learning. As the focus of these exams is often speed, success in them becomes a function of being able to do mathematical calculations faster rather than being able to apply what you have learnt better. Faster arithmetical calculations only mean better familiarity (rote learning) with the decimal number system.
We know that 7 X 8 = 56 (in the decimal system) because of our diligent memorization of multiplication tables. But a similar calculation in the hexadecimal number system yields 38. While we can work out the latter answer, we certainly cannot produce that figure in the fraction of a second, like the former. The numerical calculation system rests its premise more on arbitrariness than logic and any mode of evaluation that relies too heavily on this would not therefore be without demerits.
It is unnecessary to test students on a skill that can easily be substituted for, through the use of computers or calculators. The human mind should not be belittled by engaging in processes that can be defined by a set of algorithms and results that can be arrived at through mere iteration, while more stimulating, creative processes would realize its full potential. Arguably the greatest of all minds, Einstein, did not even bother to remember his own phone number or address.
Our brains must be used as processors, and not hard-disks.
Too much focus on getting the answer right is ignoring the merit in creative attempts to solve a question that might eventually lead to failure. The quickest way to solve a problem is not necessarily the most appropriate one, as a long-winding solution could bring out a much deeper understanding.
Students should work on understanding a topic beyond the mere printed text on a page. For example, in co-ordinate geometry, ax+by+cz+d=0, describes a plane. Every time a ‘plane’ comes up in a problem, students must ideally conjure up a three dimensional plane in their minds instead of directly thinking up its corresponding formula. While the formula may be enough to answer Maths problems in exams, genuine learning must go beyond just that.
Discovering the joy of learning is essential to excel. Students working on solving Maths problems should find a smile on their faces when they finally arrive at the solution to a difficult problem. They should find it natural to spend hours or days in finding this solution, refusing to accept the help of their textbooks, peers or teachers, because they enjoy the challenge.
Unfortunately, to keep up with the competition, such vain pursuits (from the point of view of exam results) will have to be given up. And that is where creativity is being slaughtered and excellence is being sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Students who choose to pursue their dreams fuelled by creativity, do so by running the risk of falling behind in the rat-race and facing the ire from parents, teachers and society. Innovation, daunting though that challenge itself might be, is made even more arduous by societal attitude and the education system.
For every student who is being trained to think of himself as a mere employee, we are possibly losing an entrepreneur or a change-maker. Student aspirations should move beyond gaining jobs to creating jobs. Creativity enables crafting of something original and facilitates better understanding and clearer analysis of issues from multiple perspectives. Our education system must be revamped to foster a breed of enthusiastic youngsters who have their creativity and dreams intact.