Monday, July 27, 2009

Learning without books

Many years ago, I was enrolled in a Veda class. We were lucky to have a couple of people knowledgeable enough to teach (knowing and teaching are two entirely different things as in most things) us in a city like Bombay (Actually many suburbs had one or two reknowned gurus like this - and not all of them were priests). The method of teaching was "primitive". It followed the ancient Indian oral system. The guru repeats once, you repeat twice. And so on, until the entire shloka is covered over one hour classes each weekday. Simple. And we had no books - I guess that was how it was meant to be. But not everybody was convinced - I mean, in this day and age (in that day and age - 80s), how could we not have had books. Nobody questioned the guruji though.


But one day, somebody got a book - actually couple of students began to get books - and soon everybody got books. But as you might imagine, our learning was not accelerated; it began to get disrupted. The books, like Sanskrit shloka books, had indications for intonations and subtle variations depending on who the publisher was. And as the students began to second guess the teacher - we would look into the books, try to read and not succeed (we were learning devanagri in school - and not proficient in it), got distracted by the books and eventually, the guruji banned the books. He said, "You read the books once you are done with learning it all". Which is what we did.


Note that the way Vedas are taught is different. A sentence is broken up into parts before being recited as a long sentence. I cant think of an analogy here. But suffice it to say that the complete texts were an impediment to the teaching process. (I have heard similar stories even from some people who have learnt music, but since I havent, I will not comment)


As we try to absorb learnings in a web oriented world, a thought on how learning used to happen even prior to books...

1 comment:

purple pitara said...

Interesting! Also, i notice how young children too work much better when u give them concrete things to create something vs.when u give them paper and pencil. or how they listen to a story when u do it with puppets vs. when u hold up a large book.

more than one reason here to move towards a paperless world!