Can children learn without schools? Yes, they can! It is amazing how much children want to, and enjoy learning new skills, especially through the use of technology. Schools are a valuable resource, but not every child has access to them, unfortunately.
This is going to be the biggest game changer for equal opportunity over the next 20 to 50 years, and about time too. If we can get laptops and an internet connection to all third world countries, then we are going to end up with a fantastically educated population from these parts of the world in a matter of time. This will make the world a much more balanced playing field for all, or at least contribute in the right direction.
Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher, did a series of fascinating experiments called “Hole in the Wall”. He has proven that education can be simply spread all around the world and that children are eager and able to learn without the necessity of attending school.
In 1999 he made a first step to bring his project to life after years of private research. Sugata Mitra had a computer created in one wall of a kiosk in a slum area of New Delhi. The computer was there for local children to use, they could do so freely, without any control or teachers. And the children did use it. It turned out they actually taught themselves how to manage the computer, even though they had never before been given the chance to use such a device. Soon they even started browsing, even though they didn’t know what the internet was. Mitra initially thought that perhaps someone on the street had explained them how to use the mouse and so on, but not so.
He also created another project called “Grannies in the Cloud” where retired volunteer mentors used Skype to talk with children and encourage them in their learning process.
Mitra proved that modern technology can be a tool in expanding education around the world, bringing knowledge and open-mindedness to different, sometimes difficult locations. He gave a talk at one of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences and got a TED prize in 2013. His talk is available to watch on YouTube – here is the link.