Prof. Noam Chomsky, shares his thoughts on the purpose of education, impact of technology, whether education should be perceived as a cost or an investment and the value of standardised assessment.
For the last few years, besides all other types of work, even education has started to get outsourced in many ways. One kept hearing of incidents where college students from western countries got their term papers, project reports etc researched and written by Indian students or professionals for a fee. A Bangalore based company also started providing tuition in various subjects to children outside the country using the web as the communication medium. Teachers from India get on the web and teach children, and it seems quite successfully.
Now, the latest is that Ashmount Primary (a school in North London) has outsourced mathematics teaching to India. Though the news surprises you a bit, its not very untoward if you think about it. The reason for outsourcing (regardless of industry) is lack of relevant skills in the geography and thus the related cost. That is what made it work for R&D, and IT. And similarly lack of teachers in the schooling system is making it work for Ashmount Primary.
BBC reported that the students found this way of teaching to be fun. Bright Spart Education Company (BSEC) which is facilitating the classes, uses about 100 teachers from Ludhiana. Lessons get booked over a day in advance at at the rate of £12 an hour, for blocks of two to five hours. The only drawback, if you will, in the system is that the teacher and the student do not get to see each other. But, that is only a surmountable (over time) technology issue.
Please indulge my thought instigator for a moment - one of the largest problems in the education system in India is the lack of teachers. Outsourcing of education (though good for individuals) will take teachers away to teach the kids in western countries. So, the impact is...
Technology is appearing in our lives and in schools in a big way. Many of us, who remain glued to computers for a large part of the day are slowly finding it difficult to wield a pen. The prolific use of calculators makes the memorization of tables, and ability to do calculations in the head somewhat redundant. A printed book might still be delightful to hold in your hands, but the movement towards electronic gadgets and media is undeniable.
A school that we visited in Dwarka (in Delhi) showed interest in going paperless in school and bringing in systems which can integrate the Kindle into the lives of their students. It is a different matter that they admitted that they don't really care for convenience of the students or related cost factor either.
My four year old spends time with her coloring books, and other story books but is definitely more comfortable playing games on her mother's cell phone. Her interest level (or span of attention) is non-electronic matter is somewhat limited. And she is clearly not an exception. It seems usually that the children adapt to technology much faster than their parents, but also get a little less active physically.
Here is the other potential problem. Intensive use of technology, from posting homework online, class notes getting emailed and students starting to lose the "old-world" skills will find themselves somewhat stymied by challenges that the board exams pose. The board exams are not yet online (and won't be for a long time).
Technology is here to stay and grow, but can we retain some of our innate skills?