Problem-Based Learning – Solving the inherent issues in the education system

Education students 1

PBL: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him how to catch a fish and he will never go hungry”.

This simple quote emphasizes the key tenet of education – providing people with the means to succeed in their future endeavours. But does our education system fulfil the basic needs of the people? The answer is a resounding “No”. Our current education system has forgotten the key concept of education; focusing on making people literate instead of providing proper education and encouraging critical thinking. Our education system is creating a crowd of rote learners who hold the belief that good grades are the only purpose of life; those who are good at cramming are rewarded with good grades. Human beings are behaving like a cramming machine embedded with a scanner that prints during exams. Creativity and other life skills get tampered with during young age, limiting the potential of the child.

Creativity is cut off in our “conventional schools” that train students to become followers instead of leaders. The education system brainwashes people into believing that a creative profession has no future and pursuing it only leads to failures. The system is designed to create people averse to taking risks and scared of failures. ‘Failure is bad’ is the only lesson taught to us rather than being taught about the lessons we can get from failures. This acts as an obstacle to innovation and subsequently has contributed to the country’s absence in developing novel works.

 “The normal school was developed to indoctrinate teachers into the system of the common school, ensuring that there would be a coherent approach to the processing of students. If this sounds parallel to the notion of factories producing items in bulk, of interchangeable parts, of the notion of measurement and quality, it’s not an accident.” – Seth Godin

The issues in the design of the system get exacerbated by the agents tasked with its upkeep – the teachers. Our teachers, who shape the future of society, are carved in a way to produce consumers and not creators. The incentives given to teachers ensure that the status quo gets maintained. The teachers who dare to teach to dream are often thrown out. Schools have developed an image of fear-inducing device among students and those teachers who question the same are not supported. Thus, schools which should help in developing skills and teach everyone to be fearless are doing the opposite.  The solution to the above problem can be found in Problem-based learning (PBL).

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centred pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material. The PBL process does not focus on problem-solving with a defined solution like the traditional system, but it allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes. This includes knowledge acquisition, enhanced group collaboration and communication. The process allows learners to develop skills used for their future practice. It enhances critical appraisal, literature retrieval and encourages ongoing learning within a team environment.

In PBL each learner works in a small group. Each learner finds a role in the group. It focuses on learner’s reflection and reasoning to develop their learning.

In short, PBL is a journey in which students identify what they already know, what they need to know, and how and where to access new information that may lead to the resolution of the problem. The mentor helps in building students’ confidence while addressing the problems. PBL represents a paradigm shift from traditional lecture-based teaching to the learning-by-experience philosophy, facilitating students to learn and understand complex concepts and theories.

PBL aides in the development of critical and lateral thinking while also strengthening students’ communication, creativity and comprehension skills. A developing nation like India needs citizens to lead and innovate. An education system with foundational underpinning of rote learning is unsuitable for keeping up with the ambitions of the nation. Systemic changes are necessary to bring the nation to the heights the citizens have always dreamed of reaching. PBL is the need of the education system.

Bharatee Pandey is a Post Graduate Teacher of Maths with 20+ years of experience of teaching school students




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