Levelling the Playing Field in Education

In one of my earlier blogs about the state of funding for universities, and how online education is changing the game, I promised to write more on my excitement with how technology and the internet will trigger the revolution and evolution wherein the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities.

Traditionally, the best schools recruited the best students. The parents of these students probably also studied in these best schools, befriended other privileged kids who supported each other in their privileged careers, and have privileged children who then go to these privileged schools.

These privileged schools would always be in privileged neighborhoods. The best educators would hence be attracted to these privileged schools.

I think that technology and the internet has a real chance to level the playing field, and enable the best education to reach under-privileged communities. There is already much online content available open source, like the Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT etc. I have personally believed for some time that you can probably find on the internet, all knowledge which you need to complete most academic qualifications.

However, a one-way delivery can probably not give a complete education experience. There is a role to play for educators. The Coursera programs, and probably others, do have instructors online interacting with the students and guiding them in an asynchronous manner.

But look at this video about the “Granny Cloud”, showing retired teachers in England teach live online to rural schools in India. I think that a mix of asynchronous instruction and live teaching online, with the best educators in the world can level the playing field for most marginalized communities.

I wish that like the legal profession, the teaching profession will also (if they do not already do so) mandate teachers to spend a minimum number of hours for pro-bono teaching. That way, the privileged teachers in the privileged schools can teach marginalized students without the fear, risk and inconvenience of commuting to the rather challenging neighborhoods to teach in schools with under-privileged children. They can do so online.

In my next article, I will take this discussion another “notch”.

6 thoughts on “Levelling the Playing Field in Education”

  1. There should be equal opportunity in terms of education though there is an existence of “private” for the affluent parents who can afford the high tuition fees and “public schools for the less privilege families.

    In the video showing retired teachers from UK, which has a high standard of living. teaching online for free means sharing their knowledge to the children in India. The interaction is lively and the students showed their enthusiasm.

    This means education is reachable if we will be open to sharing what we have learned from the school and have this heart of passion in teaching.

    In my country, there are lots of retired teachers like my mother who ends up being idle at the age of sixty five, after watching the video, I realized that educating teachers in using computers particularly Skype, they can still continue their noble profession. If only there one Mr. Ng here who will take the initiative to employ retired teachers, they can still continue a productive way of living and not end up in taking care of their grandchildren.

  2. Education must be equally accessible to everybody. If the children especially in far-flung places can’t go to school there must be a way to bring education to those areas in return. People may say that distance, fund, facilities and teachers must be taken into consideration but as an old saying goes… ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way”. It must be a collaborative effort of the government, the people and the community to address this need. Innovative means of delivering education like in the video “Granny Cloud” is one way. Maximizing the use of technology and resources and utilizing the people and organizations in the community can make sense.
    There must be a commitment to teachers whether those who are still teaching, especially the young generations of educators or the retired ones and even volunteers who have capacity and skills to teach. All these will serve as important resources to attain this goal. The passion to teach must not end after retirement as the value and search for education is continuous.
    The grass-roots of the community whether it’s an urban or rural area must have the access to education. The plight for learning all over the world is high and it must not be limited only to those who can afford to pay fees and study at prestigious school or university. Education can end poverty, unemployment, hunger and other social issues that affect the lives of every individual.

  3. Commenting on the Levelling The Playing Field In Education by Mr Thomas Ng

    Much as I was surprised to read this, this runs deep and has always been one of the many sore topics in childhood. I feel exactly the same, sadden that we live very much in a differentiated world. I was blessed and considered lucky when I was admitted to an elite college after my o levels. This new found happiness did not last long as the parents of the school I was attending drove fast expensive cars and I, well had to travel on a public school bus.
    The atmosphere got to me and very quickly asked for a transfer, being only sixteen and feeling completely vulnerable. Why are we not having standardised examinations at the various levels? Would that not level the playing field in our schools, while we retain streaming systems to cater to slower students. For failures? If that should be part of our lives, why not implement the modular system? The subject that is not done well, could be resat for in modules. Must we press on the importance of scoring rather than learning? Do we have to be stratified on minute levels? Does that not also open our systems to abuse? I have had the experience in having a conversation with a Vice Principal that stated plainly, that some schools make the examinations tougher, to keep the seats in the express stream in school restricted, not exceeding the threshold. Is this ethical? Is that a need for this? Are we not struggling as it is, finding jobs where our real capabilities are tested?
    Upon the very subject, what about lessons in life, have you noticed the subjects relative to our educational systems, has little to do with equipping us with life skills, why? An example, most of us do complicated sums but walk away not looking at our receipts, not mentally summing up our bills and most turn out, not having a sound financial understanding. What in short am I trying to say? I am also asking where are the field studies, the various case scenarios, the training of the children’s abilities approaching real life situations, they should begin just as early, online or in schools.
    Thank you for reading, Mildred Jones

    1. You must have been a brilliant child to get into a top school school….in Singapore? I totally share your disdain, and maybe even disgust for the elitist aspects of education. Brilliant children do not necessarily come from rich families. And poor families are capable of producing brilliant children. I see a future where anyone can study on his or her own, from wherever, and go through a process to earn an internationally recognized and valued qualification, without needing to enroll and study in a prestigious education institution.

      And I don’t believe in putting intellectually advanced children in a special “genius” class. They should be helping other kids in their class/school. Haven’t we always heard that the best way to learn is to teach? Furthermore it helps that advanced children develop beyond academic skills. How about leadership skills and values?

  4. Comments on the blog Levelling the Playing Field…..,
    The point noteworthy, there in less privileged communities and underdeveloped countries is not of Levelled Playing Field rather the very provision of having any Playing Field in the real sense of the word. Countries like Pakistan; that are facing devastation and decline in proper devising of policies, economic exploitation of resources and in the sane materialization of skills and potential,are not in a position to generate even the opportunity that can be made synonymous to Playing Field for the underprivileged strata of society.
    Under discussion aspect here must be the provision of Playing Field.
    Can the Internet and Technology be the tool to provide an opportunity for education and the best one delivered by privileged educators?
    There comes a scenario that is expressive of a two-way state of affairs. On the one hand, it certainly can be a suitable tool and interface for the undergoing of teaching/learning process. On the other side of the picture there stands a dull and colorless canvas that clearly exposes the emptiness of deprivation in terms of lack of resources to have the facilities of Internet and Technology in the far flung areas and especially the marginalized rural communities together with the lowest level of awareness, readiness and acceptability of the illiterate people to absorb the fact that education is the key to sustainable development of the society. If such kind of physical hurdles and impediments of mindset be wisely met out, yes, Technology and Internet be proved a handy gift for the under privileged to have the privileged education by the privileged educators!

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