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One Laptop Per Child Fatally Flawed? January 7, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Geopolitics, Science & Technology.
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NussbaumOnDesign One Laptop Per Child Versus Intel–Who Speaks for India and China? – BusinessWeek
China and India together have almost 50% of the children in the world. I think the educational establishments in India, China, Nigeria and other nations are rejecting the olpc approach because they feel insulted and misused. One Indian professor told me recently in Bangalore that sure, India has a rote educational system that is the anti-thesis of experiential learning but it has brought 200 million out of poverty in a decade so what’s so wrong with that? And China has brought half a billion people out of poverty within a rote educational system.

In fact, as I think about it, if your economic advantage is efficiency–to do the same things again and again at lower costs– a rote education system may be the right one for you at this time in history. China does this through manufacturing low-cost goods for export and India does this through low-cost services for US, European and other Western global corporations.

Say what you will about Intel’s commercial actions, it’s approach to education in poor villages has been to work with teachers on the ground, training them and creating local curricula. Yes, I know olpc is doing some of that in Brazil, but it’s major thrust is to bypass teachers, not co-create with them. Intel’s success, if it has much, may well turn out to be that it embraces the local educational establishment in both its pedagogy and its business model, while olpc does the opposite.

The disaster at olpc has many lessons. One of the most important is that, despite good intentions, technology, design and innovation by themselves cannot solve problems if they ignore local culture and history. The XO laptop for the world’s poorest children is being rejected by India, China and Nigeria as yet another form of foreign Western colonialism. And it is.

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