Handbook of International Development and Education
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Handbook of International Development and Education

Edited by Pauline Dixon, Steve Humble and Chris Counihan

This Handbook considers the myths and untruths that currently exist in international development and education. Using historic and contemporary evidence, this compendium redefines the international development narrative through a new understanding of 'what works', drawn from pragmatic ideas and approaches.
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Chapter 20: From Hole in the Wall to school in the cloud

Sugata Mitra


Schooling has been around for centuries, but its exact date of origin cannot be traced. The first reference that was found dates back to more than five thousand years ago. What’s really interesting is that what was described as ‘schooling’ then is more or less the same as it is today – that is, classrooms and teachers. In order to keep the world’s military-industrial machine running at the zenith of the British Empire, the Victorians assembled an education system to mass-produce workers with identical skills. Plucked from the classroom and plugged instantly into the system, citizens were churned through an educational factory engineered for maximum productivity. Like most things designed by the Victorians, it was a robust system. It worked. It worked so well that a similar system still exists today – curriculum, discipline, tests and national examinations. Schools, in a sense, manufactured generations of workers for an industrial age. Then the industries went away and the West was left with this education system, producing a product which nobody wanted. Where do we go from here? Is anyone ready to stand up and say we need change? What follows sets out experiments that should make us think. A departure from the ‘norm’ is always tricky to espouse and articulate. But someone has to do it if change could benefit millions.

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