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Sugata Mitra talk at festival of Ideas

Panaji: Much like calculators are being used to answer certain exams today, the internet too must be made use of. Teachers however are preparing students to live in the 1920s, said eminent educationist Sugata Mitra who was speaking at the 10th edition of DD Kosambi festival of ideas on Wednesday.He is well-known for his Hole-In-The-Wall experiment wherein a computer was embedded within a wall in a Delhi slum in 1999 and slum children were allowed to use it.Speaking on the subject, future of learning, Mitra cited the example of this eighteen year-old experiment which resulted in children forming a group, engaging in discussion and using the PC to discover the wonders of the internet in a self-taught manner. Hole-In-The-Wall gradually travelled through the country and even across the world.
“This experiment yielded in nine year-olds quoting from Harvard Business Review, children in Indian slums reciting the Gingerbread Man poem etc.” he said.Mitra condemned the system of examination as they cannot talk to their neighbours or use any assistive technology. He went on to display an image of an office in the 1920s, which had rows of clerks monitored by a supervisor and juxtaposed it to a picture of Indian students answering exams.”The clerks must never question an instruction and under no circumstances be creative. The world used to need people like that to run the nation at that time. But later, a system was built to make billions of these identical clerks: called school,” he said.
“Teachers follow the model of 1920s which is prone to memorization. But children have to grow up for this world which requires discussions, unsupervised groups and access to the internet,” He further added that learning becomes more efficient with the use of internet and groups. “If we use the internet 24×7, why should the examination be the only day in our life when you don’t use the internet? It’s like asking someone to tell the time without looking at their watch. Thus use the internet during the exams,”He also questioned the system of a degree. “I have a PhD in theoretical physics from 1979. I should be put through an exam every year to revitalize my degree otherwise it’s a meaningless paper. A degree must therefore be redefined and recharged every so often so that you can still call yourself somebody.” he said.Stressing on the need to redefine the subject areas he said that comprehension, communication and computing need to be key concepts that include reading, writing and arithmetic.”Schools should enable people to live happy, healthy and productive lives. We need a curriculum of questions, not facts; a pedagogy that encourages collaboration and use of the internet; and an assessment that looks for productivity over process and method. Somewhere in all of this lies the future of learning,” [TOI]

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