Sugata Mitra faces quite a backlash

Sugata Mitra is hot. He recently received the TED award of $1 million for creating learning environments where illiterate Indian children had access to computers in actual holes-in-walls on streets of New Delhi slums.

But the success comes with a backlash, one I’ve been taking part in even before the price.

Donald Clark was one of the first to openly criticize Mitra in his blogpost with 7 doubts about Hole in the wall. Mitra himself answered the post but not really in a scientific way:

 “I try to publish in peer reviwed journals in the hope that they will point out deficiencies in my work. The above tirade made me really depressed. Maybe all my work is rubbish and I should let experts improve education for poor children, as they have done for hundreds of years in the past.”

Well, I checked his research earlier on and there are some important nuances to be made, actually. Check my blogpost here that I wrote in Dutch already over 6 months ago, I’ve added this Google Translation.

The latest reaction comes from Larry Cuban who describes Hole in the Wall as an example of magic thinking in education.

Are Donald Clark, Larry Cuban and myself against doing good for poor people? No, not at all, but in education it is important to stay critical. It’s great that someone as mister Mitra tries to change the world, something we all want. But there is also a need for perspective.

11 thoughts on “Sugata Mitra faces quite a backlash

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree that it’s important to take a nuanced and critical approach to initiatives like Dr Mitra’s. Having read the translation of your Dutch article, I agree that it’s not enough to foster cooperation among children; we also need competent guides to facilitate useful dialogue and to stimulate high quality thinking.

    You may be interested to read my own critique of Dr Mitra’s educational approach in my post entitled ‘Can you kill a goat by staring at it? A critical look at minimally invasive education’, which has just been published as a guest post on the Philosophy Foundation’s blog at http://philosophyfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/

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