Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Anne ritchie

This is an often used saying, in which the oldest English use of this proverb was in a British novel published in 1885. This proverb sheds light on the notion that it is wise in the long run to teach someone how to do something, rather than to do that something for them. It is a plea towards teaching for independence as well as self-sufficiency.

Yet, I would take this aphorism a bit further. If we teach a man how to fish, we essentially teach him a skill. What if – we could teach a man how to learn how to fish by himself – independent of a teacher? Certainly this is more difficult, yet this lofty goal should be the end goal of education.

It is not necessarily what we learn which is most important, but how we learn. Throughout primary school and secondary school, what we learnt was spoon fed to us – whether we liked it or not. In this environment, we were conditioned to receive information rather than to search information ourselves. Yet as one moves towards tertiary education, it is is only then that independent learning becomes significant. In lieu of the raging effects of the COVID -19 Pandemic, the migration of education systems to online learning has emphasised the importance to learn independently – across the primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

Upon reflection, the skill of being able to learn independently is an extremely powerful one. Undoubtedly, nothing beats having a physical teacher. Teachers keep us accountable. Teachers provide real time expert feedback. If we learn things independently, it is more difficult to know if what we are doing is right or wrong. Through learning by ourselves, we will inevitably make more mistakes. If these mistakes are not fixed, they eventually become bad habits. Thus, learning independently is more strenuous as well inefficient. Yet to think for the long term with lifelong learning in mind, learning with a teacher isn’t sustainable unless one has a lot of cash to burn. It is expensive to have a teacher to observe us with a cost per hour.

The fisherman in the village would not have many resources in which to learn from, but the advent of the 21st century has made independent learning the easiest in all of history. We not only have access to the industrialised printing of books, but also the digital realm. In this information age, we are able to access a vast ocean of resources through the click of a mouse , or the tap of a screen. The better we become at fishing from the sea of books and the internet, the better these mediums substitute a living teacher. What is best about this teacher – is that it is available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Instead of teaching a man to fish, equip him with the resources to get better at fishing, and teach him how to use these resources. Give the man fishing books. Recommend him online courses, blogs, and YouTube channels on fishing. Give the man full responsibility of his learning, and let him fish for knowledge.

Thus, the Bryan Hung amendment to the adage is this:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man how to learn to fish without your assistance, and you feed him and his progeny for generations to come.

anne ritche (Bryan Hung Ammendment)