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Writing in The Observer, Professor Mitra says that the set of skills children are taught in school are out of date, but we have a ‘romantic attachment’ to them.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Do you agree with professor Mitra that the skills pupils are taught are ‘out of date’?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