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“A heisenbug (named after the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) is a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it.”

Bill Gates and Me on Education Reforms

The recent post by Navin on education got me thinking about one of my favorite topics once more – educational reforms. Specifically, what to do about education in the post-information-revolution world?

So here are some thoughts by me and Bill, an old friend, on the issue. First is the lecture by Bill:

As my friend, my key interest in educational reforms is how to improve the quality and relevance of the education imparted in the schools. As I see it, schools serve three functions: impart information, teach skills and teach how to learn. I believe that in this world of free-flowing information, it is the third aspect which of significance, other two having lost their relevance to some extent.

Imparting information is nice, but rather useless. If all one requires is to let kids know what happened where, a National Geographic documentary or Wikipedia is likely to do a much better job than a teacher, in most cases. As for teaching skills, it is important especially in early stages like multiplication and basic grammar, but is not terribly important in later part of school years. I recently learnt CSS and JQuerry in under a week solely with the help of YouTube and w3schools.com.

So what formal education has to teach us is how to learn. How do I identify and locate pertinent resources of learning from vast information sources out their? How do I judge whether the resources are good or not? How do I have the confidence that I can learn a particular skill set or information without any formal education (the biggest obstacle in learning. How many of us have refused to open a book or a website presuming that we wouldn’t get it?) Finally, how to know what skill sets or information I would require to complete a particular task?

Of course school imparts other critical virtues in its students like confidence, teamwork etc. But we are just focusing on the primary objective of schools.

Hence, we need to refine our education system and create an atmosphere that allows student to learn how to learn. So what the engineers and the designers need to do is develop models which emphasize on this aspect more than the others. May be we can begin by disabusing ourselves with the pre-conceived notion that the one-teacher-forty-student class format is the optimum one. How can we change that basic classroom dynamics?

While not catching butterflies or trying to impress first-year female grad students in university pubs, he can be found at his blog on foreign policy and national security: www.dreamsofatypewriter.com

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  1. Bill Gates and Me on Education Reforms | TechMonks…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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