Education is all about right strategy

Afternoon Dispatch & Courier, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Humour is not a memorisation trick. Happy people live seven years longer than the ones who are unhappy. Eighty-five per cent of nervous messages are registered in the emotional part of the brain and not in the rational part these are the three key rules that Terry Small uses during his conferences. Incidently, he recently conducted a workshop at the Oberoi International School on how to improve brain capacities. Caroline Declas speaks with Terry, who gives these valueable insights.

Did you find any differences between the Indian and Canadian school system?

Actually, I was really impressed and I found many similarities between Canadian and Indian schools. Here they try to educate the child in all respects; they help him grow and nurture him to live in a complex world. Its not only about mugging up and memorising. During the workshop yesterday, the students were really interested and engaged, you could see it on their faces.

Do you think that education is parents responsibility or just the schools? Or of both?

The overall education of the student is actually a product of both school and parents. For me, it is an equilateral triangle. It is like a partnership wherein everyone has their own role to finally make the student succeed in his studies, and also in his personal development.

What is the role of schools and parents in giving a child education?

The school should handle the curriculum part for sure, but should also help the student to think, to be curious and to grow as a person by developing skills and self confidence. Parents must be involved in their childs day to day education. Not only should they offer their help for homework but they should also show interest by asking how was their childs day and asking him to explain what he learnt. This will construct a really important link between them. Plus the student will replay what he was taught during the day and activate the process of memorisation. Finally, it is by voicing what he remembers that he will notice what he does know and what he doesn't.

Can you give us some advice to increase grades at school?

Yes of course. First of all, I believe that you should have a strategy. A school can be compared to a sport team, you can have a team with one great player with everyone counting on him to score, or you can have a heterogenic team with some weak point but with a good strategy, giving a role to everyone. In the end, it is usually the team with the strategy that wins. For schools too it is the same, it is not about who is the best but about the all together working.

What do you think about timetables, how should they be arranged to suit the student needs?

I think that children should have a balanced environment. They need time out from the school to do homework, and of course, they also should have time to play and socialise, physical exercise and time to chat with their parents about what all is going on. I think in Canada, parents are not close enough to their children. Building a relationship is important.

You spoke of video games being turned off, what do you think about this new trend of brain training video games?

Students can have fun for half an hour per day playing games if they need to, they just have to be careful of not spending too much time on it. About the brain training part, I think that everything has an effect and that it can actually have some benefits, but it is just one of the hundred different ways to help your brain. Sport, talks, alimentation and sleep are the most important.

Dont you think that introducing new methods to help students with difficulties, i.e. to spend more time helping them in classes, would be at the expense of the students who already have good marks?

Actually students are often asking me: How do I know when I can have a break? When should I stop to learn? I would answer, you dont know until you can teach it to someone else. Well this is to take into consideration for good or bad students; I think everyone needs help at some point. For me, introducing tutoring in school would be a great method. It creates solidarity, and it helps everyone - the one who is taught and also the one who is teaching, to memorise and understand. Plus it is a real challenge to teach someone else. It helps develop confidence and leadership.

Here are some advices that should be in your strategy:

  1. Train your brain with pictures. This is the main problem at school, teachers talk, talk and talk again and we never have pictures to help memorising. Yet, pictures increase the capacity of memorisation. Plus, pictures help a student to focus and maintain attention.
  2. Look at things differently, genius people where those who were curious, interested and open to new ideas. You also have to think like a teacher by anticipating what he wants you to remember.
  3. Set goals and write it down so you never give up: Self confidence and leadership are really important in the process of learning, you should write down your goals on a paper and always have it while learning to make you realise it is possible.
  4. Take a brain break: Get on your feet, it brings more oxygen to your brain and increase your ability. You should stop working every 40 minutes to have a little break, but please turn off the TV. You can however, let a baroque music in the background, it helps focusing.
  5. Study actively and learn with all your senses: The audio aspect by listening, visual by writing down and touch also by writing. Then when you test your knowledge, put a cover card on the answer to see if you actually know it.