A parent walked in with her two children. Her concern was that her son, Varun, was not doing well at school. Her daughter, Varun’s twin, on the other hand, was the star of her class. This made him feel miserable and under confident. Varun and Diya took the comprehension and critical thinking assessment together.
The results were quite a revelation. While Varun was slightly below grade level in comprehension and critical thinking, Diya fared badly in both. The reason that Diya did not do as well was obvious. She had mastered the art of memorization without understanding. She had mastered the art of stating concepts verbatim – which gave her high scores. But she did not grasp the content, as she needed to.
Varun, on the other hand, tried to understand what he was learning. Those that he understood he would write in his own words. Those that he did not understand, he failed to memorize. He did not work on his understanding and slowly started falling back and losing his confidence. If we reward children who write things just as they were in notes or textbooks, we encourage them to focus on memorization versus understanding. Dependence on “rote” has limitations in today’s environment. To comprehend you need to think, you need to analyze and structure your thoughts. Pure information – the computer can sort for you!
We live in an era where learning is the new constant. Knowing is no longer good enough. Information is available at a click of a button, but this information changes and gets outdated quickly. The skill of the 21st century is the ability to learn new things, the ability to use new information and the ability to communicate. Memorization of concepts might help children pass an exam but will set them up for failure later in their work life.
Most competitive exams recognize this – whether it is the ISEE or the Doon entrance at the school level, the SAT, GRE, GMAT or even the CAT. Approximately 70% of the assessment is dedicated to comprehension, verbal reasoning, and critical thinking. Even the math problems are leaning towards word problems, which essentially is comprehension!
While comprehension is becoming more important in the new world, comprehension is also becoming a bigger problem as fewer children read. Parents, therefore, should focus more on HOW children learn rather than WHAT they learn. They must assess whether a child has the essential foundational skills of comprehension, critical thinking, and communication. It is then that we are truly preparing our children for the future!
I would like to close with an apt quote by Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”