Barefoot In the head

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Towards a new education for children

We know that:
Groups of children (6-12 yeards old in groups of 4 or so), given unrestricted and unsupervised access to the Internet can learn almost anything on their own. It doesn't matter who or where they are. We know this from 20 years of research, standing on the shoulders of Aurobindo, Piaget, Vygotsky and Montessori.

This kind of learning is activated by questions, not answers.

There will always be children in the world who, for some reason or the other, cannot pay for education.

There will always be people in the world who are willing to mediate in children's learning for, say, one hour a week, with no remuneration.

If we create 'clouds' of mediators and children on the Internet and an arrangement by which they can interact, we would have an alternative schooling.

In the last three years, we have created 12 Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) in addition to the several hundred 'hole in the wall' computers that exist in India, Cambodia and several African countries.

There exists a cloud of mediators, numbering in hundreds, that have begun to interact with these SOLEs. The cloud is self organised and called a Self Organised Mediation Environment (SOME). The mediators interact with the children over Skype.

We need a Self Organised Assessment Method (SOAM) by which children can assess their learning accurately.

We need a curruculum that is driven by questions. Self organised and self populating.

We need computing environments for children that are powered by free energy and bandwidth.

Schools in clouds, integrated with the fabric of space and time....


Blogger Desikamani said...


the idea is awesome. i am wondering if it can be implemented in organizations.

July 13, 2009 at 7:12 PM  
Blogger Partha said...

Mitra Uncle,
this whole idea is fascinatin! bt how would you come about assesing the kids? if self assesed, the method of assesment can never be fool-proof and accurate, and if assesed by a commitee, the criteria of assesment alone would be a topic of great discussion. But it is way more pragmatic a way to bringabout cyber literacy than probably any other method devised so far.

July 18, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Superdecade said...

Have you seen the film Fantastic Planet? I think there is a software solution to self-organised assessment.

August 7, 2009 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger kiran said...

The computers used must be sturdy. Is it possible to get the kind of computer and the configuration and other details needed to have a computer installed in a slum school? Do we switch the computer off every evening or does it run 24 hours? You mentioned a sturdy mouse, may I have details about it, specially where it can be purchased?
May I have an estimate of money required for one computer installation?
I run an abhyasika in Mulund slums in Bombay. The children come to do their home work. My aim is to teach them to read and write. It is a small set up. Thank you.

August 23, 2009 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Bedi Philips said...

I'm impressed. I've sent an email to you mentioning what I have in my small "tiffin" box..!! How I wish to join hands with you in going more deep into the rural India. Please reply Sir.!

August 30, 2009 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Sugata
I saw your talk on and it was very interesting and inspiring! Children are truly amazing! I love your project. I am thinking of mentoring someone and was wondering whether you are in need of some "grannies" to help these wonderful children.
Kind regards
Mary Marko

September 29, 2010 at 3:32 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There are no perfect assessments--they are at best snapshots to help a learner refine where he or she is going. One way to strengthen the self-assessment component would be to ask students to indicate their confidence level--how sure they feel of their answer. A person (or computer program) could review the results and give feedback to students on items they were sure they were right on (but were wrong) and items they felt wobbly about.

October 7, 2010 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Ulrich Werner said...

Prof. Mitra,

I am exploring the application of your findings on undergraduate education in Asia, namely in Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Thailand.

Where do you see potential hurdles for which I should watch out?

Many thanks,
Ulrich Werner

November 27, 2010 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Michael Andrews Bashan said...

Dr. Mitra,

I am interested in both becoming a volunteer monitor and creating a SOAM for your SOLEs. Please contact me at


January 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger admin said...

Such a cutting edge idea, Sir. This has similarities with what I was thinking of when I came up with >

Although because of the bandwidth limitations in a place like Nigeria, the idea was to have professionals drive from their offices to schools, community clubs for learning meetups each lasting less than 2 hours.

The logistics of pulling something like this off and doing it credibly are immense though.

May 24, 2011 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger mohamed12 said...

"This kind of learning is activated by questions, not answers" really you are a genius. Now I'm searching this kind of peoples only in the world, when they are ask the question they rectified the whole doubts. thanks to this word. domain registration India

June 10, 2011 at 5:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The education system is a indoctrination tool to "condition" debt slaves (consumers & obedient workers = human reource) to fuel the "money as debt" global system.
People should be taught "how to learn" and "not what to learn". If you teach someone how to learn & to be critical thinkers, then they can learn anything and self govern. Living a life of freedom. Perhaps a internet based program detailing the trivium, quadrivium, logic & fallacies elements for critical reasoning would be helpful with the computer. Unfortunately many readers believe most of what they read as truth and dogma.

Please watch this video:

"Free people don't want to be governed from the left, right, or center;
free people want to govern themselves."

July 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Majo no Kiki said...

Hmm. How about *instead* of assessment, the children work towards *accomplishment* -- meaning, make a big list of things you want the children to know, and give it to them. Let them check each item off when they have exhausted their interest in it.

In fact, such a list could really be a tree structure -- as they learn one thing, it opens up other topics and questions for them to pursue.

The "assessment" would simply be to take a look at what they've accomplished so far on the list.

We really need to get away from the mentality of "assessment" -- for a list of reasons so long it would be hard to write them all here (eg they are not objective, they don't measure skills like creativity or interest or talent, the results expire as soon as they are assessed, students *learn* during tests and thus skew the results, and so forth and so forth.)

July 26, 2011 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger DutchTreat said...

Wonderful vision of a true global village where kids freely explore as they would at home, asking questions of passing strangers who may know a little more.

It's inevitable. We don't need to make it happen. If we look around us it's already happening. More kids than ever are online, and in organizations like software companies where some decisions are made collectively and the bosses know how to get out of the way and let creativity (self-organizing systems) thrive.

Self-organizing systems are simply the way the universe works. They work whether we want them to or not, but in general they favor the drawing together of people, planets and other things in new relationships and with new consequences.

In a top-down organization they can manifest as the as The French Revolution or its office equivalent, but in a fluid organization like the Hole in the Wall they manifested not only in children spontaneously self organizing to use and look after each computer kiosk, but in volunteers from all over the world suddenly appearing just as their skills were needed.

Self organizing systems are the infinite web of life. Tug any strand and something new emerges, not by magic, but by the essential nature of creation.

August 24, 2011 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Mari Ángeles said...

I love your work!! But, what about disabled children? Can they leanr with the same advantages? Thank you.

October 26, 2011 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Torn Halves said...

I'd like to ask how this vision of education fits into a broader vision of a better world, because the demolition of hierarchical schools is unlikely to have any impact whatsoever on the hierarchies of society beyond the school. Infact, the atomisation of unschooled learners makes it more likely that they will just accept the status quo offline as a brute fact of life - it's a dog-eat-dog world offline and you just have to face up to it. A brick and mortar school with inspired and inspiring teachers could possibly inculcate a spirit of solidarity and organised cooperation, which would give students a springboard from which to feel that they could challenge the unjustifiable power relationships in society. Kids at home interacting online with the granny cloud won't get anything like that.

August 10, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Justice said...

Hi again, you stipulated that you need a curriculum that is generated by questions, and I do agree with you on this. Our present education system is based upon the generation of answers, whereas it really oght to be based upon questions. In my opinion, the sign of a person who has been well educated lies not with how many answers they can rattle off, but of how many meaningful, creative questions they can produce. It is my opinion that the writing of Socratic Dialogues aids learning, specifically, it helps the learner formulate his or her own thoughts on the subject, as well as furthering creative thought on the subject at hand. It is this connection with creative thought that is vital if we are to educate for the future and not the past. I thought your point that education at present is based upon a model used to sustain the Empire, whereas now we have no Empire to administer. New times call for new methods, don't they?
Many thanks for your interesting article. Do please get in touch.
Robert Leslie Fielding
Former English Language Lecturer currently living in Scotland.

October 10, 2013 at 11:44 AM  

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