WHERE DID ROTE LEARNING GO?

12 Jun

Two one’s two, two two’s four, two three’s six….

 

Here it is. Do you remember having one of these?

Do you recall saying (or should I say singing/chanting) this after lunch while you were in primary school? It was the highlight of the day. During that time, our little exercise book had them laid out in detail at the back. Without fail, you could enter almost any school compound after the lunch break and there would be at least two classes reciting timetables…I seldom hear this anymore.

Do you recall reciting poetry? The teacher would write it on the board or on a chart and you would have to learn it by heart. One of my favourite was “The Revolt of Chief Tacky” by Alma Norman. There were slots allotted for reciting the poetry in class. At that time the teacher would tell you to say it with lots of facial expression. He/she would help you interpret it so you understand it so you could find the right expression. Thus, learning poetry was fun…I seldom hear this anymore.

I still remember my timetables; I still remember some of the poems learnt then…So I ask the question, is rote learning bad?  With reform in education, so-called experts ruled that using rote is not learning and students need to learn higher order thinking skills. I wholehearted agree that children must be made to develop higher order thinking skills early but I also contend that there are somethings that are best learnt through rote. Some persons may disagree with me but that is okay.  I was recently  doing some calculations with a student and when I asked her seven times seven (7×7), she paused and it took her a while to give me the answer. Out of curiosity, I started asking her some others in the same way they were asked of me in primary school and she was stunted. She did not know.

The fact is, despite higher order thinking being the best way to go, rote learning has a place and serves a valuable function in our education system. We should have found a balance between the two; instead, we threw out the baby with the bath water. We aim to improve numeracy but how will we do that when our students do not know timetables? How are we going to improve literacy when our students do not read and are not having fun learning poetry, prose and short stories?

There are some things that as educators we must revisit and implement; see their worth and determine where they best serve their purposes.

Did you recite timetable regularly and do you still remember them? Do you recall poems learnt in primary school? Is there anything you learnt through rote and you still remember it? Share your thoughts here.

 

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