The education systems in almost all countries are obsolete. They date back from several hundred years ago and are based on a model devised, in the main, by the Victorians running the British Empire.  They were created during the pre industrial era where the only way to communicate was to write information down on paper and deliver it on horseback or by boat.  In order to run things successfully it was therefore necessary to create the physical equivalent of a global processer, using clerks instead of computers. This was the beaurocratic administrative machine.  Schools were designed to produce students to become part of that machine. Good handwriting, the ability to read and excellent mental arithmetic were all skills that enabled the machine to function successfully so these were the key requirements for all students. This is not the case today.

Now that our society and economies have evolved beyond that era, our schools must also be reinvented. These days we have computers to do clerical roles, efficient transport systems and the Internet means there is no longer a need to write beautifully or be able to do long division in your head.  Two hundred years ago there was a need to produce administrators who could function in an existing system so early industrial education was focused on producing “identical people” who could easily replace each other in whatever administrative role was required. It was part of a hugely successful process, and helped build and run a great, global beaurocratic machine. Time has moved on and employment opportunities have changed. The world no longer needs such identical people yet we are still educating our children in a system designed to produce them.

  • Sam Funkdub Hutchinson

    The education systems in almost all countries are obsolete… Fascinating stuff.

    • Shailaja DSharma

      I agree. A mind-opening opener by Prof Sugata Mitra!

  • Patrick

    This initial perspective by Professor Mitra talks about the need for reinvention of schools and of the education system. In order to do so, we must perhaps first consider what is the role of education? The assembled wisdom in the recent F of Education workshop in Hong Kong gave us this statement as a starting point – the role of education is, or at least should be, more holistic. It is/should be about careers, self-enrichment, responsible citizenship and decision-making with integrity.
    What is your view on the role of education?

  • Patrick

    In the main, Professor Mitra’s paper is aimed, at least in language, at primary education. One has to wonder, how much do his principles, observations and suggestions hold for higher education? One great source for this focus is Johan Roos. By way of introduction Johan is a Swedish national with two decades of work experience in Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, US and Sweden working in the field of strategy, innovation, and change. Over 25 years Jhan has worked in six prominent business schools in five countries and has held leadership positions in three of those. He also operated the Imagination Lab in Lausanne, which among other topics looked at the importance of play in the workplace and led to the creation of the concept of ‘Lego Serious Play’.

    So then, what does Johan say. Here’s a starting point from his excellent blog about elephantine changes required in business schools of the future –