What education for all looks like

I was blown away when I visited the 3.2.1 school in Mumbai last year.

I encourage you watch this video, but here’s an important quote about what makes the school so wonderful:

“How would we build a school if we were building it for our own children? And we realized that if we build it for their children, we build it very differently from how you build it for your own children.”

This seems basic, but it’s actually incredible. It’s also one of the main problems with a famous name in education in the developing world: Sugata Mitra.

Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize for his concepts of “Hole-in-the-Wall” and “schools in the cloud.” While Mitra’s emphasis on collaborative learning is important and the fanfare brings more attention to ed-tech, there are several flaws with his model and research. Donald Clark has a great rundown of the reasons on his blog. When I heard the quote in the video, I immediately remembered this from Clark’s post:

Educational colonialism. Mitra has been criticised for a form of educational colonialism. Who among you in the developed world would abandon all teaching and install ‘hole-in-the-wall’ learning for your own children? We are being asked to believe that the solution to the lack of opportunities in third world education are computers in walls? Are we really going to dangerously divert funding from rural schools into these schemes? Is this poorly designed research and exaggerated conclusions, from an educational department in a European University, used to justify an approach to education that no parent, even in impoverished countries, would consider for one minute? If Mitra has children, I wonder if he’s allowing them to learn in this way?”

Why are we developing education “solutions” or experiments that we wouldn’t want to offer universally? Despite infrastructure problems, despite teacher training problems, despite financial constraints–the education services that we build for bottom of the pyramid communities should be developed with the same standards as any ideal education solution for any community. Of course, we must understand the users and constraints and design product and service solutions to fill in any gaps to make the educational service effective. Our ed-tech report hopefully made that point clearly. But we shouldn’t drop our standards in what we offer.

3.2.1 shows that this is possible. We just have to shift our mindset.

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