Rethinking education from ‘Knowing’ to ‘Doing’

With the continuously evolving pace and context of education it is important to rethink the very idea of learning and the expected outcomes, especially in the digital age. Unless we orient education to the expectations of the larger eco system, a system it feeds from as well as to, we shall always find ourselves a little short.

The textbook definition of education has been associated with the process of studying, teaching and information sharing which implicitly puts the focus on transmitting information but does not really focus on the ‘why’ and the expected ‘what’. The current formal education system is based on a learning ideology in which the motivation is extrinsic, the guiding light is the curriculum while the student is a passive participant at best. Such a system creates graduates with skills and certifications that rack up well against standardized testing and multi - round recruitment processes but does not necessarily equip the learner with preparedness to apply those learnings. The aim for anyone in the business o education should be to create a system where a learner is driven by intrinsic motivation, where curiosity takes precedence and the individual is an active agent.

The process of acquiring knowledge, in its current form, puts an unfair focus on memorization of facts- or ‘Knowing’- but does not really equip the learner to build towards a goal- or ‘Doing’. This basic mismatch creates a system which does not affect real change- for the learner, the institution, the corporate sector or the society at large.

This is not to say that the current system of learning to know has no relevance in the reimagined learning ecosystem because it has been very successful is doing what it set out to do- creating a vase database of ‘knowledge’ and in bringing about academic rigour. Both of these are important ingredients for our ascent into learning to do. We do not need a complete overhaul of the system but we do need a significant pivot so that both the educators and learners focus on the part after that correct answer has been filled on the answer sheet- the ‘what next’- the application of the calculated velocity or interest rate or the text to our Constitution’s Preamble.

The key role in this transition shall be played by technology as it will enhance both access and opportunity. Both educators and learners will have access to information on a scale previously unseen- books, audio, video etc. - as well as increased opportunities for communication and collaboration. The conventional physical limits, e.g. the 4 walls of a classroom, a lecture theatre etc., are no longer a barrier to learning. Leveraging technology will not only help augment the learning experience but also strengthen the learning outcome to make it more relevant to a rapidly changing digital era.

So learning to do simply reimagines the outcomes of the learning process- homogenous information overload to targeted engagement, rote memorization to application, from focus on one correct answer to drawing inferences and moving away from a one size fit all to a more adaptive approach. The learning to do system is untethered to the conventional binaries of right or wrong, know or do not know and hence produces learners who are more nuanced, quick to adapt and forward looking.