The Latent Need in Education – Community Learning

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” This quote is attributed to Ford Motor Company’s founder, Henry Ford. Well, he obviously did not make faster horses for people but ended up building millions of cars that made commuting faster and convenient. This has stayed as a classic description of latent needs for decades. What are latent needs? Latent needs are those requirements that consumers do not realise that they have.

In the business setup, we talk about three types of needs. First, expressed needs. These are what customers say they want when you interview them. For example, by asking the customers about the features they want in an espresso coffee machine, they will express needs, such as a speedy coffee-making process, a guarantee for after-sales service, an elegant design or affordable price and more options. Another kind of need is called “implicit needs”.These are what customers take for granted, what is so obvious to them that they do not even mention them. The third kind of needs are what we call latent needs. These are what customers cannot yet imagine and what will delight them the moment it is offered. This is a major source of innovation.

While travel, entertainment are some of the sectors utilising the benefits of latent needs, it’s time that education also looks at the consumer experience through those glasses. As our world continues to evolve and transition at a highly volatile rate, we need a system that does not focus on building careers. Rather we need a structure that works towards creating individuals who are prepared for life and exploring the self through community-driven activities.

The need of the community is to have a society that grows collectively, taking everyone together in the journey. Communities nourish holistic growth. The informed individual thus leads to nurturing the community. Why do we need community learning? How can we do it?

With the growing struggle for individual freedom and rights, the importance of the institution of the community is diminishing. At this time when the world is struggling for a stable society and peace of mind, the graphs show that the divorce rates are increasing, there are more single parents than ever, and old age homes are growing exponentially.

Living with a community and learning with them has dual benefits. One it nourishes the community with values of togetherness, collectivity and collaboration. We learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We bring together the best of others and communicate through emotions, belongingness and love. All these positive emotions develop a new person within us, recovering us from fatal diseases, nurturing us with unique skills and obviously a lifetime of memories. What we call a joint family has been experimenting with mixing children with the elderly in Gothenburg, Sweden. The results as expected have been fantastic in a six-week trial, reversing dementia in adults and developing social and emotional skills in children.

Second, it leads to a dynamic education – not restricted to a few sets of pages, defined curriculum or static syllabus. The community-driven education will be close to the world, changing with time and developing the course as the learner grows, not confined with the age of learning but open to all those who want to grow. These days when traditional families are separated by distance, time and lack of understanding between generations, the community-driven schools can create a congenial environment for the generations to grow. Traditionally, celebrating festivals have been such occasions in our culture. Everyone comes together from the local community, putting together various activities and learning from grandparents the significance of the festivals, while the younger generations teach the new ways of celebrating it. Such activities, engage the students nurturing in them volunteerism, respect for cultural heritage and appreciation for the natural environment.

The pandemic has depicted how interconnected and interdependent we are as a society. Education needs major reform. It has to move out of the cocoon of the rat race, marks, career and all that which confines the individual to corporeal growth. When education is seeing major changes with tech-based start-ups, we also need an overhaul in the way community learning can be integrated into it. For education to innovate to the next level, the community needs to participate.

Soumya Aggarwal is the CEO and Co-founder at IGenPlus. She is a graduate of Lady Shri Ram College for women and HEC Paris.

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