Memorization of information by frequent repetition, namely rote learning, plays a role in many education systems. To what extent do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
There are different methods of learning. Two such methods are ‘rote learning’ and ‘meaningful learning’. Both have their own pros and cons.
There are many advantages of rote learning. To begin with, it is very helpful where quick memorization is required, such as learning one line in a play or memorizing a telephone number. It is also needed where verbatim recall of definitions or numbers is required. We all know that we need to remember phone numbers, mathematical formulae and definitions as such. If we don’t cram them then we will not be able to reproduce them when needed and if any small part is changed then the whole thing goes wrong. Rote learning is the only way to learn certain things like irregular verbs and the vocabulary of a foreign language. There is no logic behind irregular verbs and so we need to memorize them by heart. Finally, rote learning is used by many students to pass exams.
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages of rote learning. Firstly, the knowledge acquired by rote is not retained for long. If a person does not repeat information learnt by rote for few days then the whole thing can be forgotten. Moreover, information learned by rote cannot be applied in a wide variety of new problems or concepts. For example, if we learn something by rote in math then we cannot apply it in other subjects like physics. In meaningful learning the transferability of knowledge is high. Finally, it can be very boring to learn everything by rote.
Definitely, rote learning should not be the only method of learning. Meaningful learning is a must if we want to progress in life and apply our skills in varied fields. However, rote learning has its own importance in some situations. So, the education systems should incorporate both rote and meaningful learning.
To put it in a nutshell, I pen down saying that, rather than viewing rote learning as something opposed to understanding, it can be viewed in a complementary role. As the left hand is to the right, so is memory to understanding and reason.