The human desire for knowledge and wisdom has always existed and rather intensified with the changing phases of sociological developments in human history. The same is reflected in classroom practices where the students are curious to know, discover and explore the realities and seek to accumulate information and knowledge about the various issues under study. Unfortunately, the pedagogical inappropriateness has done its best to detriment it. It has affected the curiosity for learning and the desire of seeking the truth and wisdom in present day. Classroom is currently functioning as a torture house for many students not only at school but also at college and university level. This echoed long back in the words of George Bernard Shaw – a 20th century Irish writer in his book ‘A Treatise on Parents and Children’ who noted that ‘schools are more terrible places than cells. Since people undergo physical torture in cells, the children go through both physical and mental tortures in schools.’ He further maintained that in academic places, the children are taught to be submissive and disciplined without inculcating in them a sense of inquisitiveness. Furthermore, disciplining children ultimately culminates in death of naturally gifted talents and their curiosity for discovery of the self and outer world.
The children fall prey to academic stress when they are taught to be submissive and expected to give their best in every possible way no matter they like the field or otherwise. This is quite contrary to modern research in education. For instance, Howard Gardner’s theory of ‘multiple intelligences’ in 1980’s maintains that the students are not universally on the same page in their learning styles and interests; they differ from each other for having different types of intelligences. These different intelligences position each child or a student as a unique individual and social being with his/her identity, personality traits, cultural habitues and linguistic experiences. Thus, expecting a similar response in performance from all students in a single class, from modern research perspectives, is quite absurd. A conducive learning environment provides the ideal situations to the students where they can recognize their particular potentials and realize them into positive outcomes. This approach makes learning less stressing. And the students instead of feeling academically crippled take interest in learning and perform comparatively better.
Learning is purely a cognitive activity which involves human engagement in its process at a deeper level. If learning is made boring and unproductive, it becomes stressful. The students are likely to lose their interest in several academic tasks such as classroom discussions, individual and pair tasks and group formations. They do not participate in learning curiously. They are rather made to be a part of classroom activity. This kind of boredom in learning has taken place due to our misunderstanding and mishandling of pedagogy in its essence.
A shift of pedagogical stance from ‘teacher-centered class’ to ‘learner-centered class’ has caused a serious trouble to the classroom learning practices today in Pakistan. A common place assumption holds that ‘learner-centered pedagogy’ works far better than ‘teacher-centered classes’. It is due to the fact that modern education puts more emphasis on learner rather than the teacher. In previous times, education was simply considered a process of transference of facts, information and knowledge to the students. This model what Paulo Fieri called ‘Banking Concept of Education’ where the teacher is a depositor, knowledge is a deposit and the student is a depository has been challenged with the rise of ‘critical pedagogy’ which questions the authoritative position of the teacher and replaces traditional pedagogy with ‘Emancipatory Approach’. The students in this model are no more passive recipients of knowledge; they are not anymore empty vessels to be filled up by the teachers. Learning is rather seen as a dialogic activity. It is not transference of facts and figures, knowledge and information, it is rather sharing of knowledge and problematizing what is taken for granted and certain.
This approach proved helpful for students in liberating themselves from the forces of teachers’ authority and monopoly over their ‘individual experiences’ and ‘identity’.
Unfortunately, the dialogic and emancipatory pedagogy has been misunderstood in academic circles and thus failed to direct our present day classes to be in ideal conditions. As a result, we have either more teacher-centered classes the way they used to be or more learner-centered classrooms without any productive input on teachers’ part. In dominantly teacher-centered classes, the students’ experiences are ignored at best and their ‘presence as a social being’ is fully marginalized. On the contrary, in learner-centered classes, the learners are expected to be more responsible for their learning and knowledge generation. Teachers stand as facilitators. They provide content and materials related to their specific disciplines and expect the students to grasp the content through peer discussion and interaction. Teachers’ input lacks to a greater extent in such a class which definitely demotivates learners and also puts them under academic pressure. Both are the extreme views and thus not compatible with ‘Emancipatory and Dialogic approach’ as inspired by critical pedagogy.
Teachers in Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural model of learning stand as ‘More Knowledgeable Other (MKO)’ who understand the contents of the subject better than the students who are novice learners with a dire need to receive intellectual feeding from their MKO’s. Teachers input in their classes can train their students in academics and help them grow intellectually sound. With it, learning will become interesting. Moreover, the students will take more interest in doing the academic activities and would not take it as a burden. Group formations, peer-learning, academic assignments, projects and other activities become meaningful only when the teacher assumes the charge of the class through his/her commitments and serious responsibilities of imparting knowledge to the students and transforming them into future intellectuals. This can be done by enlivening the curiosity of the learners for ‘truth’ and ‘wisdom’ through dialogic approach and reducing academic burdens so that real learning gets to be the essential goal of education and pedagogical practice. And the teacher and students through their collaboration can revitalize the lost spirit of learning in modern day Pakistan. We can regain the lost spirit of education and help the students to become creative and critical individuals by rethinking the modern trends in pedagogical practices which encourage teachers and learners to grow parallel through collaboration.