School/Education systems today do not prepare our children for a world where they have to learn, unlearn and relearn! In a fast changing world if our children just remain students and are not prepared to be learners, something for sure is missing.

Let us try to answer all these questions.

  • What went wrong?
  • Who is a student?
  • Who is a learner?
  • What is the basic difference between the two?
  • Should we aim to have students or to prepare learners?
  • What can we do to carve learners out of students?

The modern education system does not arouse curiosity rather it promotes rote learning. The children are provided the bookish knowledge which has little relevance in their day to day life. What they read from the books and write in exams to pass a class usually is not applicable to solve their everyday challenges as to how to go well with people, how to accept different viewpoints or to check the authenticity of any issue.

As per Wikipedia, “A student is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery.”

As per Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, “A learner is a person who is finding out about a subject or how to do something.”

From The Glossary of Education Reform, when comparing learner and student, they point out that “While this preference may seem arbitrary on the surface, it does appear to serve a semantic purpose: learning can occur in the absence of teaching, but teaching doesn’t occur without some form of learning taking place.”

A Student A Learner
·       Learns in a class room in a specific time ·       Learns anywhere, anytime
·       Is directed by teacher ·       Directs and supports their own learning
·       Works within a defined time ·       Works at their own pace
·       Is motivated by grades ·       Is motivated by learning
·       Follows goals that are set and monitored by teachers ·       Develops self learning goals and monitors self progress
·       Achieves goals set by teacher through listening and following instructions

(Passive learning)

·       Achieves goals by active collaboration and feed back with others

(Active learning)

·       Seeks knowledge, degree, qualification ·       Seeks success
·       Students are students only when they have teachers ·       Learners can learn without teachers


Going by the difference between a student and a learner, I believe, we as teachers and parents would love our children to be learners and not merely students as learners are set for success in the long run.

Regarding the important question, how can we carve learners out of students, we can promote following, starting from homes and classrooms ;

  • Let them ask questions.

Promote inquiry, feed curiosity. Early in the life when children are young and start learning in the form of formal students, any question they ask is valid. They must be allowed to ask without fear of being snubbed, or being told, “this happens this way only.’ Answer their ‘WHYs’. And most importantly if they themselves are not seeking ‘WHY’, it is teachers’ and parents’ role to ignite their minds to ask ‘WHYs’ and ‘HOWs’. Simply cramming all the information available out does not let them grow in to learners.

Help Them Set a Goal 

As they grow, the teachers and parents must guide and support children to set goals for their own learning. Let them decide how much of what will they cover by what time and how. For bigger life, it is finding the purpose for which children have to direct acquiring knowledge and studies.

  • Let Them Collaborate

In class room scenario, we must develop the culture of interaction through ABL(Activity Based Learning). It must not be the teacher alone who does all the speaking or talking. The students must be allowed and promoted to ask questions. Asking questions leads to active participation. With teacher only speaking, it is passive learning. Promote small groups learning where in few students are together working to seek answers to some questions. This also helps them learn the team skill and to accept various viewpoints.

These simple changes made in our pedagogy nurture young minds and nourish them through support to seek their own answers. Seeking one’s own answer is the beginning of carving a learner out of a student.

It is our duty as educators to ignite that spark, which makes a student curious beyond class rooms. A learner is set on the journey of life with a mind set to contribute to the bigger whole and to be successful.

Let us all remember, a learner is essentially a student but all students are not learners.  Research has evidence that in the big scheme of life, learners are happy and successful because they keep learning for the BIG PURPOSE of life.

Over to teachers and parents to play their part well to carve learners out of students!

P.S. The next blog in the series explores whether we parents and teachers have the mindset to be learners. We can help our children be learners only if we are learners first.