Monday, September 21, 2015

The Education System is not Broken - It is Obsolete

One of the frequent comments we hear about education is that the system is broken. Many scholars have written about the rising educational debt and how it can have debilitating consequences.

The fact is the system is not broken. It is obsolete.

The system that is in vogue today was devised for a different age and a completely different set of requirements. A colonial power that had spread far and wide needed people who could read, write, and do simple arithmetic. There were no computers, no telephone, no printing presses, and it took months for a document to reach its destination.

In this scenario, a system was created that would, much like a production line, produce people who had the three skills mentioned. Thus was laid the firm foundation to what we know today as the bureaucracy.

Obviously, in a knowledge economy, where the said skills are just a mouse click away, the system cannot develop the skills required for today's work environment.

Still having doubts? Just watch this 2013 Award Winning TED Talk by Sugata Mitra.( In what has come to be known as "Hole In The Wall" experiments, he has proved, beyond doubt, that children, living in remote places, not having an iota of knowledge of the English language, and many of them being school drop-outs, can learn abstract and complex concepts (genetic engineering or quantum mechanics) as well as children studying in air-conditioned classrooms, an exhilarating ambience, and "highly qualified" teachers to guide them.

The answer to this puzzle is quite simple. As creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson has repeatedly emphasized, all children are exceptionally creative and curious. We educate them out of these wonderful traits. In experiments designed to measure divergent thinking (for example, how many uses can you think of for a paper clip?) Sir Robinson has demonstrated that 98% of kindergarten children show a "genius" level of divergent thinking. As they grow up, the percentage comes down. Less than 2% of adults can perform as well as the children. (

Children entering school now will retire in 2080. Our education is supposed to be preparing them for a lifetime of a successful career. And yet nobody knows what the nature of work is likely to be 10 years from now. One estimate, based on technological trends, forecasts that by 2030, one billion people would be out of the workforce, rendered redundant by the disruption in the way we live and work. That is one in seven people on this planet. Are we willing to face this reality?

Which brings us to the question - what, if any, is the solution? First, we need to recognize that a problem exists, a problem with catastrophic consequences. Next, we need to completely change the way we look at education. We need facilitators who will pose questions and allow children and young people alike to figure out the answers for themselves. It is quite possible that twenty or more answers would be discovered for each question. Isn't that much better than conditioning students to believe that every question has only one right answer?

What do you think?


  1. thanks for sharing
    fascinating and powerful
    makes one realize how much out education system - at all levels - is not well designed to meet current needs nor fully utilize technology

  2. I have passed onto other - one my son who is considering a career in education and the other a teacher - both stimulated healthy discussions