Stop killing curiosity of children

Debapriya Mukherjee and Arnab Chatterjee
In one tutorial center, we observed that young children were gossiping in low voice among themselves sitting on the mat as their teacher prepares to teach them about the germination of seeds and growth of plants, equipped with pictures of life cycle of plants. Outside the classroom, there was a garden harboring many flower and vegetable plants. Curious children were pointing to this garden and tried to draw the attention of teacher but the teacher drew their attention back and instructed to pay attention to his lecture so that children would perform well in exam. A student of class VIII raised his hand to ask if there were any places in the world where there is no plant. The teacher stopped mid-sentence with, “X, no questions now, please; it is time for learning”. This way of teaching forces the children to miss how to sow the seeds followed by their germination with joy in the garden. It could be a scene in almost any school. Children, full of questions about things that interest them, are learning not to ask them at school. It is not the fault of teachers. They have so many targets to meet.
Against a background of tests and targets, unscripted queries go mainly unanswered and learning opportunities are lost. Children are born curious. The number of questions a toddler can ask can seem infinite–it is one of the critical methods humans adopt to learn. According to the researchers, children ask an average of 107 questions an hour. One child is generally asking three questions a minute at his peak. Unfortunately, during the learning, teachers do not encourage to ask the question in the classroom and thereby children’s creativity and conversational skills do not increase. But promoting curiosity is a foundation for early learning that we should be emphasizing more when we look at academic achievement. When teachers teach young children not to ask questions during their lecture, high-performing students are found to be less curious, because they saw curiosity as a risk to their results. Whereas curious students who ask lots of questions get better results by understanding a topic more deeply.
But unfortunately, questioning drops like a stone once children start school. The youngest children hardly ask two or three questions in a two-hour period. Even worse, as they get older the children give up asking altogether. As soon as they are at primary school they have to shut up and learn. It is true that children have inherent curiosity to ask question at any time on any topic that interest them. Ultimately it is our education system that kills curiosity to ask question. Many people in the educational communities give emphasis on the behaviour of the children while learning and their performance in the examination. Often educational bureaucracies have shunted curiosity to the side.
Many of us as guardians, educators, students or politicians forget that education does more than just imparting literacy, it empowers the students to take risks and face the world with confidence. One silver lining is that NEP-20 is expected to inspire a shift from rote learning to in-depth understanding. The curriculum content will be reduced to core essentials and create more space for critical thinking, discussions, and analysis. Teaching and learning will be more interactive, exploratory, collaborative, and experiential. Age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognised globally as the crucial stage for the development of mental faculties of a child.
Education is not just learning how to be a problem solver, but a blazer of trails, a setter of bars, and a raiser of stakes. The researchers gauge levels of curiosity when the children were babies, toddlers and preschoolers, using parent visits and questionnaires. Reading, maths and behaviour were then checked in kindergarten (the first year of school), where they found that the most curious children performed best.
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