16 May 2015 17:34 IST

Learn, unlearn, relearn

Leverage all the resources you have, especially the Internet

We spend almost a quarter of our lives studying in schools and colleges. The sad reality is that most people have no clue why they are doing this, what to expect and how this education will help them. Initially, the focus is on passing and moving on to the next class. Subsequently, it is all about getting admitted to a good college, thereafter, securing a good job. And so on.

Despite spending 20 years on this, many don’t get the jobs they desire or end up unhappy, even if they secure the positions aspired for. And they can’t help but question their years of effort.

Self doubt

Unfortunately, instead of learning from their experience, such people, going forward, subject their children to the same pattern: the rut of going to school and college with the short-term goal of passing exams.

But a larger question emerges from this, what is education, and what is it’s purpose?

The generic purpose of education is to acquire learning skills and attain knowledge. The hope is that this knowledge will provide a base or foundation to develop and grow further.

An exact definition of education is: “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

Tracing the roots

The word educate comes from the Latin word educare, meaning to lead out, to nurture, to rear. Therefore, education is about developing a person’s mental faculties and teaching skills. It is not what our education system instils in us: copying notes and passing exams. Unfortunately, that is what education has been reduced to, to getting a degree and/ or a certificate, regardless of how you get it.

Learn, unlearn, relearn

Famous management expert Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterate of the 21{+s}{+t} century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This is a very important and relevant in the era of rapid change we live in, but our present system of education isn’t capable of teaching this.

Let me share my personal experience. During my management course, no one taught me anything about ‘retail’; the stream didn’t exist back then. At best, our course covered retail briefly under distribution, which is a small part of marketing. Yet, I have built a career in retail and become an expert in the field. The only thing that helped me was the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn as I went along. Imagine if I were to say that no one at college taught me about retail, hence I can’t do it! What would have happened?

It is important to realise that the role of a teacher is to actually encourage and hone our ability to ask questions and apply what we learn, and actually learn how to learn, as opposed to give notes and spoon-feed the student.

The Indian education system continues to be exam-oriented and there is no escaping this fact; however, one has three choices: Be a part of the system and focus on notes, exams, and not really learn how to learn. The risk is that you will be completely lost when you enter the “Real World”.

Complain and crib about the system and how it is of no use? Sure, it is fun and everyone does that, but ask yourself: will it help you in any way? Not at all.

Instead, you can be practical. Train yourself to learn, unlearn and relearn by leveraging all the resources you have, like the internet, while also managing the education system you’re in by studying for exams in a focused manner.

Power of the Net

A simple and oft ignored resource is the Internet. Let me explain how well it can help you. English is not our mother tongue. However, the reality is that English is the lingua franca of the corporate world and work place. Written and spoken English is essential and most students ignore this. While everyone uses the Internet to chat, tweet, post comments and watch music videos, etc., very few realise that a vast repository of knowledge can be accessed via the Web. One can successfully use it to master the language. There are free sites that help develop your vocabulary and videos to help you speak English better.

So, be practical. Train yourself to learn, unlearn and relearn by leveraging all the resources you have, especially the Internet.

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