Deconstructing The Notion Of Rote Learning

That the third iteration of the Education Policy has come about 34 years after the passage of the second indicates the importance accorded by successive governments to education hitherto. While certain policy modifications warrant appreciation, there are equally plausible contentions raised by academicians. This article shall seek to analyze the widening gap between the aspirations of CBSE/Education Boards and their ramifications on pedagogy in the context of the new format that was instituted last year.

In order to reduce rote-learning and prioritise its experiential counterpart, the number of objective questions was increased to foster detailed-study and the burden of practical learning was relegated to internals/practicals. This falsely assumed that a) rote-learning can never be detailed and b) Internals alone promote experiential learning. One who is divorced from theoretical machinations (a student) recognizes the obvious flaws that are inherent in these assumptions. While this order followed deliberations among top educationists and was indeed a remarkable change, modifications in the underlying aspect upon which these changes were premised was conspicuously absent. I’m referring to the curriculum here. I seek to argue that it is not so much to do with the type of questions but the subject-matter on which these questions are based that induces an urge to rote-learn. In order to illustrate this argument let me take an example. Assume that there is a Commerce student who has opted for Maths in Class 12th. Now, the Mathematics that is taught is largely aligned with Physics and this student seeks to rote-learn not by choice but by compulsion. I’m glad to note that CBSE has addressed this point by introducing Applied Mathematics for Class 11 and 12 students this year. 

The example cited above is subject-specific but another impetus to rote-learning could be the loose thread that binds some of the subject-matter to reality. Failing to decipher connections between the two (reality and the subject), one resorts to the alternative. Project work seeks to inculcate initiative and creativity by awarding marks to projects adhering to a straightjacket formula. A cursory search involving keywords like “subject name, MCQ, 2020” will throw open a cornucopia of videos, pdfs and documents; all substantiating the argument that rote-learning and detailing are not mutually exclusive. 

The New Education Policy (NEP) is a result of exhaustive consultations and has effectively addressed much of the contentions that were raised over the previous decades. The emphasis on retaining the “core-essentials” in a bid to inculcate critical thinking will go a long way in easing the burden on students and parents alike. Removal of arbitrary distinctions between subjects that had been constructed through streams shall challenge the notion that equates a particular choice with intellectual superiority. The Government shall do good to acknowledge that education is essentially an economic good and eliminate the condition that forces institutions to recognize themselves as not for profit entities in order to get accredited by CBSE. Just as the Government is hopeful of attaining 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio in school education by 2030, I am hopeful that this disparity between aspiration and implementation shall be nipped in the bud (flower).

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