I find it astounding to consider some of the things that are now possible through technology. It's hard to believe how far the world has come in a relatively short time.
I think the year was 1970 when I received as a birthday gift my first calculator. It could multiply, divide...even calculate square roots. And it had a "floating decimal" It was a bit of a luxury, costing as it did just under $200.
Now a calculator like that comes as a free trinket in a corn flakes box!
It all moves so quickly. Computers are getting smarter and smarter. Will they ever be able to think for themselves? Apparently, the answer to this question is a resounding "yes", and this bothers me a great deal.
Because when I consider the manner in which so many children in this country are force-fed information under the guise of "education", I am compelled to ask a question:
"Does it make any sense at all to develop machines that can think for themselves and people that can't?"
I am pretty sure this post is redundant, because I have already sent an e-mail.
Monday, October 17th, will be the first day on which the school's doors will close at 07.45. All children who arrive at school after 07.45 will be sent home.
Please make sure your kids are here in time.
We talk a lot about preparing our students for the world they will inhabit. All schools do. But do we know what that world will look like?
A child in Early Years will be at the peak of his/her career in 2050 - 2055. Do we have any idea what the world will look like in 2050? These days, looking even five years ahead is a perilous endeavour. The truth is that we have little idea what 2021 will look like, let alone 2050. And when we try to predict what 2021 will be like, it's usually pretty scary!
2050 will be different. That much is certain. It will be different in ways we cannot imagine. The noted futurist Ian Jukes claims that the quantity of information in the world doubles every 73 days (i.e. five times a year). So this time next year we should be in a world with 32 times as much information - that's a little disquieting. In two years time, 1,024 times as much information - that's a bit frightening. If you do the Math, by 2050 the world should contain two nonillion (that's two, followed by thirty zeros) times as much information.
And that's if the current rate of increase in information remains the same. According to Jukes, it's accelerating, and will continue to do so. So two nonillion is a conservative estimate!
How do we prepare children for this future when, to be honest, we haven't a clue what it will look like? We cannot prepare them for a specific set of conditions because we don't know what those conditions will be, but we do know they will be very, very different.
We must prepare our kids for a constantly and rapidly changing world. We must make them into confident, creative and adaptive learners who will thrive in a rapidly changing environment. We must teach them to be joyful learners, so they never stop learning.
And I believe we should look at what will not change. I believe that things like integrity, humility, compassion, courage and perseverance will serve them as well in thirty years time as they do now. I think that good people will still be good people.
I believe that content-based curricula will disappear. So much of what we are currently teaching will be irrelevant. It's happening already. I can use logarithm tables to help me with multiplication and division. Not very useful. I was taught to use a slide rule - why? I can do long division. I never do, but I can. I can recite the first two lines of the periodic table.
It's fun to read about some of the next-generation technology possibilities. Driverless cars - we're all used to that idea, although I must confess I'm not sure about how they would work in Mumbai. What about micro-chip processors that can be implanted in the nasal passages, and allow us to simultaneously translate spoken foreign languages? Will they come? Should we continue to teach French?
At a conference recently, I was in a group of heads that was asked "What things should we drop from our current curricula?" A lady I have enormous respect for responded immediately "Anything that can be done by a machine".
I can see where she's coming from, but my conservative nature makes it hard for me to agree with her. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your comments.
Deputy Head of School
Recently, Neil and I were having a conversation about this blog. As we are both new to blogging, we just sort of hopped in with both feet, not really thinking too much about how we would use this space. However, we did know that, with the demise of the monthly school newsletter, we wanted to make this a must-read space and attract as many subscriptions and comments as we could.
And here’s why: At one point last year, we asked our Communications Team to track the number of times that the monthly newsletter had been opened from our website. During that particular month, the data seemed to indicate that we had a whopping readership of…10.
Therefore, it was soothing to our egos to discover the other day that all OIS blogs have had just over 3,000 views since we went live a couple of weeks ago. We are most interested, however, in subscriptions, and at the current time, there are 50-odd parents who have subscribed to the Heads of School blog. We would like more of you to make this part of your regular reading, and as a result we have had a re-think about how we can best use this space.
Now that we have been blogging for a few weeks, we have decided to continue to use the daily School Announcements sent via email for the “nuts & bolts” stuff: event reminders, operational notices, reminders, health and safety alerts, and things of that sort. Given the high attendance at Neil’s Coffee Mornings, it seems like the blog is a good place to continue the conversation about some of those big ideas that he spoke about…things like how we can best prepare our kids to be happy, successful adults…the nature of education in the 21st century…the things that we hold dear as a school community…and the list goes on and on.
In Neil’s first post, he mentioned our collaborative approach to leadership. We make a very interesting team, Neil and I. He has been a school head for “donkey’s years” (I love that expression!) and has a story for every situation, which to me is a true indicator of wisdom and experience. I am at the other end of the spectrum: This is my first position as a senior-level administrator, and every day at OIS is a learning experience for me. You could say that our level of experience is reflected in the number of posts here: by my count, Neil has contributed 6 posts to my 2…and that seems about right.
In any event, we will do our best to encourage you to stop by our blog as frequently as possible. I am hopeful that we will entertain you, inform you, and help you think a bit more deeply. We welcome comments as it helps to keep the conversation going, and we will do our best to reply whenever appropriate.
Thanks for reading, and please do click on the “subscribe!”
Congratulations! This morning every one of the 31 OIS buses arrived before 07.45. The buses went around their routes as designed, without waiting for latecomers - just like normal public transport.
This morning one of the OIS parents sent me an e-mail she had sent to the school four years ago. In this original e-mail, she protested against the situation where her kids were at the pickup point every morning at the right time, and yet day after day they arrived late to school because the bus had waited at the other stops until everyone had made their way downstairs. In the e-mail she made some very relevant points, which I will quote here:
"Waiting for latecomers is equivalent to a reward for unpunctuality and serves as a positive reinforcement for coming late.
Making punctual students wait is equivalent to a punishment for punctuality, and serves as a negative reinforcement for being on time"
I think this lady has a point, don't you?
Anyway, congratulations OIS. Every bus here before 07.45, for the very first time this year. We're getting there!!!
A small child laughs, on average, 400 times a day.
An adult laughs, on average, 7 times a day.
I wonder what happens as we get older to make us so grumpy?
I spent the weekend in Delhi, at the TAISI (The Association of International Schools in India) conference. The theme of the conference was the role of design and design thinking in education, and much of the talk was of the inadequacy of the current, exam-driven system.
I heard about a fascinating experiment which took place early this academic year in the USA, at one of the more prestigious private schools. In this experiment, grade 11 students were required to retake their final grade 10 science test, exactly three months after they took the test for the first time. (The students were not given any notice of the re-take)
First time they took the test, the average grade was B+
Second time they took the test, the average grade was F.
This is why I hesitate to equate exam grades with learning.
Today, all buses were instructed to not wait for kids who were late. The buses were not to leave any of the pickup points before the pickup time, but they were not to wait for kids who were not there at pickup time.
What a difference this has made to the arrival times! Almost all the buses were at school by 07.45 - I think only two were late, and only by a couple of minutes. More importantly, we knew that for any bus child who was late, it was not the fault of the child - he had been where he was supposed to be at the time he was supposed to be there. When our "Closing-the-door-at-07.45" plan becomes operational, those children will be given passes to allow them to enter the building.
Of course, there are still those parents who are unwilling to comply. The Oberoi Spring route is a good example. I believe there are three stops at Oberoi Spring. At the first stop, not all the kids were there at the pickup time, so the driver did as he had been instructed. He went on to the next stop, kids were on time there, then on to the third stop where again everyone was waiting.
Then he proceeded to the main gate to leave the complex, but he was not allowed to leave. Why? Because the parent whose kids were late at the first stop had contacted the main gate and got security to stop the bus, turn it around, and send it back to the first pickup!!!!! (note: This will only work once)
But the good news is that almost all the buses were significantly earlier this morning, and we had a better, smoother start to the day's learning. So well done bus parents! So much better, and all it took was being on time at the pickup.