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Experiential Learning Era in Indian Education

Experiential Learning Era in Indian Education
Image credit: Sesame Street | HBO
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"Learning is Experience, everything else is information", Einstein said and Indian Education is engulfing Einstein's words like never before. When my 12 year old niece wants to buy a "game" which has a DIY working model on photosynthesis, I know, experiential learning bug has bitten the Indian student too.

Though the concept might look absolutely new, but, in fact, it was embedded way back in the Indian education system. Gurukul is the quintessential experiential learning format - a learning initiated by an interaction between the learner and his environment. Back in the ages, Gurukul imparted key aspects of education to its students in the form of various activities undertaken in an open environment under the supervision of Guru.

Experiential learning in the digital world is a blended form of learning which essentially has rich content including field trips, DIY experiments, simple videos, robotics and much more.

Not a newbie to the world, experiential learning was witnessed right from the 1930s, and was popularised by education philosopher David A. Kolb, who, along with John Fry, developed the experiential learning theory, in 1984. Experiential learning requires a series of experiences in the real world setup. The experiences involved are not required to be equally educative with some being more engaging from cognitive, emotional, and physical standpoints.

Unlike Rote learning or curriculum learning, all this may happen in a wink, or over days, weeks or months, depending on the topic, and there may be a "wheels within wheels" process at the same time.

The CBSE Board has been making attempts to move away from the rote learning dependency and inculcating more application based learning. The introduction of OTBA, Open Text Book Assessment, in 2013 for Classes 9 and 11 and in 2014 for Class 10 and 12, has been welcomed with open hands. Further moves to introduce formulas on Board question papers, is a step further towards reliance on experiential learning.

IGCSE and IB programmes are known to be application-based and have a broader spectrum of subjects, involving experiential learning in the form of activity -based modules, book-less grasping session. This has resulted in more challenging environments and put the students’ knowledge to test, not their memory and speed.

The need for experiential learning is immense and is much required for the rote learning stricken Indian education system. While a student forgets close to 50 per cent of the information, in less than the first 40 minutes of the learning. A day later, the knowledge loss  goes down to 70 per cent.

Experiential Learning: A Brief

Experiential Learning is a way of educating based on experience. Skills, awareness, and understanding are acquired outside of the traditional classrooms. The activities may include internships, abroad lecture, excursion trips, field study, and service-learning job. There are numerous incidents when some renowned professors acknowledged the fact that learning based on experience is highly significant. Let’s take a few examples


“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”- Aristotle
Some of the benefits of Experiential learning are as follows:

1. Real World Adaptability

There is a general tendency among human beings to take an interest in learning the facts that exist in the real world. Experiential learning takes information and data from the real world and makes students aware by doing hands-on tasks.

As the students work with real life information, it becomes authentic for them. Additionally, each student’s learning and understanding will be guided by their exclusive past experiences, and thus, each student will approach to the task in their own unique ways, thus generating different results. Thus, the experience will be realer and will have long lasting impact.

2. Increased Motivation and commitment Levels

The students are provided an option of their choice of activity, thus increasing their engagement and commitment. On the other hand, as the applicant is directly involved in the problem-solving activity or event, the level of commitment is high.

3. Mistakes Become a Stepping Stone

Experiential learning is based on “trial by error”. As you undertake the tasks, you find some approach works well than others. This allows one to get rid of the methods that don’t work, but the act of trying something and then leaving it – normally considered as a “mistake”, actually becomes an essential part in the learning procedure.

4. Honing Leadership skills 

Most experiential learning activities are involved with students working in teams. These team projects, foster leadership and team building skills in the students.