3 Steps in Learning – to foster Innovation and Creativity

Almost half of Indian Graduates are unemployable in any sector. Lack of Cognitive skills and English knowledge are the major reasons cites the report. Even among those who are considered employable, a significant part is fit only for BPO segment where there is limited application of mind and analytical skills. The scenario is more alarming with technical graduates. With only about 4% of technical graduates who can take up some serious stuff involving innovation and higher-order thinking, there is a need to seriously address this burgeoning problem. Study after study reveals the same story.

This calls for a review and understanding of our education system and learning method. What has happened to the learning system in the country which boasts of world’s first universities like Nalanda and Taxila, that attracted pupils from across the world as early as 400 – 500 BC? Now our graduates are largely unemployable and the best talent is getting drained out of the country. They venture out for better education and end up getting settled there.

What is the key in our learning method that was lost during the colonial rule? How was ancient Indian learning system able to give and awe the world in all fields – Mathematics (Zero, number system, etc.,), astronomy, medicine, astrology, science, psychology, textile, etc.,

Ancient Indian Learning system was holistic in the sense that it employed all the three steps in learning

  1. Sravanam (Listening/reading)
  2. Mananam (Understanding)
  3. Nidhi Dhyasanam (Contemplating through deep meditation)

In this article let us try to understand why these three are essential steps in making learning complete.

The first two steps help in transmission or transfusion of knowledge from the teacher to the student. The third important step Nidhi dhyasanam results in transformation.

Sravanam involves listening or reading a particular subject. Through simply hearing / reading one will be able to store things in memory and bring them out when required. This is useful in memorising facts and figures. Rote-learning and marks oriented education helps one excel in this stage. In a world where all facts and figures are available at the click of a button, the knowledge thus gained has limited value. Excelling at this stage will help one to become a graduate / literate. The journey stops there. Most of our unemployable graduates are at this stage of learning.

Mananam involves understanding the knowledge gained through the above process. It involves development of intellectual knowledge. It helps one to understand various things that are already available in the sphere of knowledge of the world. Development of basic analytical, reasoning and critical thinking skills helps one to excel in this stage. Most of our employable graduates are at this level. They can use the already available knowledge intelligently, apply the same in their daily lives and get things going. For them life can simply go on. Recent trends in school education initiated by CBSE emphasising on this stage of learning (though there is still much work to be done), is a positive sign in achieving higher employable levels of our graduates.

For the country and world to progress… progress rapidly, we need to have more people who can move on to the next level of learning.

Nidhi Dhyasanam involves contemplating and reflection on the knowledge gained and understood through the above process. It involves intelligent integration of knowledge across disciplines. It involves experience – either directly or through reflection.

When all the rational thinking skills like analytical thinking, critical thinking, logical thinking, etc., reach an end point, there is blankness – thoughtless state. From such a state emerges creativity and innovation, which is called as creative thinking or out of the box thinking. This is the way to all break-through advancements in the world. This approach brings to the realm of knowledge in the world, the hitherto unknown.

It is believed that modern technological innovations have been possible because of scientific and technological advancements. What then explains the ancient Indian scientific discoveries? Every discovery in this world from the concept of zero, astrological and astronomical calculations of ancient Indians, ayurveda, surgery, etc., in ancient India to modern technological advancements like television, radio, computer, mobile phones, etc., has been made possible because of deep reflection and contemplation by the intelligent. Reflection and re-look of the basics can only trigger breakthrough innovations.

Modern day scientists like Einstein were also able to make breakthrough advancements in scientific field by the same approach. Here is what a contemporary of Einstein had to share:

The intensity and depth of his concentration were fantastic… Often, when we found ourselves up against a seemingly insuperable difficulty, he would stand up, put his pipe on the table, and say in his quaint English, “I will a little tink” (think). Then he would pace up and down, twirling a lock of his long greying hair around his forefinger. A dreamy, faraway and yet inward look would come over is face. There was no appearance of concentration, no furrowing of the brow – only a placid inner communion. The minutes would pass and suddenly he would stop pacing as his face relaxed into a gentle smile. He had found solution to the problem…

He once said to me, “Ideas come from God”… On the marble fireplace in the mathematics building at princeton university is carved, in the original German, what one might call his scientific credo: “God is subtle, but he is not malicious.” By this Einstein meant that scientists could expect to find their task difficult, but not hopeless: the universe was a Universe of law, and God was not confusing us with deliberate paradoxes and contradictions.

This quote by Einstein establishes acceptance by intelligentsia, the value of ancient Indian wisdom: “When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous”

This brings us back to nidhi dhyasanam – contemplation through deep meditation. Deep meditation on a subject of interest helps one to understand more about the subject from the unknown and bring it to the realm of known.

Left to chance and circumstances geniuses like Einstein, CVRaman, Ramanujan, Sachin Tendulkar, Lata Mangeshkar, S P Balasubramaniam, Abdul Kalam, Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Sir Visweswaraiah, etc., will emerge. Many geniuses in various fields but not so popular as above will also emerge.

But the world is in need of more of such dedicated people who would strive to give their best and leave this world a better place than they found it. Irrespective of the field of choice, we need a methodology, an approach that will foster more innovation and creativity (product, process) by bringing out the latent potential in individuals.

Yogic texts and Gita give us an answer for this. In brief this approach prescribes one to develop chitta suddhi (purity of mind) and chitta ekagrata (one pointed concentration), to be able to go through all the three steps of the learning process. These can be inculcated best in children…

  1. Serve, Love and Give – Mandatory involvement of children in service projects through NSS, NCC and other clubs in schools help one develop positive attitude towards life
  2. Asana practices help one to keep the internal and external organs, the physical body fit & healthy
  3. Basic Pranayama practices like nadi sodhana pranayama, etc., help to purify the vital energy pathways and advanced practices like mudras and bandhas help to enhance, channelise and retain the vital energy levels for appropriate use
  4. Healthy physical body, right mental attitude and high vital energy levels set the right platform for one to enhance the intellectual levels and tap into the subtle intellect or universal consciousness through meditation and contemplation. Practices like Trataka, Antar mouna, etc., help one reach this stage.

The entire approach may seem long drawn and cumbersome. It is so. This explains one of the reasons to integrate it into our education system in schools, make it complete and comprehensive and help in reviving our ancient education system. This paves the way for our country to regain its lost glory and premier place in world economy.

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