Friday, April 01, 2011

Lifelong Learning

My college graduation requirement was 195 credits - with 1 hour of lecture counting as 1 credit, and 2 hours of lab counting as 1 credit. My husband is on a similar system, except that he needs only 120 credits to graduate. I was doing ~50 credits every year; but my husband only needs to do about 30. This means that I had to cram in order to pass my courses and get a good GPA (a prerequisite both for job applications & grad school).

The differences in educational methods are telling. My husband was able to explain economics concepts to me almost a year after he first learned them. I don't think I remembered much of any course after I took the final exam. Even though I am grateful for my Indian education, and the excellent job opportunities it has opened up for me, I don't think I will take the same approach for lifelong learning.

I learned SAS by reading on the internet, trying it out with my data, failing miserably, and then trying to determine what I did wrong. Rinse, repeat. But I can guarantee that some concepts have stuck. The consequences of not remembering something vital can mean crashing the whole server because your code consumed all the resources available. This will not win you any friends among other server users or the sysadmin.

Earlier this month,I spent a few days studying about Internal Rate of Return on the internet (and credit goes to an excellent tutorial I found by Prof. Baker at University of South Carolina). I spent two more days working out how to apply this to our marketing campaigns. But I don't think I will forget this concept easily, because of the time and effort I invested in doing the calculations accurately.

With modern medicine, plumbing and sanitation, most of us can expect long lifetimes. Why does my culture place so much emphasis on cramming to pass competitive exams at such a young way? This is a rhetorical question; testing is the most objective & efficient method of screening candidates when there are so many competitors for each spot.

However, the internet has revolutionized access to information. To everyone who hates tests & exams (myself included), I ask you to try this alternate method of education. It has changed my life.


Vijaya Gopal said...

Well said and thoughtfully written! What sticks well is what you teach yourself...

Ritu Gopal said...

Preeti- I think every Indian student and parent should read this post :)