(click here if you can’t see the video)
This is simply mind-boggling. Gordon Brown just promised to hire 750,000 Indian teachers to teach English to 1,000,000,000 Chinese, via the web. I have criticised the guy in the past for lack of vision, but I unreservedly withdraw that now. Whether the Chinese will welcome this, or see it as the biggest exercise in cultural imperialism since the Opium Wars, has yet to be seen.
Let’s unpack one of the consequences of this. The programme is 15 times bigger than the entire UK school system (50k teachers). And it’s entirely online. If it can be done in China, at that scale, it’s impossible to argue that it should not be done here too, where we have much better infrastructure. Not unless Gordon is prepared to stand up at a Beijing banquet next month and say “well elearning is good enough for you lot, but we won’t do it at home”.
So is he going to wind up the British school system? Sack all the the teachers and re-hire in India? Well no, of course he’s not. But this does auger well for a much more radical embracing of new technology than the current feeble ‘schools of the future‘ initiative.
I have often been critical of technology adoption in education because it’s been structured to look like change without actually changing anything. This is different. Technology has created an opportunity to do something really radically new: turn the world’s existing most popular second language into a true lingua franca. I’m just enormously cheered that the government would go for something so bold, and I really look forward to the same scale of thinking being applied to education here in the UK.