TECH TALK: The Best of 2004: Education

10. Atanu Deys series on Reinventing Education (December)

Atanu is a colleague, and we are working together on building out the Emergic vision. For some time now, Atanu has been looking at education and how it can be done differently given the new ICT infrastructure that is available. Atanus perspective is unique because he combines multiple models in a single mind.

Education today faces a challenge. Part of that challenge arises due to its past successes. I call it the “supply-side” part: the stock is too huge already and the flow seems to be exponentially increasing. There is a complementary “demand-side” challenge: there are immense numbers of people who need to be educated. The combined effect of two increases the cost of education.

There was a time when the supply-side problem was non-existent. About 2,000 years ago, an individual lifetime was more than sufficient for a person to learn all that was essentially known about the world. One could potentially know all that was known in the sciences, the arts, politics, medicine, and philosophy. On the demand side, the number of people that needed to be educated was also manageably small. Now no one can even imagine knowing more than a vanishingly small fraction of one narrow field of human knowledge. The best one can do today is learn the basics of a small set of general subjects such as a few sciences, some social sciences, some basic mathematics, and a little bit of biological sciences. Then one has to specialize into being an accountant or an engineer or a plumber or a programmer.

The present education system was developed during a time when both the supply- and demand-side problems were non-existent. Therefore it is not surprising that it is unable to confront the new realities. Futhermore, the present model matured when the powerful tools of information and communications technologies (ICT) did not exist. I argue that because there are new problems, the education system has to be reworked so that it can successfully confront the new realities. I further argue that the advent of ICT tools force us to radically rethink how the structure of our educational institutions.

It will become very clear that the old structure that was built to satisfy the core objective of education is no longer up to the challenges it faces. There is a core invariant aim of education. The invariance is relative to the structure we have built around it. It is time to tear down that structure and build a new structure. My contention is that the new structure has to incorporate within it the use of ICT tools. It is my aim to show that merely plugging in the new technology into the existing structure will not work.

Tomorrow: Simplicity

TECH TALK The Best of 2004+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.