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Udenadslære-rote-learning

Rote learning [da.: udenadslære] is often contrasted to something called "meaningful learning." Rote learning is thought to provide bare facts, while meaningful learning is thought to provide concepts.

The trend in Western education over perhaps the latter half of the 20th century is for students to spend time learning concepts at the expense of time spent memorizing. It's thought that this increase students' creativity.

Education has reacted against memorization. It's common to find opinion pieces printed in magazines like Macleans and The Guardian that say that memorization is next to useless.

While rote learning is being devalued in much of the West, it remains an important technique in countries where students are expected to receive a religious education or are expected to memorize kanji.

My opinion is that memorization and concept learning are complementary. Memorization is more or less necessary for some types of foundational knowledge, like world capitals or the periodic table, while being able to think conceptually may be necessary for high-difficulty tasks such as problem-solving.

I believe that memorizing also increases one's passion for learning. Anecdotally, I've become far more interested in politics and geography now that I've memorized the world's capitals.

Creativity is a very valuable skill. Yet my hunch is that it's very difficult to increase one's creativity, whereas memorization is within reach of everyone. As such, an educational plan that's designed for all shouldn't neglect memorization.

I never understood the aversion to memorisation. Like okay yeah, understanding and problem-solving are very important but they're not going to help me remember the smaller bits of a concept (like the names of certain enzymes).

The aversion is from the other extremes where students know tons of facts but have low social skills and creativity etc. I live in China and although they are definitely better at math, they are not as creative and have less personal interests because their rote learning load is so high. Not racist, just true. HK and Taiwanese are generally more creative. If anything it's a class issue, generally lower income countries care more about rote learning because it's more quantifiable and feels more concrete and useful. But the west has often taken it too far. You definitely need a mix of both. Project based learning plus some moderate memorization is the best for most subjects.

And memorisation is extremely useful. It's very very different to understand a math formula and to have it memorised, the first is of course fundamental but the second is super practical. Just do both!

I used to spend the first 15 minutes of every exam rederiving formulas just because I didn't have them memorised, if I had had them instantly available when required I would've definitely scored higher.

A quick write-up of Google results for "rote learning vs meaningful learning" from Anki

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