We must rethink our approach to education because of Google

We have a romantic attachment to skills from the past, but many of them are obsolete and should be replaced, according a leading educationalist who’s just won a $1 million prize to spark global change.

Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at Newcastle University and has just been awarded the TED Prize 2013. Previously he devised the Hole in the Wall experiment, where a computer was embedded in a wall in a Delhi slum for children to use freely, and came up with the idea of The Granny Cloud.

Writing in The Observer, Professor Mitra says that the set of skills children are taught in school are out of date, but we have a ‘romantic attachment’ to them.

In school exams, pupils have to reproduce facts from memory, solve problems using their mind alone, and not talk to anyone, use resources or the internet – unlike when they start work: “They are told to solve problems in groups, through meetings, using every resource they can think of,” Professor Mitra wrote, “They are rewarded for solving problems in this way – for not using the methods they were taught in school.” He believes that if examinations challenge learners to solve problems the way they are solved in real life today, the educational system will change forever: “We would not need to emphasise facts or figures or dates. The curriculum would have to become questions that have strange and interesting answers…that engage learners in a world of unknowns.”

Professor Mitra wants more than mere school improvement: “We don’t need to improve schools. We need to reinvent them for our times, our requirements and our future.”

Do you agree with professor Mitra that the skills pupils are taught are ‘out of date’? And should they be able to use the internet and other resources during exams?

11 thoughts on “We must rethink our approach to education because of Google

  1. Finally a forward thinking idea for education. Perhaps Gove could employ this man as a new educational advisor. He seems to know what he’s talking about!

  2. Much as I agree that parts of our current curriculum are outdated this is not the solution. If we allow an entire generation to grow up relying on someone or something else to have the facts then what knowledge have we armed them with? Skills without knowledge are useless. How can a child evaluate the veracity of a source if they have no core knowledge themselves? In Mathematics we should be introducing modelling as was originally proposed when the National Curriculum was developed. This would bring in problem solving, but within a useful and comprehensive framework.

  3. I totally agree .. Primary schools promote group work and so do secondary schools in the uk but it is society’s lack of ambition in some communities that prevent young people from being able to learn in different ways. Education is about knowledge and understanding as we’ll as having skills. ICT is being sidelined in schools instead of being embraced .. Mobile phones are heavy restricted in some secondary schools in the uk and ICT and Computing exams are still paper based because schools don’t have the Equipment capacity to support online exams. Millions of pounds are being spent on new build schools in the UK with little concept of what’s happening in their local communities and work places . Education reform shod be looking forward not back to quill and memory.

  4. Yes, I completely agree with professor Mitra. It is actually happening in a different way. Students tend to cheat during exams using Internet through their phone. One example, was during a multiple choice question, I literally saw attempts to convey messages through the phone as it is so easy to do that. e.g. 10b is an easy msg to convey for an answer for number 10. And it is done by students who are not ‘intelligent’ in memorizing but are Internet/cell phone ‘genius’. As Internet is a tool, just like we use a pen or a pencil, why not use it for the progress of everyone and even during exams? In fact, as professor Mitra said, we should redesign our exams and our education system. We like it or not, the world is already a global village and the changes are happening fast! We should not cling to an old and obsolete system!

  5. I don’t think anybody is advocating going back to quills, nor individual slates for that matter. Of course progress and change should be embraced in order to broaden education but abandoning basic individual skills would be national suicide.

  6. Sounds interesting for upper level learners. Very promising. But how about those learning to read and write. Why must we consistently reinvent the learning process…which is only dumbing down young students. My god, what is wrong with them learning the basics! Give them a foundation to build on.

  7. My experience is that I mark ICT, paper based, exams online. The scripts are scanned and I mark them interactively online. I find this work more satisfying because it is interactive. In the first place, so that the papers can be moderated, and/also with tools on the screen instead of a pencil as I have used when marking paper based ICT exams. After reading the above about reinventing schools I can say that I find it strange that working as I do online marking the students do not have the same benefits when being tested, i.e. they are using pen and paper for an exam about using ICT.

  8. I absolutely agree. Co-operative learning is brilliant, children share ideas, solve problems together and talk to each other. It’s how we learn.

  9. Mary had a mobile phone,
    She texted it day and night,
    But when she came to take exams,
    She’d forgotten how to write.
    ……..written by a ten year old,
    it contains a message for us all.

  10. Some of the problems young people are experiencing are due to their addiction to gadgets and technology. The art of conversation is often lost, and the human brain is in danger of becoming more and more reliant on artificial memory and computer generated data.

    We have allowed the predictions explored in sci-fi movies to become a metaphore for the real dangers we face: alienation, introversion and dysfunctional mediated communication; where all this is leading us as a society of techno-addicts should be reflected on and evaluated more effectively

  11. I completely agree with my friend up the Mr.Suddul. He is a teacher who has caught many of my friends cheating on tests using their phones. However he did not just watch and not take any action. He has instead acted creatively as for one assessment he allowed us to use resources including cellular devices. Although some teachers may not approve of this but this is an excellent move to rebel against this corrupt and obsolete education flop system.

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