Learning is effortless

Principle 1 of true teaching: Nothing can be taught
All learning happens within the child. No teacher can have direct control over it. The teacher is a helper and a guide. They can only attempt to draw the attention of the student to where the knowledge lies and thus assist him/her to see it.
– From ‘Learning to learn’ (More details and link to buy the book is available here)

(In the Hindi version of the book we changed it to make the same idea clearer:
सिद्धांत 1: समझाना और समझना पृथक प्रक्रियाएं हैं।
शिक्षक समझाने का प्रयास करता है और उसके लिए तर्क विधि का प्रयोग करता है। विद्यार्थी उसे समझने का प्रयास करता है और उसके लिए अनुभव विधि का प्रयोग करता है।)

It was under Pawanji’s close guidance that this small book, ‘Learning to Learn’, was conceptualized and written in 2018 but it lists my name as the author. I bring this up as the prelude to this blog post because what should have been one of the central insights of the book revealed itself to me only last week. Let me explain.

I had gone to Purnapramati school in Bangalore to run the prototype of a science learning program I have recently developed. In this program the learning process described in the ‘Learning to Learn’ book is encoded in the study material. The children learn science by following the written instructions given in the learning material and without any ‘teaching’ input from a teacher. In other words, the program is an effective demonstration of the inherent self-learning ability of children.

While the children were busy with the program, I was talking to the science teachers trying to convince them that their job should be to be inspirational science educators and not people who transact the simple content that is in the NCERT textbook. I was also telling them that although self-learning is natural and, on introspection, may turn out to be how we have learnt everything, but we will still have no confidence in the process. This may be because we have been brainwashed through long experience into thinking that it is teaching (and teaching only) that results in learning.

While this conversation was going on, I had my moment of insight, my epiphany. Nothing can be taught is one aspect of it but the other important aspect is that learning (समझना) is effortless. The children are putting their effort in following a learning process but the learning itself is a natural outcome of this process and is effortless. It will become clearer if we look at the effort of thinking, reading and following the learning process in other ways as an external process (in the realm of doing/gati) and learning or understanding or समझना as an internal process (in the realm of being/sthiti). All effort is in gati. There is no movement or effort in sthiti. Or, again, if we use the Hindi version, समझाना तर्क विधि से होता है (tark implies effort) लेकिन समझना अनुभव विधि से होता है (there is no effort required in anubhav).

I felt that it was only now that I fully understood what ‘Learning is natural’ really meant.

One reply on “Learning is effortless”

Very true, what we call ” self learning” requires effort, whereas learning is natural and is a latent characteristic of all creatures . But sadly , the education system is based on efforts of the students and not on the importance of learning.

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