Can self learning or Asli Shiksha be implemented in a classroom?
I remember the founder of a school in Delhi telling me this story. The 8th standard children of his school competed with MA students from a nearby university. The challenge was to read from a book that nobody had read before and answer questions from it. The 8th standard children who had effectively learned how to learn, won easily. Difficult to believe? But I have visited this school and with its crowded spaces and busy children, I remember it as one of the most joyous schools I have seen. So, yes, Asli Shiksha can be implemented in a classroom.
I’d like to describe one version of an Asli Shiksha classroom and what a school with this type of classroom can look like. I say one version because the objective of this book is to inspire you to create your own version of the Asli Shiksha classroom. Let me start by establishing the differences between various types of classrooms. We will look at two types of classroom models and then contrast them with a Self Learning classroom.
The first is a normal classroom, sometimes derogatorily called ‘Chalk and Talk’ in alternative circles. In this type of classroom the teacher effort is very high and the students are passive listeners. It is good to add a disclaimer here that personally I have no problem with this method. All the teachers I have known have used this method and I have liked many of them. It is just that if I was the teacher, I would not go about it this way. And I know that there is an easier method that is more empowering for both the teacher and the student.
The second is an ‘Activity Based Learning’ or ABL classroom. In theory, an ABL classroom has very high student engagement compared to a conventional classroom. However, the underlying philosophy for both these types of classrooms is the same. It is based on western psychological models which are prevalent across the world (The assumption is that knowledge has to be transmitted to the student from an external source like the teacher or a book). It is probably time to question the relevance of these models.
In a Self-Learning classroom, student engagement is maximum. The philosophical underpinning here is different (As explained in the first part of this book, the student already has the seeds of knowledge which only need to be properly nourished). But the big thing is what it means for the student’s and teacher’s empowerment. Let us take a look...
In a conventional classroom the teachers work to a set lesson plan and both the teachers and the students have very little freedom. In the design of an ABL classroom the students and teachers have more freedom. This progression is most noticeable in a Self-Learning classroom where the students are practically in charge of their learning. And, though the teachers put less effort, they pay more attention, and this translates into increased teacher’s empowerment. That sets the stage to see what a classroom and a school with the following parameters looks like:
- maximum student empowerment
- maximum student engagement
- maximum teacher empowerment
- minimum teacher engagement