In the Google age, approach to education needs a rethink

In the Google age, approach to education needs a rethink

Would a person with good handwriting, spelling and grammar and instant recall of multiplication tables be considered a better candidate for a job than, say, one who knows how to configure a peer-to-peer network of devices, set up an organisation-wide Google calendar and find out where the most reliable sources of venture capital are, I wonder? The former set of skills is taught in schools, the latter is not.

BY SUGATA MITRA –

4 HOURS 32 MIN AGO

Would a person with good handwriting, spelling and grammar and instant recall of multiplication tables be considered a better candidate for a job than, say, one who knows how to configure a peer-to-peer network of devices, set up an organisation-wide Google calendar and find out where the most reliable sources of venture capital are, I wonder? The former set of skills is taught in schools, the latter is not.

In school examinations, learners must reproduce facts from memory, solve problems using their minds and paper alone. They must not talk to anyone or look at anyone else’s work. They must not use any educational resources, certainly not the Internet.When they complete their schooling and start a job, they are told to solve problems in groups, through meetings, using every resource they can think of. They are rewarded for solving problems this way — for not using the methods they were taught in school.

The curriculum lists things that children must learn. There is no list stating why these things are important. A child being taught the history of Vikings in England says to me: “We could have found out all that in five minutes if we ever needed to.”

One of the teachers who works with me said to her class of nine-year-olds: “There is something called electromagnetic radiation that we can’t see, can you figure out what it is?”

The children huddle around a few computers, talking, running around and looking for clues. In about 40 minutes, they figure out the basics of electromagnetism and start relating it to mobile signals.

One of them says: “Aren’t we going to do any work?”

“What do you think you were doing?” asks the teacher.

If examinations challenge learners to solve problems the way they are solved in real life today, the educational system will change forever. It is a small policy change that is required. Allow the use of the Internet and collaboration during an examination.

If we did that to exams, the curriculum would have to be different. We would not need to emphasise facts or figures or dates. The curriculum would have to become questions that have strange and interesting answers. “Where did language come from?”, “Why were the pyramids built?”, “Is life on Earth sustainable?”, “What is the purpose of theatre?”. Questions that engage learners in a world of unknowns. Questions that will occupy their minds through their waking hours and sometimes their dreams.

Teaching in an environment where the Internet and discussion are allowed in exams would be different. The ability to find things out quickly and accurately would become the predominant skill. The ability to discriminate between alternatives, then put facts together to solve problems would be critical. That is a skill that future employers would admire immensely.

In this kind of self-organised learning, we do not need the same teachers all the time. Any teacher can cause any kind of learning to emerge. A teacher does not need to be physically present, she could be a projected, life-sized image on the wall.

A Granny Cloud of such volunteer teachers have been operating out of the United Kingdom and a few other countries into schools in India and South America for more than five years.

We do not need to improve schools. We need to reinvent them for our times, our requirements and our future. We do not need efficient clerks to fuel an administrative machine that is no longer needed. Machines will do that for us.

We need people who can think divergently, across outdated disciplines, connecting ideas across the entire mass of humanity. We need people who can think like children. THE GUARDIAN

Dr Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at Newcastle University and the winner of the TED Prize this year. He devised the Hole in the Wall experiment, where a computer was embedded in a wall in a slum in New Delhi for children to use freely. He aimed to prove young people could be taught to use computers easily without formal training.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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