The Human Brain

The human brain

KC High is a learning institution, and children go to school to learn. Parents send their children to school hoping that their beloved little ones will become very smart. Every day, teachers try to impart knowledge, skills, and understanding to their students.

All of these activities involve the human brain. Yet most of us know very little about this 1.3 kilogram organ — the centre of our learning and the most complex machine in the universe. Neuroscientists know a lot about it, and they publish their findings in scientific journals, but this knowledge is rarely transmitted to the general public.

Most of us, including teachers, school leaders, and eager parents, know very little about the human brain.

Did you know that a typical human uses only 10% of his brain, except for geniuses like Albert Einstein, who used 14%? I hope you answered “NO!” because that claim is rubbish. Is it true that emotions impact every form of learning? It is.

New technologies (such as fMRI’s) are rapidly accelerating our understanding of how the brain


What about these statements — are they also true?

– There are different types of learners, such as visual learners, auditory learners, kinesthetic learners, etc.
– It is important to drink 4 – 6 glasses of water per day, to keep the brain hydrated and healthy
– Young learners benefit from playing with a toy that stimulates all the senses, such as a brain gym
– There are left-brained learners, who are more analytical and scientific, and right-brained learners, who are more creative and artistic
– Teachers have a greater effect on the academic achievement of children than parents

What do you think???

I hope you realize that the first 4 statements are nonsense – neuromyths. The last statement is true.

Yes, teachers are very, very important in helping children to learn and achieve academically.

It is important to deconstruct neuromyths because they actually do harm. For example, once labelled a “right-brainer”, a student might think that she is biologically determined to do poorly in mathematics. In fact, she should be told correctly that both sides of her brain are functioning and working well, and that with effort, good study habits, and the right emotions, she can improve remarkably in mathematics.

In the past few years, a group of scientists and educators organized by the OECD has published extensively on what we, as teachers, know conclusively. They have declared six broad principles that should inform all teaching:

1. All human brains are different
2. Different brains have different potentials, dependent on many factors
3. How we learn depends on our prior experiences
4. The brain is constantly changing
5. Neuroplasticity — the brain reorganizes itself constantly
6. Learning requires memory and attention

We are beginning to realize that emotions are hugely important in learning.

This brings me back to my original point: shouldn’t teachers know about the human brain?

Lesley Hart stated in 1983 that “teaching without an awareness of how the brain learns is like designing a glove with no sense of what a hand looks like.” 34 years later, not only are we still clinging to old neuromyths, and most of the science about learning has not yet arrived in classrooms.

Maybe it is time to start learning about the brain and designing a curriculum that fits.

Mick Purcell Head of School at KC High Chennai

Mick Purcell is the head of school at KC High, Chennai. He teaches mathematics, creative writing, elementary drama, disc sports, reputation management, and Rubik’s cube.

He has 3 beautiful children and a lovely wife, but he dreams about climbing mountains and getting away from it all. You can email him at

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