Group self learning

c: | f: /

Having the attitude to learn is more important than 180 billion dollars and some software.

I was directed to a fairly short TED presentation on methods for self-learning. It’s an interesting study, though it’s probably as flawed as it is remarkable.

The presenter focuses on the results of studies performed in the slums of India where little or no English is spoken and extends that with experiments in the UK. The message is that groups of children learn better when they are left to discover, with encouragement, instead of being led.

While this is undoubtedly true, the only problem I can see with this approach in some schools is that the desire for learning needs to be there in the first place. All the schools or people in the study had this characteristic. In contrast, the schools near us are typified with the following attitudes:

  • My mum says this subject is useless so I ain’t doing it
  • In response to a request to perform some lesson-related activity: “You can’t tell me what to do, I know my rights”
  • In response to an observed misbehaviour taking place, the accused retorts: “It wasn’t me”

The above are often sprinkled with a profanity or three as topping.

With this kind of ingrained attitude and reinforcement from home, no amount of group learning can take place. The computers mentioned in the video would have been used to look at porn, and then either smashed or fenced by the end of the first day.

In bad catchment areas of the UK, this is the prevailing attitude and is the environment teachers find themselves trying to manage — and failing. Although I believe group work and self learning do have their place in schools, the underlying issues of self-loathing, low self-esteem and bad diet (ADHD should stand for Aspartame Delivered Hyperactivity Disorder!) need to be tackled if any headway is to be made at improving education in this country.

Fixing the children is too late in the process: it can only come by empowering and encouraging parents to take an active role in their kids’ upbringing instead of relying on television, games consoles and advertising to act as in loco parentis.

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