All our lives we have been taught - the Indian education system has always prioritized classroom and supervised learning over guided self-study.
From our first word to the way we think to the way we are educated, the taught method has been an integral part of our collective Indian education. That said, it is integral we acknowledge that education and learning is a field that is compelled to change with the advancement of time and consequently technology and that how we learn shapes a large part of who we are. Whilst we are well aware of the teaching methodology, there exists a discernible lack of knowledge on the merits of the mentorship model of learning. Mentoring and teaching, two such vastly varying concepts, beg a detailed differentiation so that learners may be equipped to decide what is ideal to their own learning objectives. It should be noted that mentorship is not a new model of knowledge sharing, it has always been around in the form of personal coaches, be it in India or the western world.
The concept of teaching pivots around a fulcrum - the teacher. Teaching does not allow the learner the opportunity to pursue the knowledge he seeks, and what he learns is pre-determined by an external source. This method is most effective when the learner is not in possession of any rudimentary knowledge of what he is learning, as is the case when we are in school. Therefore, it is imperative for a teacher to act as a curriculum guide - one that has greater knowledge than the student.
When speaking about mentorship, however, the roles are different; a mentor is one with greater perspective. The learner actively seeks from his mentor the knowledge he desires, while not being forced to conform to their perspective. In my readings, I came across a sentence that best defined a mentor - a mentor is more like an editor or better yet, the best kind of editor. Mentors don’t fuel or force information but gives one enough to make a choice. They simply help clear the clutter and guide the learner to grow their knowledge on subjects that they are passionate about, by sharing knowledge based on their own lived experiences. Unlike a teacher, a mentor strives to help their mentees grow into peers. Even Plato found a mentor in Socrates and Aristotle found a mentor in Plato.
The teaching methodology finds its roots in the concept of giving, whereas the mentorship model finds its footing in the concept of seeking and developing. The differentiator between these models really boils down to control and where it rests, with the one who is seeking knowledge or the one who is in possession of it. Mentorship favours the more seasoned learner, one who is aware of what he seeks from his learning experience. This differentiation is integral, particularly in the context of the growing popularity of online learning, wherein learners are usually seasoned professionals looking to upskill themselves. This is especially true in the current scenario where the technology landscape is changing at a fervent pace. To ensure that learners on these platforms are enabled to fully absorb all they can from these courses we must acknowledge that the teaching methodology alone does not equip them to become industry relevant. Mentoring assumes that each individual has a unique need and should be mentored 1:1 so it is most effective in areas that involve problem solving such as applying technology to build something and cross functional use of knowledge and skills. This is most useful when attempting to learn a new skill, for instance, an emerging technology such as Data, Analytics, AI, ML, Design, or FUll Stack web development, which allows the mentee to proactively seek out all that they desire along with industry insights from the mentor.
These alternate methods of learning demand that online education platforms are able to understand their demographics and consequently provide their learners with the appropriate tools. There is no universal guide that can determine what method each learner must adopt to ensure his endeavour is successful, however it is the prerogative of learning platforms to equip their learners with the tools best suited to their needs.
The benefits of strong and effective mentorship are reflected in my own career; post ten years in the FMCG industry I was looking to shift sands and transition to the education sector. It is only with the help of my mentor that I was able leverage ten years of experience in a seemingly opposing field successfully and consequently was much better set up for success than I would have been without their guidance. A mentor is very much like a coach that you form a long-term personal relationship with over the course of one’s entire career. Each one of us has our own unique needs and aspirations; as we move along the trajectory of our career these aspirations become more particular, in such a sense it is almost essential to have a mentor that can decisively guide one towards their goals. Even Mark Zuckerberg, credits part of his success to his mentor, inventor, businessman and entrepreneur, Steve Jobs.
There is no dearth of discourse on the rapid development of technology such as AI, ML and automation, and the imminent threat of irrelevance it poses to the entire workforce. In such a context, a strong mentor helps one not only be more prepared for what the future will demand but also build a network that can help one connect with those who can keep them relevant.