A Few Thoughts on Rote Learning

children-studying-670663_960_720I have finally realized that ranting against the Indian education system’s heavy focus on rote learning is of no use. I have also overcome the shock of realizing that the education system has hardly changed from what it was when I was a school kid.

The system still refuses to accept that all children are brilliant, and as a result, we still have only a handful of bright kids in each class. The rest are all average, or so say the teachers. I quote The Times of India: “Nearly 85% of teachers felt that more than 90% of the class comprised either average students or slow learners.” You can read it for yourself here.

The system still focuses on rote learning, churning out enthusiastic job seekers who know a lot, but cannot think critically and question. I have heard parents grumble: “Why do they have to learn all this? What purpose does this knowledge serve in their future? Is it required for daily life?” I listen perplexed, nodding my head slightly. But a tiny voice within me says: “Yes, it is important. Every bit of information in the textbooks is important and somehow applies to daily living. But what is the point of learning it by heart? Having learned by rote throughout my school life, I now neither remember what I have learned nor know how it applies to my daily life.” Have a look at this article to get a better understanding of what I am talking about.

Interestingly, most of us are least bothered about the rote learning our children are forced to do in schools. Most of us are interested in marks, terrified of having our child labeled “average” or “poor” by the education system. Those of us who are bothered may rant, but those who listen to our rants will simply consider it to be our personal problem.

So what can we do? I am afraid we cannot do anything except grin and bear it. We cannot change the education system in a hurry. You see, we are a huge country. As far as population goes, we are literally bursting at the seams. Our classrooms are huge and our teachers cannot cater to the individual learning needs of each child. The result is “educating en masse.”

In their struggles to complete mammoth portions in a limited time while simultaneously conducting a variety of meaningless competitions and activities, teachers resort to giving notes. Children are left with no option, but to learn the notes by heart if they want to pass the tests in “flying colors.” Through this method, teachers ensure that as many students as possible pass their Class X with great marks. This keeps everybody happy—the parents, the teachers, as well as the students. Of course, it has its dangers, but nobody realizes this in their happiness of having secured excellent marks.

One wonders if there is a way out of the difficult situation. Having spent several sleepless nights over it, I could think of only one tough solution—combine traditional schooling with homeschooling. You child spends 8 out of 24 hours in school. The rest of the 16 hours belong to your child and you. In addition, you have the holidays. Teach him all that s/he can never learn in school—that is, when s/he is not busy cramming and rote learning for the never ending tests. Easier said than done, of course!


8 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on Rote Learning

  1. I cannot believe how poor the education system in India is. I am a homeschooler and my daughter is far ahead of her cousins in India, she can actually think for herself, shows empathy, problems solves and absolutely loves learning. My family in India however look down upon her education. They think she is behind because she (5years old) doesn’t know her multiplication tables up to 20. However what she does understand is what the function of a number is and how it is used. She understands the fundamental concepts of computer programming, she is able to follow science experiments and write her own hypothesis, drawings and has an understanding of basic chemistry. She is able to solve basic multiplication and complex addition and subtraction. Through homeschooling she is exposed and partakes in chess groups, cooking, engineering with NASA, Forrest schooling, sports, acting class, economic literacy… And much more… The best part is that she does all this without having to sit a desk all day! I am surprised Indian women haven’t taken the step to fully homeschool their children, you ladies mostly school them anyways. Sit while they study for exams, take them and air while they do tuition before and after school. With homeschooling there is better education and more family time and finally most importantly play time. This is a child education, playing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am all for homeschooling, but our education laws are vague. I heard that people in places like Bangalore and Chennai homeschool their children, but these homeschooling communities are very quiet. The concept has just not caught on here.


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