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Nishantha Kamaladasa, CEO, Distance Learning Center

The traditional school provides enough material about “what to think” but not sufficient enough insights to “how to think”. With a fast changing world first become obsolete soon and without the latter, the educated people become sure misfits.
Let us look at other pitfalls associated with the first type of learning.

Vertical and Lateral Learning

First type of learning is considered vertical learning where a central authority decides what knowledge the students should have and deliver the same faithfully and verify the delivery by following up with strict standard testing. The second type of learning is considered lateral learning where student decides what to learn and the school provides the basics of how to do it, empowering him/her to learn by him/herself, with open assessments. Because of the fast changes taking place no authority can forecast what in stock for future. Sometimes the technology taught in schools will no longer be in use when the students pass out.

Creating Subject Specialists and Facilitate Generalists

The first type of learning focuses on detail, in-depth, subject knowledge and the second type of learning focuses more on broader knowledge, the generic knowledge; language, mathematics, computer literacy, exposure to worldwide web, thinking process, psychology and sociology . The first type produced specialists and the second kind more generalists, flexible enough to fit in to many vocations. The first type more mechanized and the second more humanized. The first type has the ability to work around material and machines and the second with humans and organic systems and evolving processes.

Confirming the Existing Routines and Challenging those and Innovating the New

The first type will learn the established routines in an industry while second will learn how to question the routines and how to look for new routines. The established routine will need change with the changes in technology and as such their value will be lost in no time. Instead the ability to create routines will make the students responsive to the changes in the technology and make him ready for new undertakings.

Training the Technician and Developing the Entrepreneur

The first type of learning will produce standard uniform technicians but would fail to produce entrepreneurs. Though entrepreneurs cannot be produced entrepreneurship in people could be facilitated by the lateral thinking and the second type of learning. Technicians are useful as long as the technology they have learned is in place. The day it is replaced their training would be of little use. On the other hand the entrepreneurship will create individuals who would be able to learn a new thing very fast and adaptable as their learning pattern is different.

Learning to do without mistakes and Learning through making mistakes

As discussed in the previous paragraph, first type of technical training gives the skill to make something without errors using one specified technology with one die hard routine while the second type of learning will allow people to learn on their own and especially through making mistakes. In the latter no attempt is made to eradicate mistakes especially in the initial learning period. Instead errors are allowed and different methods are encouraged over one single right method. In the first type of learning one should be able to execute the single right method to get the outcome and in the latter one should be able to generate all the possible alternatives to get the given outcome.

Difference in Expectations

The first type of learning will create the expectation of a right for employment in the student while the second type of learning will create generating a livelihood as his/her own responsibility. The former will want the government to provide a job if unemployed and the latter will think that he/she needs to seek different avenues in getting a livelihood if and when unemployed.

Learning Perspectives

The first type of learning will create an impression that once the learning is complete there is nothing more to learn and the certificate of completion will provide the ticket to the employment world. The second type of learning will emphasize the necessity of continuous learning even after obtaining employment and a livelihood.

Subject Discipline

The first type of learning will be based on a selected subject discipline while the second type of learning will have a wide variety of subjects. Those who follow more than one discipline therefore have the advantage of being wider and better represent the second type of learning.


The world increasingly requires and will reward the second type of learning and many first type of learners will experience somewhat alienated from the emerging world. However our schools and educational institutes continue to produce the first type of learners and this is the reason why many industrialists complain about the products of formal education. The more you learn using first type of learning more you become rigid and a misfit and as a result graduates tend to be worse off than AL qualified students in the job market.

If we are to face the emerging new world where fast pace of life would be the norm, you need to have the second type of learning. Earlier we make the change better would be for the country and its people.

(The author is a civil engineer and a MBA from PIM, who has authored eight management related books in Sinhala, “Learning about Learning” being one among them. He is also the author of the blog).

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