Learning can be done in many ways. At home, many of our young children learn by circumstance, they learn from the mistakes they make and the way people around them which include adults and other children handled various situations happening around them. These outside classroom learning is sometimes called ‘Situational Learning’ where no books or formal records are referred and people learn via the circumstance and outcome of each event that happened around them.
When children undergo formal education in schools, a larger portion of their learning will be conducted through recorded materials printed in textbooks. These books are then used as a point of reference for them when the teachers in schools need to assess how well the learning goes down with their students. If the classroom learning is not done in an active manner, these students are likely to turn to ‘Rote Learning’ from their textbooks and teachers’ notes in order to pass their school assessments and examinations.
In my opinion, the main difference between ‘Rote Learning’ and ‘Situational Learning’ is the level of participation and spontaneity of the learners in the learning process. With active participation in the process, the learner is made to think, analyse and grasp the ”concept” of the learning and apply it to other similar situations in future. ‘Rote Learning’, on the other hand, often does not involve active participation as the student may well just commit the knowledge to memory and regurgitate it out during their examinations. In other words, critical thinking may not be employed in ‘Rote Learning’.
As such, I felt that ‘hands-on learning’ is a more effective way of learning and such learning avenues are often found in ‘Situational Learning’. Although it is inevitable to avoid ‘Rote Learning’ entirely in a formal education system, a good mix of ‘Rote Learning’ and ‘Situational Learning’ would be ideal for our youngsters to maximise the benefits of their learning.
However, to me, unconscious learning through casual reading of books and materials that are of interest to us is by far the best way to learn. It is not only spontaneous but also voluntary which enables the learner to enjoy every minute of it with no stress as learning has combined with leisure and becomes part of a recreational activity done in an informal way.
Hence, it is very important to inculcate the spirit of learning in our young so that it can become a natural activity and happen at anytime, anywhere and under any circumstances. In short, make learning a way of life for our youngsters and they would have no worries in catching up with society and advancements in human civilisation or globalisation in the many years ahead of their lives!