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Education

Will technology replace teachers? No, but ...

Michael Trucano's picture
In the future, will a machine replace me and smash other machines on my behalf?
In the future, will a machine replace me
and smash other machines on my behalf?

I've worked on, advised and evaluated educational technology projects in dozens of countries over the past fifteen years, mainly in middle and low income countries. As anyone who works intimately with information and communication technologies (ICTs) on a daily basis knows, change is a constant when working in the technology sector. (In contrast, while rhetoric about change is a constant in the education sector, change itself is much slower in coming ....) While the technologies themselves may change quite often, though, many of the most common questions related to their introduction and use remain largely the same.

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I remember working with teachers in Ghana in the late 1990s as part of a pilot initiative to introduce computers and the Internet into a select number of schools in a few of the major cities. Towards the end of the third day of a five day workshop, we had a teacher show up at the door to our classroom, apologizing for his tardiness and asking if he could join the course. He explained that he had traveled for a few days to reach the small school outside Accra where out training activity was taking place, hitching rides on trucks and then transferring between long haul buses, because he had heard about this thing called the Internet that was going to "change education forever" and just had to see it for himself. Given how many people had wanted to take the course, we had a strict policy not to allow latecomers into the workshop, but we waived it for this gentlemen, because we were so taken by his story and by the hardship he had endured to join us.

We waived the policy for another reason as well. It is decidedly not politically correct to say so, but we also allowed this teacher into the class because he was ... old. He claimed to be over 70, but said he wasn't exactly sure of his exact birthdate, other than that it had occurred on a Friday. While my Ghanaian colleagues expressed some skepticism that this fellow was actually as old as he claimed, there was no doubt that he was decades older than any of us in the room. He was an English teacher, he said, noting that he had heard that it was possible to get access to all of Shakespeare's plays on the Internet, for free, and wanted to see how this was possible. A computer became available (the teachers using it had been frustrated that poor bandwidth kept interrupting their CU-SeeMe session and so decided to return to the dormitory before dinner), so we sat down, fired up Alta Vista, and typed in <<Shakespeare's plays>>.

After scanning the search results, one of the young teachers grabbed a mouse and pointed, clicked and scrolled her way through play after play after play. The older teacher was simply flabbergasted. He said something to the effect of, "Now I have seen everything. It has been my dream as an English teacher to be able to read all of Shakespeare's plays. Now all teachers will be able to do this. Education will change forever." We kept the computer lab open for a while so that he could be assured that all of them were indeed there ("There's Hamlet! The Tempest. Coriolanus!"); he promised that he would be the first one at the lab door once we opened the following morning. As we were shutting things down, he articulated a concern that I would hear voiced hundreds of times in the coming years, in many variations:

It would be very exciting for me to be a young teacher today now that the Internet is coming. But I am glad that I am not a young teacher, because I fear that these computers will eventually replace us teachers.

Will technology replace teachers?

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Out-of-school children: a promise yet to be fulfilled

Quentin Wodon's picture



Today, as the Millennium Development Goals draw to a close and the development community is thinking of new development targets, many children are not learning in school. But, in addition, more than 120 million children and young adolescents still remain out of school. That is almost one in ten children of primary school age, and one in seven children of lower secondary school age. For these children, the right to education remains a distant dream.

Can teachers unions help improve the quality of education in the Arab world?

Kamel Braham's picture


In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and in fact around the world, teachers—who play a pivotal role in any effort to improve education quality—have not been officially represented in the design of key government programs aimed at education reform.

Don’t give up on student loans: The changing patterns of returns to schooling and policy implications

Harry A. Patrinos's picture


The latest evidence on the private rates of returns to schooling shows that the returns to primary education are no longer the highest, having been surpassed by tertiary education. In my blog, Make the Rich Pay for University: Changing Patterns of Returns to Schooling, I argue that this suggests three things:

The PISA for Development initiative moves forward: Have my wishes been fulfilled?

Marguerite Clarke's picture



About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog about the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) PISA for Development initiative.
 
Most of us are already familiar with the OECD’s PISA exercise, which is a test that assesses the reading, mathematics, and science competencies of 15-year olds around the world. The aim of PISA for Development is to identify how PISA can support evidence-based policy making in developing countries that, until now, have been unable or unwilling to participate. The expected outcome is to produce a set of enhanced student assessment instruments that are tailored to the needs of these countries, but which also produce reading, mathematics, and science scores on the same scale as the main PISA survey. In that earlier blog, I made three wishes for the initiative. 

Have any of my wishes been fulfilled?

Youth Voices: Effects of The Spaghetti Bowl on South Asia-East Asia Trade Relations

Osama Sajid's picture

As part of the organizing team for the South Asian Economics Student’s Meet (SAESM’13) in Lahore, Pakistan, I already had an overview of what it was like to be part of the SAESM family. The idea behind the first annual conference in 2003 was to provide a platform for the South Asian undergraduate students of economics to interact with each other, exchange ideas, and discuss economic issues in an out of class environment. Participants either write a research paper and present it, or take part in a multiple round competition to contest for the honor of being The Budding Economist of South Asia. In addition, SAESM gives an opportunity to establish cross border friendships and create memories that last a life time. So as soon as the applications for SAESM’14 (Bhutan) opened, I applied to be a part of the Pakistani delegation, and was selected after an academically challenging interview.

I decided to write my research paper on the sub-theme ‘South Asia in Global Perspective’. A lot of hard work, with numerous nights skimming relevant papers, articles and publications led me to narrow down the topic to ‘Impact evaluation of Spaghetti Bowl Effect on South Asia-East Asia trade relations’.


The Impact of Education Management Information Systems: The Case of Afghanistan

Samantha de Silva's picture


In some fragile states, where the education sector has faced direct attack, physical monitoring of development programs becomes a hugely complex and dangerous task. In this context, Afghanistan is an excellent example of how investment in Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) can strengthen overall monitoring systems in a country.  In some provinces, there has been an improvement in accountability and transparency but challenges remain.    

The Great Challenge in Tertiary Education: Is it really just about the fees?

Francisco Marmolejo's picture



The title of the recent blog written by my colleague Harry Patrinos couldn’t be more direct and clear: “Make the Rich Pay for University”! This is an idea that makes sense. However, is this idea as easy to implement as it sounds? Are there any disadvantages or limitations? What is the rationale used in countries that have opted for the opposite direction?

This Week in #SouthAsiaDev: February 6th, 2015

Mary Ongwen's picture

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