Experiential learning programmes showed up recently in the news! In a recent article from Channel News Asia, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore's Minister of Education, talked about the importance of bridging theory with practice in contemporary education. "...there [is] a need for applied learning at all levels of education. This will help students unlock the potential in their abilities and use them to solve real-life problems."
We think that's a very important distinction to make--when we put together our programmes, something that we find is always important to consider is whether the programmes allow our participants to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world challenges. For example, when we were going through the process of partnering with the Biosphere Foundation in Bali, this was a crucial balance to keep in mind. The overall goal was to teach students hands-on environmental stewardship. To do this, we had to make sure that there were credible ecologists and experts that could mentor our participants and provide that extra layer of practical knowledge--the sort of knowledge you can only get through doing it yourself--that would provide the sort of enriching, dynamic learning experience we wanted for our participants.
I believe I speak for many teachers when I say that while we feel heartened to see an 'A' on the Ecology test paper of a student, we feel even more proud when we witness that he/she is able to use his/her knowledge to, for example, help a community start a small organic farm going with the appropriate mix of nitrogen-fixing crops, or propose suitable solutions to waste management issues that actually get implemented. After all, aren't we all preparing students for a world beyond academics?