A case for peer group based self-learning – Part 1

| Published on May 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm

A The Philosophical Background

1. Thinking Process

Philosophical and scientific thinking originated in the world because man first learnt to think on his own, self learning, and then impart this knowledge to others later, group learning. Education deals with the thinking

Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

process which is needed to find solutions to the problems man faces in the socio cultural, socio economic and natural environment. It also involves neurologically controlled mental processes of perception, comprehension, storage and recall.

Exploration of reality

The thinking process is needed essentially to explore the internal and external realities of the universe, human mind, society, knowledge and social ethics. Hence the primary goal of education is to enhance the thinking process of individuals in a creative, original, innovative and analytical manner.

Do your own thinking

To be able to think for oneself , free thinking, is an essential part of individual freedom and is one way by which creative thinking can be enhanced. An individual possesses limitless mental energies which are difficult to explore only in terms of science, psychology, philosophy or religion. This mental energy was the mystery behind scientific inventions and discoveries together with its technological advancement and great works of art. music and literature.

We can help people to realize this infinite potential by adopting a philosophical approach to self learning. Although the human mind has immense potential to develop mentally and spiritually, unfortunately, very rarely, is this potential realized and subsequently utilized for the public benefit. Most of the time it remains dormant due to lack of self learning and self knowledge. Hence a new philosophy of education is needed to be developed to tap the mental energies of capable thinkers and use it for public benefit by educating the less able through them. Hence “Peer learning “should be made compulsory in the same manner as “self learning”


The next most important aspect of education is knowledge. Knowledge is an embodiment of thinking. The problems involved in the domain of knowledge are both extrinsic and intrinsic concerning its seekers. The extrinsic factors such as vastness of its expanse and its changing nature are completely beyond the control of its seekers. The intrinsic factors such as the need, choice, opportunities and the time required are controlled by the seekers and their environment.

Memory and stress

There have been vast strides in the expansion of knowledge with the advancement of civilization. A vast amount of knowledge has accrued over the passing years. Acquisition of knowledge has become stressful as the wide expanse of knowledge necessitates a greater effort in the memorization of more and more facts with gradually increasing complexity. The need to retain in memory loads and loads of facts has put a lot of stress on the learners’ minds. However the acquisition of knowledge is not based on real mental and intellectual development but mere mechanical memorization of facts.

Collective effort

No individual can ever gather the entire content of human knowledge during his life span. Even a certain quantity of knowledge is difficult to gather all on his own. A collective effort is required to gather even a modicum of this knowledge. Peer groups can gather more knowledge at a faster rate than individuals by exploring together their natural, social cultural and economic environment. Hence, peer group studies must be made a vital part of education.

Learning by rote

Mere memorization of facts has contributed towards making the actual pursuit of real knowledge applicable to real conditions an illusion. A large number of such youthful learners enter the labor market as incompetent and unproductive workers due to this hopeless system of education. The need for a new method of education arises where self learning opportunities must be provided to enhance individual ability to form deeper insights regarding what they learn and to ease the burden of accumulating vast amounts of factual knowledge by sharing it with peer groups. Hence the principle of “collective education” and “sharing of knowledge” must be made compulsory.


A new philosophy of education is needed for the modern world because of the fast changing nature of modern knowledge with its wide expanse and the emergence of new patterns of thinking. On line learning and E learning have revolutionized the field of education . Self learning and peer learning can train the learners to access this computer based learning in a more effective manner since now the total dependence on the teachers can be reduced by encouraging the learners to access these methods.

Upgrades needed

Knowledge has to be constantly upgraded and updated since it is changing at a more rapid pace compared to the past. We can see that a new social order is in its place. There have been vast strides in the socio cultural, socio political and socio economic fields and due to these changes man needs new concepts to deal with the new world order and changes in human relationships. Thus it can be logically concluded that a modern theory of education is needed and self learning and peer learning should be an essential part of it.

Choice important

Intrinsic factors such as need, choice, opportunity and time required contribute towards problems in the acquisition of knowledge. A teacher may try to teach science to a learner who is musically gifted or is inclined to study musicology and has no real interest in science.

Parental pressure

Although, the learner is good at science the lack of need on the part of the learner will not finally make him either a clever scientist or a talented musician. He is taught what he does not like and sees no need to learn it . Even in the field of craft practice learners behave like machines because they are never given the opportunity to seek for knowledge of machinery involved as they want their trainers to decide for them what they should do. Sometimes they are engaged in certain crafts and trades in which they do not have a real interest and thus see no need to learn them. They are engaged in these trades because their parents request them to select them as their future vocation. These learners may also end up either as poor craftsmen or technicians.

Choices and pitfalls

The choice can also restrict a learner’s capacity to acquire knowledge. A learner with a high mental or intellectual potential may become an eminent lawyer if he pursues the study of law or an eminent physician if he pursues the study of medicine. Anyway his success either as a lawyer or as a physician depends on the environmental stimulation and feedback he receives in such fields and on his soft skills and employability skills appropriate for his profession. It all rests on the probability factor. Sometimes , he may end up as a poor lawyer and abandon his career whereas if he had studied medicine he would have ended up as a successful physician. Although he has acquired the special knowledge required in the respective fields he has made a wrong choice regarding his career path.


Opportunity is also a decisive factor in the acquisition of knowledge. Sometimes a learner may want to become an engineer but does not get the opportunity to study engineering because he is forced by his parents, care givers or concerned parties to take up some other profession such as medicine and to make it his career which can make him a flop in that field or he may not have the facilities to study engineering due to its non availability in his school.

No control

No learner has autonomy to decide what he should be taught, what kind of subjects, what part of the subject matter or how, when, and where he should be taught this content. They are all decided by factors beyond his control such as what is available in his immediate environment or somewhere else that is reachable to him. Most of the time the learners are in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong trainers who use wrong tactics to tackle them. As a result they have little opportunity to gather knowledge which can answer their needs and often they end up frustrated in their search for meaningful knowledge.

Time and knowledge

Time frame is another critical factor. Every individual has the brain potential to learn anything to different levels but this is influenced by factors such as time available. No individual can devote his entire life time to study a subject and pass it. No society will permit him to do so. Due to the time constraint his ability to learn anything is limited even if he has the wish to continue. Sometime his performance at the same subject can vary with the passage of time. A student who passes Mathematics very well at O.L. examination may find it difficult at the A.L. examination though he had reached an adequate level to follow the same subject later.

Common interest

Thus we can see that there can be no real definition on the concept of knowledge as there is no general agreement on what is to be taught, to whom it should be taught, by whom, when, how or, why it should be taught There is only a vague idea. There is a grave crisis in the decision making process concerning the choice of knowledge. Hence self learning should be based on individual needs and capabilities so that they would become productive personnel in their chosen fields and by forming such groups with similar interests or capabilities there will be more productivity in education as the better ones will foster the knowledge of the weaker ones as they all have the common interest.

Priyadharshani Keerthisinghe, M.A.

Addl. Director

College of Technology- Galle

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A case for peer group based self-learning – Part 1

A The Philosophical Background 1. Thinking Process Philosophical and scientific thinking originated in the world because man first learnt to think on his own, self learning, and ...