Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Is education all about innovating gibberish to remember things?

I visited a local NGO run school during a corporate CSR activity. The NGO was well run as the school they have set up offers not only the mainstream education, but also the vocational stream. I "co-facilitated" a session on "How to ace an interview". It was gratifying as the presentation was at the right time, when students graduated and got ready for the interview.

We had a free interaction session with the school kids before closing the day when one kid asked "How do we make studying simple?". I jumped at the possibility of conducting a science demo. Before I realized, a colleague said "You should imagine what you study! it makes studying easier". He gave an example. He said, "By remembering a simple phrase, "MaGoMahendra", I used to be able to answer any kind of questions, be it fill-up, multiple-choice etc. What does this gibberish mean? "Ma" stands for Mahanadi, "Go" stands for Godavari and Mahendra is the mountain range that stands between the two rivers! Voila!

I thought "Where is the imagination part in this? Look at what we teach them? Is education all about innovating gibberish to remember things?" But the students looked amused. He sensed the attention he got and started off on a continuous rambling that lasted about 30 seconds. Nobody could figure out what he was saying. After a moment's pause and suggestive smile he said, "It is the phrase I coined to remember the entire periodic table". I heart sank. But the shock was yet to come. To my utter disbelief, the teacher started to clap loudly and the rest of the gathering joined! Now I feel, a science demo will either sell big, or it will fall flat!