4 Comments

  1. teachwell
    August 3, 2015 @ 3:35 am

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber and commented:

    Mitra’s Myths

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  2. A reply to Debra Kidd on self-directed learning | Filling the pail
    August 4, 2015 @ 11:24 am

    […] we have to accept that some children taught themselves how to use computers. But which children? As @teach_well has discovered, although located near to slums, it is not clear that it is slum children who benefited from […]

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  3. Moi
    September 1, 2015 @ 9:50 am

    Your sheer ignorance of how India (or any other country outside your radar) functions is appalling. And the authority with which you impose your ignorance is even more befuddling. You should not attempt to write an article without having any idea of the economic or cultural context of the place. ”I really doubt even in India that a playwright lives in slums and well they write plays so are literate… ” Slums in India are home to a wide range of people and don’t necessary the ones from Slumdog Millionaire and to assume that everyone in a slum is illiterate is your next folly. Also, why assume that a person living in a slum cannot write or direct plays? Does Chavan ever mention that his father is a well-paid, successful playwright? He could very well be a car mechanic who is passionate about theatre! Indian villages are not better off than the slums nor do they have better educational facilities. This is exactly where Mitra’s work is magnificent. He talks about remoteness and the deficit of good teachers in remote areas. This is where child driven education triumphs. Also India does not have a 3 language policy in all schools. Many schools only teach in the vernacular. Many schools introduce English in the fifth grade. And most of the fluency of English is dismissible. And it is ludicrous to assume that three generations of Tamilians in a tiny village know enough English to teach their youngsters. The ignorance here is laughable. You unfortunately have neither understood the experiment nor its cultural context. And Tom Bennett’s article is a sour rant at the best. A critique to any experiment or method is essential but kindly base it on some solid ground. And oh, I am an Indian.

    Reply

    • teachwell
      September 1, 2015 @ 11:55 am

      I have never had such an angry rant – for which you provide not one iota of evidence by the way other than the fact that you are Indian and that seems to be your main reason for critiquing my blogpost (not an article as it is not in a newspaper). But let’s deal with the points one by one.

      Your sheer ignorance of how India (or any other country outside your radar) functions is appalling.

      Well you have made a rather large assumption there haven’t you? Both of my parents are Indian and lived there until they were 18. My family in England is similarly comprised of aunts and uncles who all grew up in India.Most of my family still lives in India – both in villages and cities. In addition, I have grown up in a city with a large Indian population, therefore have grown up with people whose parent come from a wide variety of regions in India.

      Therefore that is a couple of hundred people’s experiences I am basing my opinions on not on a wikipedia article as not doubt you have assumed. At best you could argue that I am making assumptions based on the regions of India that they have come from and therefore if it doesn’t extrapolate to the whole country. However, their experiences do seem to tally up pretty much in terms of the general standard of education received in various locations.

      And the authority with which you impose your ignorance is even more befuddling.

      I could argue the same for what you have just written – unless of course you have indeed lived in every single part of India and had the privilege of working in hundreds of schools, your experience is in fact far less representative than those of the people I know.

      You should not attempt to write an article without having any idea of the economic or cultural context of the place.

      You really shouldn’t assume that I have none.

      ”I really doubt even in India that a playwright lives in slums and well they write plays so are literate… ” Slums in India are home to a wide range of people and don’t necessary the ones from Slumdog Millionaire and to assume that everyone in a slum is illiterate is your next folly.

      I take this point on board I read this article recently http://bit.ly/1N6RPfD so accept the scale of the problem is different to what I assumed. However without a solid definition of what they mean by ‘literacy’ I do not take the figures on face value. Certainly there have been huge improvements in the number of children who live in slum areas that attend school. However this line of argument actually mitigates against Mitra – he was the one who presented these children as illiterate and from the slums. So to state they miraculously learnt to use the computer to write is illegitimate if they already had a degree of literacy to begin with.

      Also, why assume that a person living in a slum cannot write or direct plays? Does Chavan ever mention that his father is a well-paid, successful playwright? He could very well be a car mechanic who is passionate about theatre!

      If he indeed did live in the slums then why not say? At no point has it been shown that he did in fact live ‘in’ a slum, just that he lived near the hole in the wall computer. Not the same thing at all. His own testimony argues against any gains made in learning other than learning how to use a computer.

      Indian villages are not better off than the slums nor do they have better educational facilities.

      Most of my family lived in small villages and therefore this is a ridiculous assertion that you make because I assume you think I am a white English person who has no connection with India. Try it on with someone else. Also this is the precise kind of idea that Mitra feeds on. You may wish to actually spend some time in various villages in India – I have. My family in India who live in villages live in homes not slums and neither is their existence anything like that. That there are some poor people in those villages does not mean that there are not well off villagers. This comment actually is beginning to make me question whether you are, as you assert to be, Indian. What a sweeping generalisation and completely wrong. Oh and I think my family would beg to differ on the education front seeing as they have attended excellent schools.

      This is exactly where Mitra’s work is magnificent.

      No his work is incredibly poor and not worthy of the attention is has received.

      He talks about remoteness and the deficit of good teachers in remote areas.

      Not really he talks of how children can learn without teachers good or otherwise.

      This is where child driven education triumphs.

      Hilarious – you may wish to look at countries where child driven education has triumphed and see how literacy and numeracy rates have decreased rather than increased – check Finland, UK, USA and Australia for a start. Do not kid yourself that children driving their own education means they learn more. It simply means they have huge gaps. If you want Indian children to become more ignorant then please keep advocating nonsense education policies by a person who has never taught children a day in his life.

      Also India does not have a 3 language policy in all schools.

      The three language policy is the law, that it’s implementation is patchy in a country as vast as India does not surprise me but I have yet to encounter an Indian person who went to school who did not learn English.

      Many schools only teach in the vernacular. Many schools introduce English in the fifth grade. And most of the fluency of English is dismissible.

      That is an incredibly sweeping generalisation of the whole country. Do you have figures for that? Or indeed any evidence. Or are you, like Mitra, caught up in this whole scam somewhere. By the way what do you do for a living? Because it sounds awfully like you spend your time promoting Mitra.

      And it is ludicrous to assume that three generations of Tamilians in a tiny village know enough English to teach their youngsters. The ignorance here is laughable.

      What is actually laughable is that many of my family come from small villages and have both learnt and taught their children English. It was not a tiny village – simple one that was in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Again could you actually state that no chid in any village in Tamil Nadar is taught English? Have you ever learnt to speak a foreign language written in a script completely different to your own? If not try to read pages of the Internet in Greek or Russian and see how much you learn in a short space of time. The most likely scenario is that the children already knew enough English to be able to read and learn in it from the internet.

      You unfortunately have neither understood the experiment nor its cultural context.

      Oh I have done both – you are obviously a deluded supporter of Mitra otherwise you would be able to see the completely flawed research he has undertaken, including the fact that he never checked whether the children using the computers were actually living in slums or that the children in the Tamil village had learnt English prior to his experiment. These are fundamental issues with any conclusions that can be derived from his ‘research’.

      He is simply a rich man with connections who has been given air time because of the West’s ignorance of India and they are more than willing to believe ludicrous claims. He is in the end a privileged man who has many connections in the computer industry who is pushing to use technology based on flimsy claims which even a cursory glance at would be seen as shockingly woeful. In no other field of research, including computing, would he be given the time or the space. It says something about the farcical state of education research across the world that he has.

      And Tom Bennett’s article is a sour rant at the best.

      No it is fair enough to question claims based on so little evidence and when the evidence presented is flimsy. If you would like to comment on his piece or write a rebuttal please do so. This is just an ad hominem attack. Tom Bennett has no need to write a sour rant of any sort.

      A critique to any experiment or method is essential but kindly base it on some solid ground. And oh, I am an Indian.

      The experiments were poorly designed, the evidence consists of Mitra’s exaggerations and not actual statistical evidence, or even accounts from the participants themselves. The impact that Mitra claims has not at any time been demonstrated. He is however a great self-publicist.

      By the way being Indian does not make your statements any truer simply that you live there and will believe, it would appear, anything including a charlatan like Mitra. India has produced many intelligent people and will continue to do so, I would rather read about them thanks.

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