Friday, July 4, 2014

Let us Cheat the Education System

Thoughts in the Mind of a young student about learning (not education but learning) in school after the 2nd grade

Please let me learn. Please let me explore the world

Is learning and education the same thing. I don't know. I looked for answers...

'Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself.'
Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab Director 

'I never let my school interfere with my education.'
Mark Twain, Writer and Journalist

Still confused. I am too.

Learning in Education? A student's perspective

I trusted you, when you told me school was a place where I could enjoy learning. I trusted you, when you told me school was a place where I could explore the world.

But soon it became all about the grades and the competition.

I did not like this. You did not keep your word. So I was not going to keep my word as well.

I was not going to learn. I was going to cheat the system. We both would lose in this arrangement.

But I would not accept your learning, I would not judge myself through the grades I got.

I wanted to learn and fall in love with my subjects, And Understand that,

Every Subject is beautiful, Every Subject has something to offer to the world.

I could not do it your way, So I would do it my way.

And you would not find out.

I would fall in love with my subjects. I would fall in love with learning.

And you would not find out.

Primary School students in Mumbai
I loved school till the 2nd grade, but then… 

Competition started. Things Changed. Grades mattered. Learning did not.

As a student I could manipulate the system. You could learn absolutely nothing and yet be a good student in class. You just had to score good grades and for that you did not have to learn much. You had to have certain skills to do so. 

Memorization was one such skill. Almost all the top rankers in class did this well. There were the few exceptions of students that studied because they loved the subject.

I was good at it and decided to use it to my advantage. So I did not care about whether I understood anything or not. All I cared about was getting the high grade. So as soon as I got the portions I would memorize it. Sometimes I would even memorize the question in case the same question came in the exam. 

But would memorization really help me. The French poet and journalist, Anatole France once commented, "An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't."

Scoring well in class was highly dependent on how good you were at memorizing content that you could get at the click of a button through a website like Google. I was considered a good student. But deep within I knew I was learning very less. 

I struck a deal with myself. I kept telling myself, ‘Why should I understand this?’ I will just memorize it and get over with it. I will not have to see it ever again then. And all the students, teachers and parents considered me a good student anyways. So why put in the extra effort. 

I studied hard because… 

I wanted to play and learn the way I used to learn as a child. I manipulated the system, so that I could get through the school portions quickly and use the remaining time I had to learn through play, and fun and exploration.

Because I did well at school, I was let free at home. I would come back home after school and then go off to play for four to five hours everyday. This is how I reasoned my learning process.

As long as I memorized well and stood in the top four ranks of the class, I could spend my remaining time in play and exploratory learning. 

It was a bargain and I looked good.

P.S - There are schools and teachers that do a brilliant job. There are students that love school and fall in love with learning through it. Most teachers sincerely want their students to enjoy learning. But they are restricted by the way the system is designed. I am not against good schools, passionate teachers or bright students. I am against a system that gives grades more importance than learning. It is not fair to judge all students through their academic performance only.


  1. This is the dilemma we are all facing right now..both students and instructors..on how we can be able to emphasize learning through education..In as much as we want our students to become educated we also want them to become learned..That they may be able ro navigate their lives..To be able to look for alternatives when the choices they are offered are insufficient..
    To graduate with high honors is not an assurance that one will become successful in life..Having the ability & skills to steer your life is..
    So better to beat the system and focus on enjoying learning.. :)

  2. Abhishek ! I really agree with your post. It is quite true that grades are just random numbers which can measure our memory capacity and skills of memory. The Indian system of education doesn't account practical knowledge and creativity at all. I really want that to change and I know that this will change sometime. It might not be soon, but it will change.

  3. Watched your video and browsed/read your website, blog. Hats off to you.. Its GRRREAT to see you do this.. and you really share a big chunk of my own journey which you will read in Something Divine very soon. I am launching an initiative called Learning Specialist and you can watch my take on this..
    Talk to you soon! :-)