What can USA and British education systems learn from classrooms in the developing world?

What can the American and British education systems learn from classrooms in the developing world? inc videos

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May August 14, 2014 at 10:59 am EDT
A group of students in Karakati, India, research the answer to a big question at one location of Sugata Mitra's School in the Cloud. According to Mitra and Adam Braun, there's a lot that Western schools can learn about education from students in India.

Students in Phaltan, India, research the answer to a big question at one of Sugata Mitra’s School in the Cloud labs. According to Mitra and his Microsoft Work Wonders Project partner, Adam Braun, there’s quite a bit that Western schools can learn from classrooms in the developing world.

Adam Braun went to school in the US and now runs a nonprofit that builds schools in Ghana, Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. In contrast, Sugata Mitra—the winner of the 2013 TED Prize—went to school in India and now is a professor in the UK, where his research on self-directed learning routinely brings him into elementary schools.
Both of these education activists have seen how typical classrooms function in the Western world, and both have seen how typical classrooms function in the developing world. And both say, the West isn’t always better.Braun and Mitra have teamed up through Microsoft’s Work Wonders Project to bring Mitra’s School in the Cloud learning platform into Braun’s Pencils of Promise schools. As the two pilot their partnership in a school in rural Ghana, we got them together via Skype to talk through a bold question: what can the West learn from the developing world when it comes to education? Their conversation is packed with insights.  To start us off, can each of you share three lessons that the developing world can teach the developed world when it comes to education? Adam Braun: I think that, in the developed world, we tend to assume that we have all the answers and that those will trickle down to the people at the base of the pyramid. But there’s a lot to be learned from unexpected places too. Three things that that our staff and team has observed:

  1. In the American education system, the teacher is usually assumed to be the expert. We have this traditional model where one teacher stands in front of 30 kids. But the act of teaching is actually one of the most valuable ways to learn. It’s nice to see environments where children can be teachers. That’s something that Sugata has really expanded on with his Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), which a lot of times remove the teacher altogether and allow children to learn from one another and teach one another simultaneously.

Read more:http://blog.ted.com/2014/08/14/what-can-the-american-and-british-education-systems-learn-from-classrooms-in-the-developing-world/

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  • Ron. Persaud  On 08/16/2014 at 3:49 pm

    I was born in Guyana and “went to school” in that country until I was seventeen. I obtained the equivalent of a two-year college education.
    During those years
    “the teacher is (was) usually assumed to be the expert.”
    “there is (was) the expectation that students are supposed to sit still. You’re told not to fidget and to focus.”
    And as for the “Spatial dimension” in reading, (whatever that may mean) we learnt very early how to ‘give the finger’, ‘cut the eye’ and “don’t vooms pon someone”
    I hold the view that three legacies of British Colonialism were
    1. A first class education system.
    2. A highly professional Civil Service.
    3. A fine railroad system.
    It has been said that world wide, Indians have been more ’employable’ than Chinese because of they speak English and are qualified in their field from English (based) University systems.
    A good standard is a country’s literacy rate. In my day in Guyana it was over 98%.
    What is it now?
    What is the reason for the change?

  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/17/2014 at 11:14 am

    Don’t ask me for empirical data or research, but the answer to your question, in a word: EXODUS – all our talented teachers ended up in Africa and other foreign lands, I am told.

  • Ron. Persaud  On 08/17/2014 at 3:43 pm

    But the authors are asking me to believe that a country, or many of them, can teach American (and English also?) teachers a new thing or two when these ‘teaching countries’ have declined in literacy rates.
    And like you, I have no data to support my contention; it just looks to me like the authors appear to be disparaging a system that has proven its worth over many decades.
    They are touting an alternative that is untested and unproven.

  • compton de castro  On 08/18/2014 at 8:19 am

    Let me enter the fray….
    Teaching and learning go had in hand.
    In German schools the teacher is no longer at
    the front of the classroom but sits in the middle of it.
    It is the students who are encouraged to demonstrate
    their learning/understanding in front of classroom/blackboard…..
    Even in primary education children should be encouraged to
    learn…..but respect and discipline is a two way street.

    In Victoria RC school ECD my twin brother who showed a
    rebellious attitude was ‘caned’ abused/illtreated by the then
    headmaster for not behaving ‘normally’….many days he
    walked from school to GG a mile away with dry blood sticking
    to his school shirt….
    My mother a devout Catholic did not complain for fear of reprisals…sad fact.
    All through his education my twin brother ‘despised’ the
    educational establishment….it was not until much later
    in his short lifespan 65 …he started his self education
    in readings/teachings.
    In hindsight if the establishment in Guyana had only
    understood that ‘force’ encourages ‘brutality’ and applied
    a different attitude to education the results would have been more rewarding to both teachers/students.
    Even today there are ‘drop outs’ in further education/universities but in insignificant numbers….there is more emphasis on ‘skills’ than academia….way forward…..
    we cannot all be rocket scientists or teachers….
    My spin

  • Jack  On 08/19/2014 at 8:58 am

    Very interesting thoughts and opinions. Socio, economic and political structures do impact education systems as well as, peoples’ view and response to education. I grew up in then British Guiana, where respect, honor and high ethical standards were the foundation and pillars of society. I believe this had much to do with one’s view of and approach to, life and education.While my older siblings were expected to excel, I was rebellious and did not absorb much in the classroom. In fact , I seldom attended school and forged all my school reports , with the help of my skulker buddies . However , what elevated me academically latter in life was the fact , we had to read one book every week and discuss it with a parent of older cousin or sibling. Not everyone is cut out to be academical material so, it is my opinion the school system need to identity which students are academical material and which are skill or art material . I can say, as a student , I was an absolute total failure and a great, grave worry to my parents however, my adventurous skulking days, having to read , read and read each and every night, with discussion at the dinner table , coupled with my military training worked out well for me.

  • Ron. Persaud  On 08/19/2014 at 8:21 pm

    I have tried this exercise with many employees.
    “Stand with your back against that wall and, with both feet flat on the floor, reach up as high as you can.
    Sure you can’t reach any higher?
    Very well, then; let me put this ($1/5/10/20) bill two inches higher; and if you can touch it, you can have it.
    Only one employee failed to cash in; and my punch-line always is, “you never know how high you can reach until you have to stretch.”

  • de csstro  On 08/19/2014 at 10:02 pm

    It is a fact that B formers achieve more in later life than A formers. In my college days..centuries ago!..we ere promised
    promotion to A class if we topped B in exams.
    Most who were promoted returned to B form the
    following year.
    Some like to compete/participate others to lead/follow.
    Human nature.
    We cannot all be academic…and it is human to err
    Unless you were HITLER ,POPE or POLITICIAN…..
    not all popes or politicians ..
    Not wishing to be sued for ‘libel’

    My spin

  • gigi  On 08/26/2014 at 5:45 pm

    Not sure I can fully accept or agree with this new concept in education. I am currently taking an free online course ‘Learning How To Learn’ that focuses on how the brain functions and processes information. Learning and memory takes place when the brain is in focused (intent) and diffused (broad) modes. However, the brain cannot be in both modes simultaneously. Also, a lot of what the brain retains is based on ‘practice makes permanent’ which requires focus, discipline and structure. Just like the career thief.

    Yes, while doing by learning is best way to learn, having the blind lead the blind is like having a classroom without a teacher. Ever seen kids who are raised without parental or adult supervision? Ever seen kids with poor self control? Place those same kids in a classroom without a teacher and they’ll be guaranteed to a cell in prison for most of their lives.

  • compton de castro  On 08/26/2014 at 6:46 pm

    The teacher is in the classroom for the ‘reality check’ and
    also to encourage learning….not necessarily to teach….
    also to discipline if/when it becomes necessary.
    There should be no classroom without that supervision.
    Obviously using internet as a source of info makes the
    teachers job much easier.
    No one is suggesting classrooms without teachers !

    At least until ‘adulthood’ and even universities need
    the ‘reality check’….not just ‘lecturers’ !
    Most students are expected to question their
    professors who are their mentors but to also
    better their understanding of their interest/subject.
    The human thinking has no limits but it does need
    discipline/mentoring….the ability to focus with
    Just my thoughts on the subject of learning….the sky the limit.!!
    There is one subtle difference…
    One can be an intellectual with little or no intelligence !
    Know little about everything but much about nothing.
    Fantastic memories but no decisiveness !
    My spin

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