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Practical Learning and Social Development: Exploring the Linkages




Practical learning is a pedagogical approach that is deemed indispensable in modern education systems, where the emphasis is placed on equipping students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies required to navigate an ever-changing and increasingly complex world. By virtue of its experiential nature, practical learning offers students an opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world contexts, thereby bolstering academic outcomes. Nonetheless, the advantages of practical learning stretch beyond education and encompass social development, a critical aspect of an individual's personal and professional growth.


The linkage between practical learning and social development is multifaceted and complex, offering a plethora of ways in which practical learning can promote social skills and competencies. By exposing individuals to diverse social contexts, practical learning encourages them to engage in social interactions with people from different backgrounds, promoting cultural awareness and sensitivity. The esteemed American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey captured the essence of this phenomenon when he remarked, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."


Furthermore, practical learning fosters cooperation and collaboration, two social competencies that are vital for success in the modern world. Through practical learning, individuals recognize the significance of collective effort and interdependence towards shared goals and objectives. As the renowned Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire eloquently stated, "Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other."


Moreover, practical learning stimulates emotional intelligence development, a critical social competency that involves recognizing, understanding, and regulating one's emotions and those of others. Practical learning provides individuals with a platform to manage their emotions effectively, develop empathy and compassion, and build resilience in the face of adversity. The iconic American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou emphasised the importance of emotional intelligence when she remarked, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."


In addition, practical learning inculcates a sense of social responsibility and civic engagement, promoting a deeper understanding of one's role in society and the importance of contributing to society's betterment. Through community-based projects, individuals become more aware of social issues and inequalities, thus becoming better equipped to tackle them. John Dewey recognized the transformative power of social responsibility and civic engagement when he stated that "Democracy must be reborn in every generation, and education is its midwife."


Practical learning is a potent means of fostering social development, allowing individuals to acquire and refine critical social competencies that are indispensable to success in life. Through practical learning, individuals learn to communicate effectively, collaborate with others, develop emotional intelligence, and cultivate a sense of social responsibility. It is, therefore, imperative that individuals prioritise practical learning opportunities to supplement formal education and enhance social development. Benjamin Franklin, an eminent American statesman, and author, aptly summed up practical learning's importance when he stated, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

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