Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Crazy Idea That Makes Sense: Let the Uneducated Educate

I happened upon a TED video this morning. The email arrived; I browsed, clicked and couldn’t stop watching until it was over. Here was this Indian gentleman telling the story of how he left his elite school to found a university among the poorest of the poor. It’s a school where no one with a title or a Ph.D. is allowed to teach, and where no exam is given. And yet, it works. And the movement has spread to Afghanistan, Africa and other places, where poor grandmothers are now building schools and installing solar panels. It is a revolution of sorts.
Bunker Roy - the founder of the movement - realized that uneducated people sit on vast knowledge resources, an idea that Jared Diamond touched upon in the beginning of his book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” (1997). There is knowledge and there is knowledge. I’m not convinced that barefoot universities would work in modern, middle class societies, but I do believe that we have a lot to learn from them. One of the main problems with modern education is that we separate and isolate learning from doing. Another is that we focus on a narrow band of knowledge. The British Studio School movement has taken on these issues, seemingly successful among children that the current school system has failed.

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