Children must be taught how to think and not what to think

Education is the reflection of the character of an individual. It forms the very basis of the life and persona of an individual. Though over the centuries, decades and years there has been an increased impetus on education, the Q-factor(Q-factor) is still a moot aspect in the field of education.

The ‘what’ and ‘how’ conundrum: Quality v/s Quantity

‘What’ signifies a factual approach of thinking, a thought process which is bound by limits so imposed by someone, say, a syllabus imposed by the school/college authorities. On the other hand, “how” gives complete freedom to the student to think so as to let his imagination unfold in all possible directions and discover various dimensions of knowledge.

In brevity, while “what” is the quantitative aspect of learning, “how” presents the qualitative aspect of it.

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Why “How” rules over “what”?

There are many instances to prove the superiority of “how” over “what” when it comes to the thinking process. Let us have a look at them.

In the historical area, we could find a number of such instances. Another example lies in the modern history-The colonial era in India and elsewhere wanted people to think and uphold the British superiority over them- this is “what” they wanted us to think. But, there were protagonists like Mahatma Gandhi who had an out of the “what” thinking process and questioned “how” to get rid of the British subordination.

In the social sphere, the status of women presents an apt example. A “what” mentality would have perpetuated the fact or stereotypes regarding women- women are weaker physically and mentally, they are meant to serve the men among others. Those who knew “how” to think came out of the factual approach and upheld a “just and equitable” situation for all human beings including women. Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy is an apt fit in the above-mentioned case. Same applies to the other forms of discrimination like that based on caste. Dr. B.R Ambedkar came out of the traditional mindset and questioned the very authority of the system.

In the cultural and religious sphere, we have some contemporary examples. The “what” mentality has led and is leading to the unfortunate process of “radicalization” of the youth of certain religion/s. As their minds are fed with certain facts that they accept as true, extremist tendencies take them over leading to disastrous consequences. Also, various temple entry movements by different sections whether untouchables, women etc. also present the breaking of “what” mentality by the “how” mentality.

In the field of science as well, many examples are of utmost relevance. All the scientists from Einstein to Edison and from Newton to Raman are the inventors of phenomena which were not known before them. With a “what to think” mentality they would have gained knowledge of all the books but with “how to think” mentality they have “n” number of books written in their names. Also, the rapid growth of technology is a result of the latter mentality. New innovators from Jobs to Musk all have this aspect in common.

In the field of international relations, let us recall the Vietnam-US war. By abiding by the “what to think” mentality they would have been defeated even before the war. However, thinking beyond the general beliefs (‘what’), they knew “how” to think and the result was different from “what” people were thinking- Vietnam won the war.

In the economic sphere, the 1991 crisis in India could provide a suitable example. While “what to think” would have brought pessimism in the minds due to widespread losses, imbalances, and pestilence in the economy, “how to think” mindset brought about the Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation(LPG) reforms.

In the political sphere,” what to think” in India could have led to a status quoits approach, which often was infested with corruption and malpractices,  “how to think” brought an upsurge in the form of the India Against Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare.

In the ecological sphere, a person with “what to think” mentality would exploit the nature as a reserve of infinite resources while a person with a ”how to think” mindset like Gandhi would spread his wisdom saying “there is enough for man’s need but not for man’s greed”.

The Indian education system and the “how to think” element:

Indian education system is often criticized because of the missing element of “how to think”. The qualitative education is missing at all the levels of education in most (if not all) of the institutions. A figure which corroborates this is- “Around 80% of the engineers in India are not employable”.

This dismal situation is mainly due to excessive impetus on “what to think” element. A defined syllabus binds the thinking of the student to it. This leads to greater focus on completing the syllabus and scoring marks making the education quantitative rather than qualitative.

As India is boasting of its demographic potential with half of its population less than 25 years of age, an overhaul of the education system becomes imperative. The potential could be tapped and dividends out of it could be reaped only when the human “resources” are shown the right way of thinking.

Mahatma Gandhi showed the way through his “Wardha scheme” of education in which he focused on “learning through activity” so that the children could learn “how to think”.

As education plays the cornerstone role in the life of an individual, a necessary transformation is a sine qua non in this field. A gradual and effective transition from “what” to “how”  is the guiding light for this transformation.


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