Real World Learning

Why do we have school trips? Why do we encourage visits to places of interest for our young people? Why do our parents and friends travel for leisure? Exploration and adventure are an integral part of our lives. Today the world has become smaller as we all travel to learn and experience real world learning. A trip on a train will help us understand the difference between speed and velocity. Climbing the mountains will demonstrate the fall in air pressure as we move up the dizzy heights. Floating on the salty sea will explain what is density and how saline water offers us the buoyancy!

Best we get out of the classroom and learn in the theatre with the sky above and earth below. Education is not a drill, but an experience and this is how real learning must be. We need to push young people to think out of the box, for this it is imperative that we get out of the box (classroom) too! 

At my school, we were indeed very lucky to have the mid-term break and this for me personally was the best form of learning. Team Building, planning, logistics, cooking, survival and most of all the need to push ourselves beyond the comfort zone made us find ourselves. The challenge always lies within, today when I catch up with my school friends and the hundreds of young people who have been on treks with me, they all are most thankful for the learning they experienced from the trips out of school.

Study is only one of the four corners of the edifice of learning, add to it skills, service and sports and you will be able to deliver quality education. 

Challenge for us is to find opportunity to help deliver good education and this can only happen outside the classroom. Study is only one of the four corners of the edifice of learning, add to it skills, service and sports and you will be able to deliver quality education. Personal and social development is the key outcome of our education process. As we want the young people to grow up and become responsible and caring individuals, we must look at the real world and be able to demonstrate what is the outcome of learning. Away from the rote learning and into experiential learning is the preferred approach to ensure that the purpose of education is achieved.  

It is not a hidden truth that many school dropouts and those who have grown up with informal learning have achieved greater heights and have found themselves.

The journey to school, stories retold and the moments we shared with our peers outside the classroom will live with us lifelong. Look back and reflect, in your grip of nostalgia the sports field, the school trip and the fun you had while growing up will be on the top of the mind. Yes, you will perhaps forget what you were taught in many of the subject classes, but you will remember the most caring and interesting teachers. The school trips and the adventure out of school will live with you always. You will remember an outing to a sanctuary or a bird watching trip and this will be far more useful and real, as compared to watching the film reel or video of the same. We need to experience the ‘real world’ and not rely on the ‘reel world’ when we develop a curriculum for learning and education delivery.

It is not a hidden truth that many school dropouts and those who have grown up with informal learning have achieved greater heights and have found themselves. Bill Gates lives today and Edison as well as Einstein were great physicist and inventors. Many of the adventure buffs and those who have taken the course of adventure travel have been very successful in life. The world today has space for people who follow their heart and use their passion to deliver excellence in whatever they do. You do not have to live the drudgery of exams and syllabus and make a life. Self learning and learning at ones own pace is today gaining ground too.

As experimental learning and innovative teaching takes centre stage, I am sure that the real world learning will take precedence over the rote learning the mass education programmes tend to adopt. Assembly lines only produce a prototype and the earning of an average worker is pittance as compared to the innovator, the thinker and the creator. Real life and the creation of nature must be understood, lived with and dwelt upon to offer good quality of education. No school can be built with brick and mortar, the institution of learning must be a place for our minds to wander, explore and flower.

Today, we have the concept of a gap year, the long adventure journeys and the outings the schools and peer groups experience. This must become a part of any learning environment, as travel becomes more affordable and possible, real world learning will become a pleasure many will be able to experience. It is not the distance covered but the need to move and explore that is needed. We do not have to go for miles, let us look in our backyards and see how we can help the young people find themselves, and this is where success will ultimately be found.

Please do appreciate the small example in real life I am tempted to share here. In my three decades of being a youth leader and volunteer I have had the opportunity to accompany young people on adventurous journeys all over the world. We use to start our planning months in advance, the physical conditions, the benchmarks and stamina levels made us run for weeks and months to be able to  qualify for the school summer camp. The days and nights spent in making our lists of food, first aid, equipment, and items of personal use were real challenges and then came the medical tests too. As I look around and try to track many of the students and those who were part of this real world learning, am happy to see that most of them have indeed achieved great heights and are doing very well in their lives. When we meet they simply say that for them the opportunity to go beyond the walls of the school were indeed what  made them self sufficient and confident and helped them find themselves. 

Life is an opportunity and must be lived to the fullest, get up, get out and get going on the journey of exploration and adventure!

Photos: Courtesy Neha Parmar Photography
The author of the article Sandeep Dutt is the Chairman of The Fabindia Schools and takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on for comments if any. 

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