From Dehli, India, Dr. Sugata Mitra has been studying the concepts of minimally-invasive education for over 10 years. In 1999, Dr. Mitra formed the “Hole-in-the-Wall” experiment. Afterward, he began designing Self-Organized Learning Environments, which are currently used in a pilot study program through Newcastle University where he has recently taken on the role of Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education in the Communication and Language Sciences department. So what could the results of this study determine? What could the results mean for the U.S. economy?
In 1999, Dr. Mitra began the Hole-in-the-Wall experiment in Delhi (for details, see the Hole-in-the-Wall project on YouTube.com). After several experiments, Dr. Mitra began to form multiple hypotheses based upon the data he learned. The most interesting to him was about how children have a natural interest in learning. After further studies, Dr. Mitra came to the realization that there is relatively little restriction on the capacity for a child to learn without adult direction. Today, Dr. Mitra is operating under a grant from Newcastle University in London, UK to further study this concept using Self-Organized Learning Environments.
Within these S.O.L.E. clusters are 3 computers arranged in a 3-point center of a circle. Enclosing this circle are three glass walls, forming 3 learning chambers, each separated from the other two by a glass wall. These environments are currently in use to support over 300,000 students in poor areas throughout India and South Africa. This study has shown an equal, if not higher, capacity for the children to learn without direct supervision by a teacher.
This is all wonderful for the education of children. The idea is most likely a nightmare for those in the education careers. The truth is that if this type of system were implemented successfully, the quality of teachers stands to increase since only the best teachers should be employed. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s focus on the only truth in this story: This is still just a study. The efficiency of this type of education has already been proven. In order to take advantage of this system and ensure our participation in the future as a leading country, the US will need to create a similar structure in the near future.
The education rate for high school graduates in India is currently around 50%. India accounts for roughly 16% of the world’s population. The rate of 4-year college graduates from India currently rests around 20% of high school graduates, or only 10% of their population. Many of these people are in competition with the US for jobs. If these self-organized systems were distributed more broadly, India’s high school education rate would stand to increase as high as 80-90%. This would be enough to start significant economic growth, allowing for the rate of college graduates to rise to around 25-35%. This is 25-35% of all high school graduates, which means around 30% of the population of India would have a degree equal to or above a Bachelor’s degree. The economy would continue to increase, allowing the secondary and post-secondary education rates to rise. The result could potentially mean that as many as 25-30% of the entire Indian population could be in competition with the US for jobs. When a country’s economy is this high, many jobs that do not require a presence within a particular ecological environment are moved into that country. This could mean that a considerable portion of US jobs could be moved to India without the need for work visas.
If the US expects to be able to maintain a strong presence as a major player in the future world, we must make equal efforts to improve the quality of our education quickly.
- TEDTalks: Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education (huffingtonpost.com)
- sugata mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching (toomanytribbles.blogspot.com)
- TED Global 2010: Sugata Mitra, Beyond Hole in the Wall (worldchanging.com)
- TEDGlobal: Sugata Mitra, beyond Hole in the Wall (ethanzuckerman.com)