Prominent educationist Dr Sugata Mitra appealed to the education decision makers gathered at the ongoing fourth World Education Summit to allow the use of Internet during examinations. He also urged curriculum designers and teachers to embrace the Internet not just as a tool of learning, but to include it as a subject in the curriculum just as any other such as Physics, Chemistry, Math or English.
Asking for a reappraisal of the current system of teaching, Mitra, a professor at UK’s Newcastle University said, “The future of pedagogy has got to allow spontaneous order as a new method in children’s education in the presence of the Internet. Internet must permeate the education system.”
A fervent proponent of Self Organized Leaning Environment (SOLE) or what is also called School in the Clouds, Mitra believes the current system of education including the curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment are antiquated and need to be replaced with an environment that would allow the students to take control of their learning, with the teachers taking a backseat. He thinks kids can learn themselves. He however does not advocate doing away with teachers saying their presence is important in classrooms. He added that teachers could also be present remotely as is evidenced in his concept of Granny Clouds, who “don’t teach, but talk”, and encourage and admires rather than discipline and teach like traditional teachers.
As technology evolves rapidly, reading, writing and arithmetic become low in terms of priority, according to Mitra. “Comprehension, communications and computation are the new basics,” said the US$1 million TED Prize winner, which he won in 2013 for further research on non-formal, minimally invasive education. “It is irrelevant to provide direct factual information manually. [And] the role of memory in education does not need emphasis—devices are playing that role. Brain retains what it wants to retain.”
Known for his now well-known “Hole in the Wall Experiment” in poorer neighborhoods of India, which demonstrated that poor children who were never exposed to the Internet and did not have
English skills either were able to answer big questions working in groups, without a teacher around. The children were given a computer and asked questions. In a short time they were able to seamlessly use computers and the Internet and answer the questions posed to them. The experiment was later carried out by Mitra in the UK to raise engagement of students in classrooms. This was the experiment that set Mitra on the path to his research on education and made him realize that group seems to know more than the individual and self-learning is more robust when there is no competition.
On the future of curriculum, Mitra started by pointing out that the current ones are replete with obsolete material. He proposed that all irrelevant knowledge and skills be removed.
“The Internet must be a subject to be taught. Networks, Chaos Theory and Emergent Phenomena should also be taught,” he added.
On the future of assessment, Mitra favours open ended systems and said the Internet should be allowed for assessment. In other words, he firmly believes in automated and continuous evaluation of open ended questions. He added it is important for the students to deal with the questions, not the answers.
The World Government Summit has attracted more than 3,000 personalities from over 125 countries, and 125 speakers in over 70 sessions. The attendees include VIPs and senior experts from the public and private sectors globally, ministers, decision makers, CEOs, innovators, officials, experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and university students. A number of initiatives, reports and studies are set to be launched during the summit and throughout the year. The summit runs from February 8 – 10, 2016 at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.