Project:

Orient Global Education Fund

From November 2007 to November 2010
Project Leader(s): James Tooley and Sugata Mitra
Staff: Ravi Bisht, Suneeta Kulkarni
Contact: Sugata Mitra
Sponsors: Orient Global Foundation

1. The original experiments (1999-2005) had showed that groups of children can learn to use a playground computer connected to the Internet on their own – irrespective of who or where they are. The fact that children in remote areas, who do not understand English and have little schooling can learn to do this was considered a discovery of sorts. The results were published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology in 2005 in a paper that was later awarded as the “best open access paper of 2005”.
2. It was later noticed that the children who use these computers seem to be scoring higher in English and mathematics. It was also established that they could pass a government examination in computer science on their own. The results were published.
3. In an experiment conducted in 2006, we observed that the quality of education in remote areas decreases with remoteness. Remoteness, in this context, can be geographical or also social, economic, religious etc. as in ghettos or slums in cities.
4. We remark that there will always be areas in the world where, due to whatever reason, good schools and good teachers will not exist. Hence, in such areas, alternative forms of education will be needed. No such alternative exists for primary education today. The hole in the wall could be a possible indicator of such an alternative.
5. In a recent experiment conducted in village Kalikuppam in Southern India, we were able to show that Tamil speaking children could learn the basics on biotechnology, in English, on their own.
6. We notice that new educational technology is always piloted in the affluent
schools of cities where good students and good teachers are present. As a result the educational gains from such technology are marginal and educational technology is considered over-hyped and under-performing. We propose that the highest technology should be developed for and piloted in the remotest areas first.
7. We also notice that educational technology is seldom developed for that purpose. It is usually technology developed for industry or defence and borrowed by educators. For example, PowerPoint and LCD projectors were developed for corporate boardrooms and not for teachers.
8. We propose to create a lab that will create and test educational technology for use in remote areas.
9. We propose to create educational facilities in remote areas of India where groups of children can self organise their learning to pass the government high school examinations (eg GCSE) on their own.
10. The results of these experiments are likely to be important for all countries, since a shortage of and lack of quality in primary education is a worldwide phenomenon.
11. In the UK, in addition to the usual problem of quality education in remote areas, there is also a problem of aspiration – children are reluctant to study science, engineering, mathematics etc. for two reasons. One, that subjects such as banking can make them rich more easily. Two, that they can get a good standard of living anyway, even without any skills.
12. These aspirational problems need to be addressed immediately and technology can be a powerful way to do so.

Staff

Dr Pauline Dixon
Reader in Education & International Dev

Professor Sugata Mitra
Prof of Educational Technology

Dr James Stanfield
Lecturer

Professor James Tooley
Professor of Education Policy