“There are places on Earth in every country, where for various reasons, good schools cannot be built and good teachers cannot or do not want to go…” Sugata Mitra
We all know that education and Gross Domestic Product are correlated. One of the most important factors in countries economic future is its education system. So how will developing countries entering the world economy as major players ride out the learning curve and offer better opportunities to their children?
For that matter,
how will developed countries whose educational infrastructure is crumbling in this age of austerity, maintain their levels of innovation and productivity in a way that won’t be destructive?
That is the grandiose question that Sugata Mitra set out to answer with his humble experiment in the slums of both India and Britain. The answers he’s found have been pretty amazing.
Sugata Mitra is a professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University in England.
His research has spanned several fields of study, but it’s his research with student-driven education that’s caught the attention of educators around the world.
His TED talk in July of 2010 entitled “The child-driven education,” recounted his educational experiments with children in several countries.
Inspired by the lack of good teachers and educational resources in poor hard-to-reach areas of the world, Mitra installed Self-Organizing Learning Environments (SOLE’s) in various areas including slums in New Delhi, India.
Mitra and his research partners tracked the progress of the children—what they learned, how much of the information they retained, and how they were able to teach it their peers—and found that the children were able to learn to use computers and access the Internet with no adult intervention, regardless of where they lived and their prior experience with technolog
Mitra’s research has revealed several lessons about the power of technology: in addition to the speed at which children can teach themselves and others, their ability to learn how to use computers is noteworthy. Mitra’s research suggests that technology can aid poor and remote communities by connecting them to the rest of the world, and perhaps later, by helping their young populations enter the world of higher education. The value of online education is demonstrated by Mitra’s research—and the potential for technology to reach even the most remote corners of the world can have a significant impact on young people and their communities.
But what could this mean for the future of India and other countries with large populations of children without access to quality education or technology? Could this use of technology in education guide students out of the slums and into the workforce? And, given the current state of the world’s economy and job market, how can self-driven education have a positive effect?
The rise of technology in education and in the workforce requires a shift in how—and what—students are taught in early education. And, as the Internet becomes more prevalent in more areas of the world, collaboration between educators and students will also increase; with location and socioeconomic status becoming less of a factor in access and quality of education, the potential for a more educated population will rise as well. The key will be making room for a new group of educated people in the world economy. Given the rising dependency on the Internet and other technology in the business sector, it’s possible that new occupations could be created in the world economy.
However, if the goal is a more educated and productive population, both the private and public sectors of every country have a responsibility to create opportunities for educated adults to contribute to the success of their economies. As it stands, the digital divide is still a critical issue in both developing and developed nations. Training students and other adults for the workforce of the future is counterproductive if there are few jobs available. The symbiotic relationship between the business sector and academia can only succeed if they both support each other—industry providing opportunities for education, and the educated population working to improve industry. Regardless of the location, Asia, Europe or the Americas, maintaining and improving a cycle of educated workers of all types must be a priority.
Professor Mitra’s work only concentrates on children, but Mitra has proven that early education is vital to the success of a population. As his work and the work of other educators bring opportunities to children all over the world, the business community will have to make room for the workers of the future in order to survive.