Saturday, June 22, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

From a tiny tot to a curious learner

The making of an inquisitive thinker

Update : 02 Oct 2023, 09:24 AM

A few years back, while paying tribute to one of the Philosophy Now prize (an award dedicated to critical thinkers and authors) winners Cressida Cowell (the author of How to Train Your Dragon) one of the reviewers said: “One of the world’s biggest problems is stupidity. In the long run, nothing combats stupidity worldwide more effectively than encouraging children to develop their natural tendency towards curiosity and critical thought -- as teachers do and also children’s authors.”

Very aptly put, curiosity is the foundation on which any edifice, embodied in the form of a learner, can be built. And without it, any structure built (read “any learner”) is going to be fickle and narrow. 

The very first question that hovers in our minds whenever an educationist raises a question about the way we are teaching is related to the approach we are following and its impacts on the young learners. There is no denying that we are living in a fast-paced world which is dominated by intense competition and a twisted sense of success.

Ever since a young learner steps into this realm of education and learning, they get themselves ensnared into this web of competition. The focus ultimately shifts from becoming a learner to growing up to be a successful man. This mad race kills a learner’s inner spirit and consequently he/she starts reading for grades, rather than enjoying it and going deep into the details. 

All of us, more or less, can remember the story of Rancho portrayed in the film 3 Idiots, a 2009 Indian Hindi-language coming-of-age comedy-drama film, where protagonist Rancho says to one of his professors in the midst of a heated exchange over the approach the teacher was resorting to: “Sir, I was not trying to show what you should teach, I was just trying to show how to teach.” This is probably what the inner voice of every learner screams every day in the classrooms. The approach is very important and the approach that we are following is very traditional, bereft of elements necessary to spark curiosity among the learners.

Our current educational approach mostly focuses on getting good grades, which is okay. But sole emphasis on good grades is diminishing the creative space our students need to bloom to their full glory and blurring the lines between learning (in true sense) and rote-learning. Along with earning good grades, it’s equally important that teachers encourage their students to be curious because this quality will not only make them more innovative but also instill a sense of thirst for knowledge -- knowledge that will salvage humanity, herald a new era of cutting-edge solutions and help you stand out from others. 

An easy example will help you understand this: The National Student Assessment 2022, conducted by the Directorate of Primary Education & UNICEF together and published a few months ago, has revealed a grim picture. According to the findings, over 60% of third graders and 70% of fifth graders lack the level of proficiency (in math) they should have in consideration of their grades. A member of the Curriculum Development and Revision Core Committee observed that students are learning mathematics, but they do not know its application. Moreover, academics have expressed that lack of proper classroom teaching approach is to blame for this. The observations are so true and in no way, are the learners to blame. Because, instead of inspiring them to regurgitate what they are studying or memorizing in the exams, teachers are supposed to whet their appetite and encourage them to be inquisitive about whatever they are being taught. 

In this connection, there is no denying that we need to explore creative ways and employ innovative teaching methods with a focus on curiosity factor so that the students start thinking critically and take interest in gathering life skills that will help them flourish in the real world. Take for example, the case of Glenrich International School (GIS). At Glenrich, we have a Math lab, powered by MathBuddy, which is a unique blend of hands-on learning and pictorial reinforcements.

This place is designed in a way that enables students to solve math through activities and discover the joy of mathematics. If all opt for this kind of approach, learners will feel more curious about this kind of hard subjects, which will also help them become critical thinkers in the long run. 

Times are changing, and so are the approaches. As educators, we need to give this a thought as well. We can draw inspiration from the ancient educator Socrates. One of the greatest teachers and philosophers in the history of human civilization, Socrates was forced to drink hemlock only because he inspired the youth of the then Greece to ask questions and be inquisitive. Because he knew that “you cannot teach anybody anything, you can only make them think.” In fact, this is the job of a good teacher. So, it’s up to us to decide the path for our learners -- we can either cultivate inquisitive minds or settle for the set rules.  


Ramesh Mudgal is Principal, Glenrich International School.

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