If we warn a child no to touch fire, he may not listen to the warning and may be curious to know what actually happens if he touches fire. But as soon as he touches the fire and gets burnt, he learns a valuable practical lesson, which he will get burnt if he touches a fire, and will, in the future, avoid touching fire. Experience taught him what mere advice or warning failed to do.

We can thus see that experience is the best teacher. In life we learn so many things through so many sources. We learn from books, from books, from teachers, from wise men, from saints, from the examples of others and from nature. But most of the knowledge we get from these sources is indirect. For direct knowledge we need to have personal experience. For example, we cannot know what a chilli tastes like, how ice feels, what the sunset looks like, what a rose smells like, or what we feel when we fall down into a pit except through experience. Experience gives us direct, first hand knowledge about these feelings of the senses.

There are certain skills which we cannot acquire without doing or practicing. That is, without direct experience. For example, we cannot learn riding, swimming, driving or even elementary skills like speaking or walking just by reading books on these subjects, or by listening to a lecture on how to acquire the particular skill.

Even in the case of subjects which we learn through books and from teachers, our knowledge remains incomplete, partial, theoretical and abstract unless it is supplemented by practical knowledge or visualize completely what we have directly learnt from our theoretical experiences. Hence, learning by experience is the best way of learning, and experience is the best teacher.

But knowledge in the modern world is very vast, and the time and other resources at our disposal are limited, so it is not always possible for us to have the direct experience of everything we want to learn. Again, direct experience is sometimes not desirable or advisable. For example, one cannot try to learn by direct experience that death is caused by consuming poison or that limbs are broken by falling from a great height. In such cases we learn from the experience of others which may be presented to us through books or through personal communication.

In any case experience is the best teacher and no lesson that we learn from other sources of all thorough, perfect and permanent as the one we receive from our direct personal experience. Educationists therefore know that learning by doing is the best way of learning and therefore they say: “Let the child learn by doing.”

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