Teacher Outsourcing Begins

This story from the New York Times:

LONDON — Once a week, year six pupils at Ashmount Primary School in North London settle in front of their computers, put on their headsets and get ready for their math class. A few minutes later, their teachers come online thousands of kilometers away in the Indian state of Punjab.

So.  A few kids at a few schools get online tutoring from teachers in India.  But at a fraction of the cost of British teachers, and at a fraction of the infrastructure demands of a full-scale school.

This is the place where Sugata Mitra’s SOLE system comes in handy, where a four-or-five screen computer station, with room for twenty kids working in groups, and a screen for the “grandmother cloud” to come into the space, and an interactive whiteboard that lets the tutor and the students communicate with one another…

As Arthur C. Clarke said, and Sugata transmitted to us:

If a teacher can be replaced with a computer, he should be.

We’re looking at the leading edge of this potential. The question is, what will be left of our public school system if (when) we go to this kind of a model?

The time has come for us and our colleagues to start investing heavily in our own learning — not the rote, packaged learning of the universities, but in the value-added experiential learning that can’t be done in front of the computer.  Hands-on, artisanal, differentiated instruction that can’t be performed in front of video cameras and screens in an effective way.

Because apparently, not even biotechnology is going to be an exclusive form of in-person content.

This process can be expected — not merely to continue — but to accelerate.  Teachers in the United States have it as good as it’s going to get right now, unless we’re in the forefront of transforming education.

Because if it’s going to be drill-and-kill, then that can be done by Indian works at half or a quarter of U.S. unionized teacher costs.  Even if Indian wages rise by a third, the cost of this sort of program will still be lower than in-person teaching in the U.S.  This breaks the bargaining power of unions, pushes the labor costs down for schools, and pushes the infrastructure costs of the individual schools down.

Maybe it’s a far-fetched scenario.  Maybe it has a ten-year timeline. Maybe it’s twenty years.

Maybe it’s three.

How long did it take for the music and television industries to undergo transformation?

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  1. Dear Mr. Watt,
    I was talking about the video Peter said his dad made. It just made me think of that video. I still think it seems like nonsense.

  2. Dear Mr. Watt,
    I would suggest posting that video you showed us in class. The concept of online school seems rather unfair to teachers and students alike. The students will not meet with new children to socializd and the teachers will have to find a new obligation. No sense at all.

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