The real disruption in education is taking kids out of the classroom

By March 27, 2013Innovation

The news in the FT this morning (paywall, sorry) is that Amol Bhave, a 17-year-old from Jabalpur, India has been accepted into MIT based on his results in online courses offered by edX, a non-profit online education venture founded by Harvard and MIT. Amol said the following about his decision to take online courses rather than go to a local school:

I really felt that the quality of education online was far, far better than [my] school. It opened doors to me for getting into colleges such as MIT which I could never even have dreamt of getting into from my town.

I think the same will increasingly be true for kids in the developed world. Established educational establishments and curricula were designed in and for a bygone age and the pace of change is so fast now that they are unlikely to catch up.

The alternative of parents and children taking charge of their educations has many cultural and legal barriers to overcome but I think some of the best and brightest will start to go down this route so they can get the best education and the best start in life. Making it work will take real commitment from both parent and child though, at least in the early years, so what is effectively home schooling won’t be for everyone. I still have a few years to work it out, but I’m starting to think about whether it might make sense for our kids.

  • Andrew Hall (sumdog)

    The home schooling movement in the US is much larger than in the UK. This is partly because there is a more instinctive questioning of the ability of the state to deliver education. However, for most parents home schooling is, and will remain, impractical.

    I believe education systems should become more modular, so that parents can construct a schedule for their children that mixes teacher-provisioned lessons, online lessons and parent-given lessons, all within the socially-enriching environment of a school. So if there was an online maths course (for example) that was perfect for your child, then you could opt for that.

    As a society, we may need to accept that advantage can be bought not just by those rich enough to send their children to private schools but also those who can buy special courses within a state school.

    A more egalitarian approach would be to give parents vouchers for online courses to be integrated into a school day. Politically, this would be difficult to implement, as the obvious way to pay for this is cut teacher time. Not an easy sell.

    Certainly, the next few years will be a time of great change for education.

  • Hi Andrew – I agree, that would be ideal. There is much that is great about schools and combining that with access to the best online courses would be the best of both worlds.

  • Melissa Clark-Reynolds

    Some countries do that, NZ for example. The legal hurdle you reference are much greater here in the UK than in many other countries. The UK is moving to restrict that further with the reduction of flexischooling. Our daughter has been back in school for two weeks, but otherwise she was out of school for almost two years. She had been asking to be homeschooled for several years before we made the decision to do it.

    We have had the support of the NZ school system and access to government developed online and correspondence courses (for free) covering the full curriculum – art, languages, math, writing, my daughter even did courses in agriculture and horticulture.

    The online Math courses have been the best, allowing her to work at her own pace and to her own interests. She is able to work several years ahead of her peers in the areas she loves. It has been a great time for us as a family as well as for her education.

    We agonised about sending her back to school, but it is what she wanted and we found a lovely school which suits her. She was accelerated a year when she joined her new class. If she ever wants to come back to being homeschooled we would do it again (she is 12 now).

  • CentralLondoner1

    I’m sure the teachers unions will have some words about this. And it will not be words of encouragement.

  • ☺ definitely not…. But then we aren’t solving for what teachers want

  • Andrew Hall (sumdog)

    Interesting – New Zealand is definitely a leader of educational technology. NZ is also an early adopter of single-sign-on (SSO) technology, something which has been talked about elsewhere but has minimal actual use (except in tertiary education). SSO allows children to sign in once for multiple online services.