Making mistakes is a very important part of a child's learning process

As part of our science program, children build working models of various real life machines and systems. They usually have some kind of an instruction manual to support their build. However, they also need to use their own "judgement" and "logical thinking" many times to complete them. During this process they make several mistakes e.g. forgetting to fix a part, fixing it the wrong way, wrong place, fixing the wrong part etc. Sooner or later they hit the road block and need to find where they made the mistake. This is a very crucial and important learning process i.e. to go about troubleshooting the issue.

One major tendency of children today is that they do not want to make any mistake. They want to build the model without making any mistake. They want to get it right the first time around :). While building the model they would check with the instructor at each and every point even when the instruction manual is showing the same e.g. every time they take a part they would like to confirm if the part is the right one, before fixing the part, if this is right place, right way etc. If they are giving answers to these questions, they would be simply assembling without putting their "judgement" or "logical reasoning" to test. Making a mistake seems to them like "negative" marks or losing face. When you dig deeper in to this behavior you can see the connection with the school grading system. They think of the build projects are exams and any mistakes are marks lost! In school children are penalized for making mistakes in exams by getting lower marks and grades. This is like a rap on the knuckles for making a mistake. This becomes part of their learning experience as well!! They learn that making mistakes will bring down their marks/grades, possibly get scolding from parents and looked down upon by friends and neighbors.

Fast forward to their first job, they find there is no absolute way of doing things. They look for readily available solutions to real time issues. ALAS! they have been "conditioned" to their core in school. Troubleshooting or problem solving suddenly look difficult. They may as well call the company support team to solve real time issues. They are not able to trust their "judgement" or take a "logically" thought out decision. They are unable to analyze issues and find a solution based on "gut instinct". All these point to lack of creativity, innovative thinking, risk taking and thinking out of the box. All these are big words but these are essential life skills that needs to be applied more in personal life than professional.

We are a long way away from undoing and unlearning some of the past educational practices. We need to realize that conditioning children in schools is not the best practice. We need to let go of these fast and not hang-on to them for fear of losing control. We can then expect great leaders and innovators who can look at this world through a new perspective and bring in the next wave of evolution.



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