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Friendship is key to learning

13 Jul, 2018 News Center 1,240


An experimental research uncovers the fact that friendship can have a potential effect on one’s learning ability


It is believed that God created everyone equal, but learning can totally depend on an individual’s ability to learn. Such differences in cognitive skills have had education seem like a long course of development. While governments are making efforts towards universalizing the education to all people, yet such noble attempts are often belittled by pedagogy and learning difficulties.

However, education does not end there. Ways are being explored to make education an exciting journey altogether. As simple as learning in a group can significantly matter to change one’s learning ability. At least, this is what one research study has found.

Prof. Youjin Hahn (Yonsei University)

In an experiment conducted in Bangladesh in 2016, Professor Youjin Hahn and her colleagues found that children with low-learning ability can improve their capacity to learn if they are socially assigned to group learning. They were particularly interested in looking at how female children behaved in such experiments and found that socialization played a great role in improving female children’s ability to learn. In other words, they say that friendship can have a great impact on one’s learning ability.

There are theories which hypothesize that women tend to do well in a group work because they are aware of their individual performance against the group outcome. Such thinking is termed as Social Indispensability by the researchers. Psychologically, women are more sensitive about their performance towards collective outcome than their male counterparts, so they work harder. All such theories are dispelled by the study which genuinely found that it is the friendship that correlates with one’s performance.

Presenting the research to a seminar in KDI School on 6th July 2018, Professor Hahn reported that low-ability female students performed better when studying in groups than doing it alone. Moreover, these same female students performed well when they are placed in a group with their friends called “friendship group”. However, when these female students were placed in “random groups” their performance did not show much improvement.

But why does performance of low-ability female students improve in a group learning environment? The answer, researchers say, lies in the interaction of low-ability students with the higher-ability students within a group. It must be noted that groups for the experiment were formed with the mix of students with varying degree of abilities. So the kind of group one joins can potentially influence one’s learning ability as well as participation in the learning process altogether.

The main conclusion that researchers make is that small group learning can be effective than normal mass class learning. Small group makes it convenient and easy for low achievers to interact with high achievers and thereby improving their performance.

However, researchers are also wary about the negative impact of friendship on learning if such a friendship inhibits learning. They offer evidence which suggests that people work or perform better while working with able friends than not. The research, in other words, proves the adage that it is better to be alone than in bad company.

Professor Hahn said that the prevailing situation of gender parity in learning has prompted her and the team to take on the research. She said that there is need to look at improving educational outcomes like reducing the costs of going to school and expanding schooling options, providing information about school quality, improving parenting practices and the economic returns to schooling and also to provide well-designed incentives for teachers to boost their teaching effort.


Tshering CHOKI (2018 MDP, Bhutan)