As parents, when it comes to educating the children in the future, where do people look for clues on where we’re heading towards? Will the future be the crux of something new or will it be borrowing heavily from the past? It is evident that we are at the brink of change from the rote learning structure? Is the next big thing in education going to be teachers promoting empathy learning and spiritual growth, to cope with the stresses of the modern world?

So many unanswered questions.

Let’s examine how has Indian education been in this century before the pandemic hit. We must also explore the advantages of including empathy learning and spiritual growth in teaching and finally, what would work best for the path ahead.

How education has been approached in this century

Towards the end of 20th century, computers were becoming mainstream, but their inclusion in the education sector was yet to happen. Contrastingly, education in the 21st century has seen the entry of laptops and projectors in classrooms as a teaching tool, coding classes as part of the curriculum and a shift from hand-built projects to online presentations.

This transition was a learning curve for the teachers as well as the students, but was well received. However, this increased the time that young people spent online, exposing them to potentially unwanted content at impressionable ages. Online safety at the time was not a priority and parents were unaware of the risks. Cyber-bullying and catfishing by predators and pedophiles became commonplace. This heralded an increase in cybersecurity with parents educating themselves and keeping a tab on their child’s online activity.

It is now apparent that there is no running away from computers. Hence, embracing it with all manners of psychological and cyber security is the only viable option. Adapting has always been a part of the agenda, regardless of sector, but 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and other educational institutes to stop operating how they used to. Zoom and Google classrooms are the new normal. While a few schools have reopened, the subsequent rise in case numbers have forced a shutdown shortly after.

Now, what do online classrooms mean for the future of education? Rote learning is now obsolete.  With the power of the internet all around us, children have access to any and all information they may need. This may be the smartest generation of students yet, but in this pursuit of ‘smartness’, are we creating a generation that is highly competitive, self-centred but also depressed, stressed and prone to burnouts?

What can teachers do, at this juncture, to regain a semblance of normalcy and do away with the intense competition and mental strain?

At the very onset, children need to be taught how to think and how to be without any stressors.

  1. Teaching to Think | Empathy Learning

The world we live in today necessitates a need for children to be trained in empathy learning. For a truly inclusive and civilised future, teachers must start incorporating the values of empathy in students towards other people- inside and outside of school. It must become a place of something more than academic growth.

  • Participation in team sports trains students to accept failures and understand what goes into working as part of a team.
  • It is common for people to be empathetic to those who they can easily relate to. Reading books and watching movies with characters of other cultures, orientations, different backgrounds and appearances allows children to accept that there is more to the world than what they know, thereby sensitising them.

These are just a few ways in which schools can play a role in teaching a child how to think.

  1. Teaching to Be | Spiritual Growth

High stress levels, burnouts at young ages and depression amongst school students reveal an unhealthy and worrying trend. This is where training students in spiritual growth comes in. While teaching students on how to be, we are borrowing lessons from India’s own ancient teachings, while leaving out religious and other divisive subtexts. . Here are a few things to consider including into the curriculum to foster spiritual growth:

  • Inclusion of yoga, breathing exercises and meditation to replace a few PE sessions
  • Teaching students certain values to inculcate in their daily lives
  • Teaching students to understand their emotions and recognise signs of stress early on
  • Encouraging children to talk to a trustworthy adult about their feelings.
  • Providing students access to a licenced child psychologist as a counsellor within school hours

It’s safe to say that empathy learning and spiritual growth are important aspects to integrate into the teaching methodologies currently in place. The only cons of such an approach would be disapproval from parents who believe that school is solely for academics and the possibility of spiritual growth training slipping into the realm of religious studies.

The solution?

It is clear that rote learning is not the future of academics. Modifying the syllabus to encourage learning by doing, problem solving and innovation must be considered. Online mode of delivery is one we must continue to embrace even after the pandemic while keeping the traditional teaching practices to include empathy learning and spiritual growth alive.

Our aim, through education, must not only be in the creation of highly successful and competitive individuals—the world could do with more empathetic, understanding and peaceful beings in the years to come.