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  • Well, that's kind of an obvious statement up there.

  • I started with that sentence about 12 years ago,

  • and I started in the context

  • of developing countries,

  • but you're sitting here from every corner of the world.

  • So if you think of a map of your country,

  • I think you'll realize

  • that for every country on Earth,

  • you could draw little circles to say,

  • "These are places where good teachers won't go."

  • On top of that,

  • those are the places from where trouble comes.

  • So we have an ironic problem --

  • good teachers don't want to go

  • to just those places where they're needed the most.

  • I started in 1999

  • to try and address this problem with an experiment,

  • which was a very simple experiment in New Delhi.

  • I basically embedded a computer

  • into a wall of a slum in New Delhi.

  • The children barely went to school, they didn't know any English --

  • they'd never seen a computer before,

  • and they didn't know what the internet was.

  • I connected high speed internet to it -- it's about three feet off the ground --

  • turned it on and left it there.

  • After this,

  • we noticed a couple of interesting things, which you'll see.

  • But I repeated this all over India

  • and then through

  • a large part of the world

  • and noticed

  • that children will learn to do

  • what they want to learn to do.

  • This is the first experiment that we did --

  • eight year-old boy on your right

  • teaching his student, a six year-old girl,

  • and he was teaching her how to browse.

  • This boy here in the middle of central India --

  • this is in a Rajasthan village,

  • where the children recorded their own music

  • and then played it back to each other

  • and in the process,

  • they've enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

  • They did all of this in four hours

  • after seeing the computer for the first time.

  • In another South Indian village,

  • these boys here

  • had assembled a video camera

  • and were trying to take the photograph of a bumble bee.

  • They downloaded it from Disney.com,

  • or one of these websites,

  • 14 days after putting the computer in their village.

  • So at the end of it,

  • we concluded that groups of children

  • can learn to use computers and the internet on their own,

  • irrespective of who

  • or where they were.

  • At that point, I became a little more ambitious

  • and decided to see

  • what else could children do with a computer.

  • We started off with an experiment in Hyderabad, India,

  • where I gave a group of children --

  • they spoke English with a very strong Telugu accent.

  • I gave them a computer

  • with a speech-to-text interface,

  • which you now get free with Windows,

  • and asked them to speak into it.

  • So when they spoke into it,

  • the computer typed out gibberish,

  • so they said, "Well, it doesn't understand anything of what we are saying."

  • So I said, "Yeah, I'll leave it here for two months.

  • Make yourself understood

  • to the computer."

  • So the children said, "How do we do that."

  • And I said,

  • "I don't know, actually."

  • (Laughter)

  • And I left.

  • (Laughter)

  • Two months later --

  • and this is now documented

  • in the Information Technology

  • for International Development journal --

  • that accents had changed

  • and were remarkably close to the neutral British accent

  • in which I had trained the speech-to-text synthesizer.

  • In other words, they were all speaking like James Tooley.

  • (Laughter)

  • So they could do that on their own.

  • After that, I started to experiment

  • with various other things

  • that they might learn to do on their own.

  • I got an interesting phone call once from Columbo,

  • from the late Arthur C. Clarke,

  • who said, "I want to see what's going on."

  • And he couldn't travel, so I went over there.

  • He said two interesting things,

  • "A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be."

  • (Laughter)

  • The second thing he said was that,

  • "If children have interest,

  • then education happens."

  • And I was doing that in the field,

  • so every time I would watch it and think of him.

  • (Video) Arthur C. Clarke: And they can definitely

  • help people,

  • because children quickly learn to navigate

  • the web and find things which interest them.

  • And when you've got interest, then you have education.

  • Sugata Mitra: I took the experiment to South Africa.

  • This is a 15 year-old boy.

  • (Video) Boy: ... just mention, I play games

  • like animals,

  • and I listen to music.

  • SM: And I asked him, "Do you send emails?"

  • And he said, "Yes, and they hop across the ocean."

  • This is in Cambodia,

  • rural Cambodia --

  • a fairly silly arithmetic game,

  • which no child would play inside the classroom or at home.

  • They would, you know, throw it back at you.

  • They'd say, "This is very boring."

  • If you leave it on the pavement

  • and if all the adults go away,

  • then they will show off with each other

  • about what they can do.

  • This is what these children are doing.

  • They are trying to multiply, I think.

  • And all over India,

  • at the end of about two years,

  • children were beginning to Google their homework.

  • As a result, the teachers reported

  • tremendous improvements in their English --

  • (Laughter)

  • rapid improvement and all sorts of things.

  • They said, "They have become really deep thinkers and so on and so forth.

  • (Laughter)

  • And indeed they had.

  • I mean, if there's stuff on Google,

  • why would you need to stuff it into your head?

  • So at the end of the next four years,

  • I decided that groups of children can navigate the internet

  • to achieve educational objectives on their own.

  • At that time, a large amount of money

  • had come into Newcastle University

  • to improve schooling in India.

  • So Newcastle gave me a call. I said, "I'll do it from Delhi."

  • They said, "There's no way you're going to handle

  • a million pounds-worth of University money

  • sitting in Delhi."

  • So in 2006,

  • I bought myself a heavy overcoat

  • and moved to Newcastle.

  • I wanted to test the limits

  • of the system.

  • The first experiment I did out of Newcastle

  • was actually done in India.

  • And I set myself and impossible target:

  • can Tamil speaking

  • 12-year-old children

  • in a South Indian village

  • teach themselves biotechnology

  • in English on their own?

  • And I thought, I'll test them, they'll get a zero --

  • I'll give the materials, I'll come back and test them --

  • they get another zero,

  • I'll go back and say, "Yes, we need teachers for certain things."

  • I called in 26 children.

  • They all came in there, and I told them

  • that there's some really difficult stuff on this computer.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't understand anything.

  • It's all in English, and I'm going.

  • (Laughter)

  • So I left them with it.

  • I came back after two months,

  • and the 26 children marched in looking very, very quiet.

  • I said, "Well, did you look at any of the stuff?"

  • They said, "Yes, we did."

  • "Did you understand anything?" "No, nothing."

  • So I said,

  • "Well, how long did you practice on it

  • before you decided you understood nothing?"

  • They said, "We look at it every day."

  • So I said, "For two months, you were looking at stuff you didn't understand?"

  • So a 12 year-old girl raises her hand and says,

  • literally,

  • "Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecule

  • causes genetic disease,

  • we've understood nothing else."

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • (Laughter)

  • It took me three years to publish that.

  • It's just been published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

  • One of the referees who refereed the paper said,

  • "It's too good to be true,"

  • which was not very nice.

  • Well, one of the girls had taught herself

  • to become the teacher.

  • And then that's her over there.

  • Remember, they don't study English.

  • I edited out the last bit when I asked, "Where is the neuron?"

  • and she says, "The neuron? The neuron,"

  • and then she looked and did this.

  • Whatever the expression, it was not very nice.

  • So their scores had gone up from zero to 30 percent,

  • which is an educational impossibility under the circumstances.

  • But 30 percent is not a pass.

  • So I found that they had a friend,

  • a local accountant, a young girl,

  • and they played football with her.

  • I asked that girl, "Would you teach them

  • enough biotechnology to pass?"

  • And she said, "How would I do that? I don't know the subject."

  • I said, "No, use the method of the grandmother."

  • She said, "What's that?"

  • I said, "Well, what you've got to do

  • is stand behind them

  • and admire them all the time.

  • Just say to them, 'That's cool. That's fantastic.

  • What is that? Can you do that again? Can you show me some more?'"

  • She did that for two months.

  • The scores went up to 50,

  • which is what the posh schools of New Delhi,

  • with a trained biotechnology teacher were getting.

  • So I came back to Newcastle

  • with these results

  • and decided

  • that there was something happening here

  • that definitely was getting very serious.

  • So, having experimented in all sorts of remote places,

  • I came to the most remote place that I could think of.

  • (Laughter)

  • Approximately 5,000 miles from Delhi

  • is the little town of Gateshead.

  • In Gateshead, I took 32 children

  • and I started to fine-tune the method.

  • I made them into groups of four.

  • I said, "You make your own groups of four.

  • Each group of four can use one computer and not four computers."

  • Remember, from the Hole in the Wall.

  • "You can exchange groups.

  • You can walk across to another group,

  • if you don't like your group, etc.

  • You can go to another group, peer over their shoulders, see what they're doing,

  • come back to you own group and claim it as your own work."

  • And I explained to them

  • that, you know, a lot of scientific research is done using that method.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • The children enthusiastically got after me and said,

  • "Now, what do you want us to do?"

  • I gave them six GCSE questions.

  • The first group -- the best one --

  • solved everything in 20 minutes.

  • The worst, in 45.

  • They used everything that they knew --