Education Opinion

Teach Less, Learn More?

Illustrations by Vinod Nair, 2019.

ln Singapore The Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the “Teach Less, Learn More” (TLLM) initiative in 2005 to improve the quality of teaching and enhance student learning. TLLM was built on the “Thinking School, Learning Nation” vision, which had been introduced in 1997 to create an education system that nurtures creativity, critical thinking and a passion for lifelong learning.

The changes, it is hoped, will produce a new tech-savvy, hands-on worker, who knows the basic aspects of high tech or the practical sciences. (Read more)

The concept of teaching less is a bit confusing. It suggests that teachers are not doing anything or at least doing less. But that is not the case. They are doing things differently. More of the teaching is done through a variety of programs and sites outside of the classroom so that students develop the basic aspects of high tech or the practical sciences. Other teaching tools will include video-conferencing, tablet PCs, pod-casts, 3-D software and interactive whiteboards. Does this mean that blogs will take over from blackboards?

The concept appears reasonable but students are not interacting with their peers or with their teachers. They spend more time alone with more programs on computers or other devices. There is a general societal complaint about how much time people spend on their phones and other devices — that they spend more time with screens than with people. Does this approach to educate simply reinforce less and less time with actual interaction with people i.e. teachers, fellow students, administrators, etc.

There is the advantage of leaving the rigidity of a school schedule and allowing the students to work when and where they wish. This flexibility may help in developing self-reliance and independence. But, what of the caring and inspiration that comes from the personal interaction that occurs when meeting face to face over a semester or a year. What of the learning from classmates through face-to-face discussions or debates as well as through team work or group assignments. Learning is more than an accumulation of facts.

Attending school use to be seen as a form of socialization. A place to learn to communicate with others both peers and teachers as well as other school personnel. It was a time to work in groups — a place to work and play with others; to develop teams; to learn to present and lead as well as to cooperate and communicate; to experience/practice presentations; to raise questions and voice opinions, to exchange ideas; to be able to express an opinion; to ask questions; to verbalize and to write and to interact with people who may be like you or totally different. School was an immersive experience that required the presence of both the student and the teacher. The daily experience required the use of all five senses by teachers as well as students. Teachers and students found ways to negotiate and interact with peers and non-peers alike.

Teachers were expected to teach, not to develop exercises and assignments from afar with no personal interaction. Students were required to be in attendance. They learned from one another. They learned from listening and watching and seeing and experiencing. They learned to go beyond their own personal limitations.

So, is there an advantage to having students working solitarily away from school? To complete assigned tasks on their own surely creates some kind of independence but also limits what might be experienced when in a classroom with other students tackling the same or other problems. There is the advantage of an immediate exchange. A possibility of learning from one another; the necessity of explaining and demonstrating to an individual, or a group or even an instructor or others outside the classroom.

Has teaching less/learning more been shown to be superior? What evidence is there that this is an advantage to the learner? To the teacher? To those around them? Are the hours and effort of teaching and learning less or more? Perhaps the slogan is not quite accurate or appropriate.

1 comment

  1. I totally agree with the author – article was salient and concise. As a student of theology I know it is crucial to never neglect the human face to face experience. As the author stated “Learning is more than an accumulation of facts.”

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