We live in an age where memorisation is no longer a priority in learning.
Our reliance on technology, including computers and robots, has drastically reduced our need to memorise information.
This is apparent in schools where activities such as poetry recitals and multiplication tables are left in the classrooms of yesteryear.
Instead, today’s students turn to Google for information, even at a young age.
Despite the democratisation of information, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss rote learning as an archaic learning method or risk limiting the long-proven benefits of memorisation.
Here’s why memorisation still plays an essential role in education:
Memorisation is the bedrock of critical thinking
Critical thinking is a prized skill in today’s job market.
But to think critically, we must draw from what we know – and what we know lies in memory.
Consider linguistics, where our earliest learning occurs through nursery rhymes. Though young children cannot yet grasp structure or meaning, they delight in the rhythm and rhyme scheme of harmonic relations.
With repetition, they begin to learn the sounds and lines to come, showing that memorisation lays the foundation for early cognitive development.
Memorisation trains the brain to be quick, agile and focused
Like our muscles, the brain requires exercise. Memorising through repetition and recollection is not only a mental work-out, but it also trains the mind to focus on tasks that seem dreary or unpleasant.
Through this practise, we learn to tackle ‘boring’ tasks quickly and effectively, priming the brain for the development of higher-order thinking skills.
It increases our capacity for new knowledge
Having basic knowledge committed to memory “frees” up space for students to learn new materials and channel more effort towards building their creative and analytical thinking skills.
This is because memorised information is stored in our long-term memory, which leaves more “space” for us to fully absorb new information in our working memory.
It improves the brains’ neuroplasticity
When we memorise information, we repeatedly activate a group of neurons (nerve cells), strengthening the pathways connecting them.
These connections become stronger or weaker, depending on how often the neurons are fired up.
Rote learning encourages the brain’s ability to change and adapt, otherwise known as neural plasticity.
With improved plasticity, we are more likely to maintain a healthy, high-functioning brain well into old age. According to MedicineNet, neuroplasticity allows neurons to respond to changes in the environment by adjusting their activity.
Memorisation promotes lifelong cognitive performance
Cognitive health is the ability to think, learn, and remember clearly, but many factors can contribute to its decline as we age. However, memory exercises can improve our cognitive health.
For instance, research from the US National Institute on Aging proved that memory training, along with other brain exercises, improved the mental skills of adults over the age of 65. In fact, the benefits accrued throughout 10 sessions bore fruit throughout the next 10 years of their life.