I recently watched a very interesting TED talk by Charles Leadbeater, a London-based researcher at Demos, a think tank focused on power and politics. He spoke about “Education Innovation in the Slums.” The education system in developing and industrialized nations is rapidly transforming in wake of the globalization wave. What I found especially interesting in his lecture was his opinion on the drivers of innovation. He said that radical innovation comes from necessity. In newly industrialized countries like India and Brazil where the demand is high and where traditional practices don’t work, new ideas are sparked out of need. Not only in the realm of education but also in areas of health care and government policies. The amateur education innovation that Leadbeater refers to has a strong technological component. The marriage of education and technology creates an interactive, accessible, and practical learning experience for students. The role of social entrepreneurship in this area is highlighted in his talk as he credits local not-for-profit organizations and socially ethical businesses of spearheading the movement. These groups organize schools in local communities and make new technology like computers available in villages and developing cities of these countries. Initiatives like Teach for India and Pratham, both successful non-governmental organizations working to provide education to underprivileged children, are a manifestation of this pioneering plan. A vital point that he emphasized was considering transforming the nature of the education system so that instead of having a stringent curriculum that would restrict and push away students, a flexible framework with targeted areas of study would allow prospective students to develop interest. For kids living in difficult financial and societal conditions, motivation is pertinent for retaining their interest in school. Similarly as their needs are different, practical application of knowledge is key in allowing them to see the connection between the real world and their textbooks. By making the payoff of education clear and highlighting that the rewards can be reaped not far in the future, but every day, children can be successfully encouraged. Thus, the issue is not merely establishing a cohesive education system but also how to draw children’s interests. The use of games, developing the ability to question, and experiential learning make the process engaging, fun and effective for students. The availability of computers in cyber cafes in countries like Kenya, India and Peru promote self-learning and sustain innovation in the local communities. The model of education in general should transition from standardized schools to personalized learning which encompasses multiple types of intelligence. The common thread mentioned by Leadbeater throughout all his case studies was the role of local leaders and socially conscious entrepreneurs in establishing educational institutions in their respective communities.
A form of self-teaching is TED talks themselves, as they are a platform for global thinkers to display their research. As vitual learners, we are invited to explore connections between various fields of studies, and learn about new ideas and fresh perspectives. I encourage you to browse through their vast collection of videos and check out the ones you find interesting.