Mahadevan Venkatakrishnan

Founder & Managing Member,

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Another Groundshifting Opportunity - Can we make Education free?

With significant amount of distilled knowledge base already available across the world in easy to access formats, plus the growing population which is either unemployed or possess a volunteering mindset, if we create an online mechanism where children across the world learn for free - will this not reduce drop out rates, bridge knowledge gap and help the poor look to a better future?

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    Jul 2 2011: We must make education free to people at least to age 18 in all countries.
    Education must not be provided as a means to indoctrinate children to Religion as the Rule of law.
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    Jun 22 2011: Education is based on two misunderstanding:
    -scarcity of the expert ; was true 5000 years ago , is NOT true today
    what is scarce is not know how , but teaching/coaching methodology
    -need of discipline , in terms of restricting people into space and time , to "force" them to learn.
    ANother false assumption today
    Both assumption are self-replicated by human ego and illusion of conquering the mind of childrens , before they
    get in control : the foundation of both Islamic , and Christian method. and all of the "religion" of the world.
    Today , with NO scarce know-how , no need to restrict space and time , and technology ubiquity we can design a NEW education , or , better , learning process , through which knowledge should be offered , for free , to everybody that , voluntarely want to acces it.!! This will boost learning productivity , create some inequality ,
    BUT , if we will make concepts of LEARNING METHODS (NOT TEACHING !!!!!) available to everybody , this will change the landscape.
    The new Mozart of this world will always bubble up .
    And the Einstein of this world will mature , later , (ALbert was graded insufficient in math , when he was young..)
    Learning is a step function , not linear , and the illusion of the school system is false , and dangerous , in fact it ruin the life of thousands..
    The re-design effort is humongous , and will probably take centuries........ or months
    We should follow the web model. Millions of part time learner supporter , can do better than few professors.
    GO and visit the Masie Center web-site.
    and Good luck.
    Dott. Prof. Alberto Bazzan
  • Jun 25 2011: This would be relatively easy for any western govenment to pay for. The choice not to, I would imagine, is based around the saying "knowledge is power"
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      Jun 29 2011: The power lies in the hands of the people, especially in democracies. This turns the question into: "When it comes to development aid, why do the people of the UK refuse to invest into online education portals instead of doubtful payments and shipments? Why do the German people? Why do the American people?"

      What incentive does the individual have to help? Is he really interested in sustainable change? Or is his intention merely to purchase a nice conscience and favorable self-image? I know people who openly state that its the act of giving that matters to them, not whether the money actually ends up where it was promised to. But I think that this mindset applies to many more, only that the other people just don't admit it openly.

      The "problem" with making non-material offers is that it doesn't provide the same emotional gain compared to patronizing spendings. I say this is the real reason why any Western peoples refuse to provide actual help on a large scale.

      Note that there are non-governmental projects that go into this direction. Wikipedia is surely the most prominent example for this, but there are many more which are less well-known. However, these are the works of only a fraction of the people. The campaigns by their political representations are not going into this direction at all, because that's not what the members of the society want. And unless these citizens change their minds, why should their representatives (!) do so?
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      Jun 29 2011: Jack, your comment mistakenly assumes that western governments have great educational systems. By your argument, they have the money and desire for power so they should have great educational systems. Unfortunately, they do not. The discussions about education here in TED should be evidence enough of that.

      Its not a matter of money. Teaching is not so simple. Online courses are only a part of the solution and do not work for many learning styles.
  • Jun 25 2011: Education IS free : it's called the internet.

    It is a limitless resource of facts, opinions, and content, and it's constantly growing. Already you can google just about, anything, and get at least a result--if not satisfying information. As technology becomes more and more efficient, and as new generations grow more and more tech-savvy, the internet can only become a better spreader of knowledge.
    Institutionalized education is seriously passe; it has to fall apart soon. There's simply no need for it! After obtaining a very basic skill-set that allows you to learn on your own and function in society (maybe first grade), then school is nothing but unnecessary and even detrimental to a person's acquisition of knowledge. Everything you ever learned in college, high school, and prior is available--and much more.

    Besides, let's face the competency of the vast majority of teachers.."Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching."

    As for great lessons, influential teachers, and unique learning experiences, there may be no substitute, but really, isn't it ideal to take in information from various and as many sources as possible, and then come to your own conclusion on something?

    But, if you had a great time in high school and you sat through every class hanging onto your teacher's every word, and all those words really meant something and you had a great learning experience, then by all means object .
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    Jun 19 2011: I think it would be a fantastic idea and would, like you said help the poor to look for a better future. However, the reality is that not only getting computers, the poor would also need to have the net available to them which could be a problem for most do not even have electicity or electricity that isn't reliable. But besides this, I think some governments would not welcome it at all. There are many out there who don't want its people to beducated, for then they would begin to "think" and that would lead to rebellion. So how would these problems be solved?

    So a great idea YES....and could it work? YES.... but maybe not as you would like to envision it. However, if you do get this going, you can count of me to help as I am retiring next year and don't quite know yet where my next path will lead!
    • Jun 25 2011: Its a Noble Idea!!!!
      I agree with Linda: the "poor" in developing countries do not have access to even the basic necessities of life, for them,computers and internet are nothing more than a fiction.Go to the interiors of rural world you will see the world so different than our "perceptions" and "maps" change. To educate the poor one has to go the field and work with the conventional methods before graduating to use of innovations in technology.
      Presently, this idea is noble and great but ahead of its time.
      Good luck with the idea,its ideas which transformed the world.
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        Jun 25 2011: thank you. i am sure this idea will come true one day, and when it does it WILL transform this whole civilization. And i don't think it is ahead of time. The time is just right - look at the whole world situation now. The hardest hit are the poor of the poor. And without even the basic education, they are left to suffer silently by the educated mass - all of us who fortunately had access to some form of education. Like someone said, 'Education is a fundamental right. Educating is noble. Only the educated are free!' Let's work towards making education free.
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    Jul 15 2011: I guess education is free already with the current information flow available to all
    may be you mean if certifications get to be free

    what is a certificate?
    it is a some sort of guarantee that the person, in question, is qualified to performing certain tasks based on certain standards

    I don't think this can be free, what is education currently but a mechanism for money circulation?
    if there is no money, the mechanism will fall down dead
    who runs the system but organizations seeking profit, and more profits under the title of better facilities
    I think, the motive should change, for the organizations running education, the motive was monetary driven, I really don't know how to change that
  • Jul 1 2011: Education is already free. I can learn more from the internet than sitting 8 hours in school.

    The problem is 1) There is no accreditation. Even if i learn everything on the net there is no company, school or government institution that will accept my credentials.

    2)Real learning can not be paid for. How do you learn to cut wood, ride a motorbike, sew? You don't learn that online or from a teacher. You have to do it yourself. Experience is something not even the internet can do.

    3)The teachers union are strong. They won't work for free. Football coaches are stronger they get paid loads.
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      Jul 1 2011: Someone paid for the internet, and the tool you are using it on. :-P

      1.) Agreed
      2.) Agreed, mechanical education is important.
      3.) Support unions
  • Jun 30 2011: I recently came across a site called:

    They post lectures by professors from various universities free of charge. It would be interesting to know their business model.
  • Jun 23 2011: You have to define education if you want a good answer.

    I would argue that true education is free. Every time you meet someone new you are learning something about the world that is valuable. Life experiences is true education.

    But as far as writing, arithmetic and reading, I think that the internet is a great tool for children, but can you learn how to read by reading? Can you learn math without someone answering your questions?

    Free online lessons already exist. But I dare you to study a subject you've never even heard of and learn about it purely by reading posts online. There will always be a need for a teacher or inspiration.
  • Jun 22 2011: There is enough material and technology available to make education - both knowledge and experience based - available to every child next to free. If the political and education mafia allows that - that is. This is not really an issue of volunteers or ( of course that matters ) but of a fundamental shift in priorities. Much like our fascination with Green Planet - we miss the woods for the trees. If we educate our population it will be easier to manage fundamentals at a global level. Education and Health ( along with right to clean drinking water and hygienic toilets ) must be made available free to all. Experiments showcased here at TED shows how children who never saw a computer - when exposed to one without ANY intervention - figured how to use it within days. All we need is to make the content available in an interactive framework and the will to educate the child, then it can happen. This however is not a desirable goal for the ruling class all over the world. An educated population is not exactly easy to manage. Look at the largest democracies US and India and you will see the serious lack of will to educate every citizen.
  • Jun 21 2011: Hinduism has a very interesting concept, it urges you to learn from everyone, it also states that everyone has something that they can teach. If we embrace this ideology, education will become free. This will ofcourse not award us certificates or degrees. A point to ponder here would be, are certificates / degrees equivalent to education?

    To answer more specifically, Yes, I agree that we should all cultivate a culture that believes in educating any who are willing to learn. However, I am a bit skeptical if this alone will help reduce drop out rates or give the poor a better future. These I believe are a result of too much importance being assigned to paper degrees and not education.
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      Jun 21 2011: Chandramouli
      I think you hit on a crucial point of separating education from degrees. I would consider degrees a form of education but not equivalent to education as it make up a small part.
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    Jun 21 2011: First, nothing is free. Everything has a price. Personally, I would volunteer my time to help implement an universal education system.

    Education cannot be "free", in reference to your idea, people would have to give up time to help so they are giving up money by helping so truly education does cost something. It cost sweat, tears, and anxiety for both teachers' who educate and students who learn.

    All kids having tablets (personal computers of some sorts), and the teacher using the internet to it's fullest potential for information/education in all fields of academia (or a better system, not academia-like).

    This will education cheaper and more effective to give to all children in the world. Just need wi-fi or some form of wireless internet. These are not expensive ideas.

    One year of text books cost as much as laptops' cost today in America. The biggest cost of implementing this education globally would be building the facilitates, hiring the teachers, and organizing the lessons (their would need to be people hired to create simple, fun and informative educations, or their should be).


    The internet is where kids can learn "free" or really cheap-like. There are already people who volunteer time and effort to helping others learn, and do upload it on the internet. Any lesson you would like, search it.

    All we (people) need to do is to give every kid internet with a "cognitive awareness" teacher.

    A teacher who understand both psychology and neurology in regards to how we learn and receive information, and also to practice/discipline in logical reasoning, critical thinking, and "skepticism".

    What do think?

    Just my thoughts.

    There are other conversations like these already made, should go read through them.
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    Jun 20 2011: Mahadevan, since you are already researching your idea for one year now, I surmise you have already scoured many books and the internet in firming up your project. I think it would be a great idea to distill all the TED talks and conversatons that can relate to education and gain a deeper insight into a more effective and efficient education system. I think Simone is planning a similar project and other fellow TEDster's professional background like Linda's can also help. We might need a more focused process of our discussions and you or TED can probably open a separate discussion forum. What do you think fellow TEDsters?

    We all know that education has a foundational impact to ourselves and to the world and I think that all efforts that we can give in these area, be it in our current educational systems or a groundshifting idea like Mahadevan's, have an exponential impact.

    Mahadevan's idea have a great potential today because of current 2 billion internet users (and growing) and the many educated professionals like TEDsters around the world. There are some crucial legacies that we can impart to our world and a good education is one of them.

    Like the many of the issues around us, they all deal with the two resource of our powers - our humanism and our minds aggregated by systems that we enable. Our academic education today need to be supported more by cultural education or we end up with systemic problems like consumerism or its ultimate effect in inequalities and unsustainability. We reinforce our family structures because of its crucial support in early education like Linda noted, among many other vital benefits that a good family provide.

    At any stage of our lives continuing education like what TED is doing (spreading worthy ideas), is always crucial in transforming our world. Education is an important part of our solution strategies to right our planet.
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      Jun 20 2011: You are right Joe. I think I will open a discussion forum with help from TEDsters. It will capture the learnings/thoughts/ideas and bring together the people across the world. I am sure i cannot do it alone and will need hundreds of thousands of hands, legs and minds! Thank you for your support. Good day.
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    Jun 18 2011: When it comes to education, I'm always thinking about autodidacticism and how it is not sufficiently integrated into western educational systems. Although I don't think teachers are "bottle-necks", I do believe there need to be more ways to encourage self-motivated learning processes, because in fact, learning gets a lot harder when you're out of school: you're not forced to do it any longer and there is no generalized system with "levels" of education you can achieve. Speaking of levels: I think modern technologies like the internet, but especially e-readers and cheap laptops, can make a change -- if we find a way how to encourage, remunerate and value education and knowledge.
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    Jun 18 2011: Education is already practically free and has been for a long time if one has the will. Consider that Abraham Lincoln had less than two years of formal education. We run into problems when my or my children's education becomes somebody else's problem rather than mine, and we value expensive degrees and paper more than thought and accomplishment.

    Assuming you have rudimentary skills like reading, which one should be able to learn from parents, I think this is as a fine a jumping off point for an education as any:
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      Jun 19 2011: Agree with you Mark, and the world now is actually moving toward free education, but we should seek for a better mechanism & indeed a more effort is needed to achieve Venkatakrishnan's wonderfull Idea.
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      Jun 19 2011: Mark, funny (but not the ha ha kind!) that you mentioned Emerson and his Self-Reliance as a jumping off point, as when my students critiqued my class last year, many suggested that I begin with this and not wait until I hit the Transcendental Era. They not only felt empowered by his words, but they also felt closer to their peers as I had set up the room in an inmate semi-circle with desks close together and chairs snugged up to them so they could share desk space with me in the middle, and it became one of those bonding moments you do not easily forget. So next year I will take their advice and begin our journey together with this work.
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    Jun 18 2011: I'm all for technology in the classroom - it is heralding great changes that have been overdue for sometime.

    I don't believe that what you are suggesting will fix education, but I think it has merit.

    Ultimately, all things digital are opening up some fantastic opportunities but I do believe that people are still the most important factor in the equation.

    Independent and personalised learning is greatly enhanced by ICT. Students are able to learn at their own pace thanks to access to knowledge that is no longer bottle-necked through a teacher at the front of the classroom.

    But, a good teacher is worth 1000 gigabytes per second..
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      Jun 19 2011: I agree that this would be an excellent opportunity for so many out there as the whole world and what it has to offer would then be open to them; but one crucial element is that they would have to have the NET and in many areas of the world, that is still not a possibility...and it is the have's vs the have not's and it is the latter that could benefit the most.

      But I also agree that not even 1000 gigabytes per second could replace a good /great teacher. We have a BIG BUSINESS here in Florida that has now grown internationally named Florida Virtual School....and it is for k-12 and to be honest, I have a problem with that, for how is a child to learn social skills if his/her entire schooling is behind a screen? Yes there is interaction between the teacher (via phone calls and emails and chat) and other students (via chat and virtual clubs), but it is not the same as face- to - face. And to me again, I really have a problem with seeing kindergarteners only behind a screen...
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        Jun 19 2011: I clarified the point above. The NET is only an information resource plus a media to distribute a standardised form of information/curriculum if needed across 1000s of locations. thank you.
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          Jun 23 2011: A standardised curriculum is not the answer - it is a huge part of the 'problems' with education that people have been talking about recently.

          Ultimately, standardisation is a form of control.

          Ditch curriculum. Content is available on the internet. Teach skills - like the New Zealand curriculum where a big focus is on Key Competencies, rather than content delivery.

          (Private business is already locking down the future of education and it's not looking very free)
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    Jul 14 2011: In this time the current trade in education has become more than education to become
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    Jul 14 2011: I think the notion of "royalty" and its various sub-sets is premised on having an 'uncommon" knowledge.If all knowledge is made common,those who currently survive solely on their claim of having unique knowledge wil be required to preform a usefull function in society. I think we can expect maximum resistance to free education from this -powerful-class.
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      Jul 17 2011: I agree Shawki. I think this is important to keep in mind when creating a model for free education. thank you
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    Jul 13 2011: Yeah Sometimes I also feel the same that there should be , but got confused with the thought that Why to almost duplicate something when that thing is already available free of cost for all.

    For instance, We dont see any other free encyclopedia than Wikipedia on the net. And wiki is doing a great job already.

    Hope it make sense would like to know your views.
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      Jul 13 2011: Manish,
      It will be good if you read some of my responses...Wiki and other such things are important, but we need to create it by design - the free education system and not by default. The way the literacy divide is evolving, free education has to be structured in a way it can be of high quality, must be sustainable and available for everyone - irrespective of the location/access. I have mentioned online only as a ways of collating information, but the last mile delivery still has to be through people...
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    Jul 13 2011: Yes.
    Education is already free.
    We have the Internet and like all tools it can be used for good and for bad.
    The Internet is the greatest research tool in the world.
    It connects to every Library in the world and you can access every book by the click of a button.
    We can share information freely and can discuss online in real time without ever leaving the house.

    One good example of this is the "Physics for future presidents" lecture of Dr. Muller from Berkeley University.
    I disagree with many things he says but I appreciate the format and the fact that it is free for every person to access and to watch over and over again.

    This is the way forward, to bring education to the home of every one so that people if they are unemployed can educate themselves to get them out of their situation.

    No transportation fees and no university fees needed.
    Education 24/7 free and for every person accessible especially for the poor and unemployed.

    Selected education for the rich is racism!!!

    Of course we need first to connect the poor countries like India Africa South America and China to the Great Internet community.
    This can easily be done on the back of our work which is Zero Emission Transportation and Infrastructure:

    The Airstream Train System is a new method of transportation that's a faster, safer, cleaner and cheaper solution for city, country and continental transportation.
    With small variations in design and speed it can be used in a low speed city environment to a high speed continental transportation system.

    The Airstream Train flies around the Track using cutting edge aviation technology. The Track is a hollow elliptical tube that provides a space for Internet, electricity, telephone, TV and even water to be supplied through it.

    It is easy to maintain and upgrade.
    It is a silent Transportation System that is faster than an airplane while producing water as the only exhaust.

    D.W. Major
    Zero Emission Transportation Ltd.
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    Jul 12 2011: back to your question, should education be free?
    there should not be education system at all
    it's more of a system to sharing information
    but will this let countries satisfied?
    sure not, no circulation of money
    though, qualified people will keep learning
    currently it's like the rabbit and the carrot experiment
    students are the rabbit, the process is education, carrot is money.......
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    Jul 12 2011: now for better education:
    traditionally, education is using only three senses, to acquire knowledge
    what if we increased that number of senses manipulated to gain new information
    this will increase the learning by association
    making it more easy to store/retrieve information
    the best way I see is the team structure
    as for not only the student is ready with scientific information but, with social traditions, and team environment
    in this case, no need for experienced employees, students will go through all problems, due to working in teams
    they will cooperate with one another, and so on, same as what happens in real life, work environment
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    Jul 12 2011: I simply means there must be a radical change in education
    this is due to the change in the environment
    the inputs have changed, consequently outputs will change through different mechanisms
    if we take education as a process, inputs have changed, simply the availability of information makes the input changes, before people had to travel to get information, now things are different
    this makes it better to come up with different outputs, goals and achievements in science or whatever
    but the question, do we have to stick to the same old system to improve, my answer is no
    I see the environment has changed became easy to find information and education became more easy and accessible to all, this makes us come up with different better outputs, efficiently
    but what goes on in the whole world is to stick to old traditional methods in learning
    the only good reason I see, is the circulation of money
    as it goes for education is getting expensive year by year, under the title of better facilities
    though, unemployment is high
    we may conclude that it's not about better education
    it's the system
    to me, "coping" is the best mechanism ever
    coping with good supervision is better than expecting the good from graduates
    I think, anyone can do anything
    it's all about management
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    Jul 12 2011: I see education currently is nothing but a circulation of money mechanism
    the environment(s) has/have changed, consequently, education systems should change
    though, this is not what been happening
    nowadays, information is available to all for free, it might need someone to be good at searching at the net
    though, they still keep, potential wastes, in the form of books (printed papers) need to be dumped later, increasing costs, it could have been more easy to look for alternatives, but people prefer what they know
    another point is that, what education is about but a certification, about what?
    how ready students are?! (grading system)
    education systems, does not make anyone ready, they provide information, can be accessed with a good searchers, or trial and error will get anyone there
    as Sir Ken Robinson also said, this era is characterized by the certifications boom, "still you're not qualified, you need more courses", year by year life needs more qualifications, thus more money, more helping the economy, not education nor science
    collages and faculties, take money from students, on what grounds?, providing free information!
    or make people qualified, coping could have got a person there too, for free
    anyhow, bottom line, education must change, the environment has changed, thus education must change consequently
    actually the idea behind education must change, it's never a one way direction flow of information, from lecturers to students, this makes students reach the lecturer's status at maximum
    though, it should be transformed into learning and knowledge acquisition
    targeting building logic, this makes people, students be able to cope better
    this makes us focus more on what the components of logic are

    classes could be in a form of teams, introducing issues to come up with newer approaches, here students with newer inputs, could come up with more acceptable solutions than older generations'
    education is not history, students know about what others came up with only.
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      Jul 12 2011: Sorry Mohamed. i am not able to understand your point of view. i seem to get it but still seems pretty vague...
  • Jul 12 2011: The article titled "A College Education for All, Free and Online" by Kevin Carey in The Chronicle of Higher Education might be of interest:
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      Jul 12 2011: Thanks Julie. I just read it. It is a great start! Yes, this IS the future. I will speak to them also. Good day
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    Jul 12 2011: What do you think abt organisations like Khanacademy. They are making free online videos and reaching out the world
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      Jul 12 2011: You are right Manish. Khan is one example. We need 10s of 1000s of such ones. Thank you
  • Jul 12 2011: The idea is undoubtedly benevolent, but unfortunately it is an extremely complex issue.

    I would like to adress a couple of statements in the original post.

    1. "...population which is either unemployed or possess a volunteering mindset" - could You clarify this sentence a bit?

    2. "Online mechanism" - the wide shroud of the internet hasn't reached the poorest and most endangered areas of the world , hence it is questionable if this approach is actually feasible?


    How about free educational systems, such as ones present in some ex-communistic countries? For example, this model of education is still present in my country - Serbia. It would take a considerable effort to show the pros and the cons of the mentioned model, and yes there are significant drawbacks in the free-for-all system.
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      Jul 12 2011: Thank you for your comments Stevan. My responses.
      1. There is 8-10% of the population who are adults and are unemployed. Most of them are actually 'unemployable' - but if we take a fraction of them and groom them to become facilitators, they could add significant value to the model. Also there are thousands of people who want to volunteer for social causes but either do not know where to offer their time, energy and efforts or are not available in a consistent time frame. But we can bring them together and even utilise their expertise as and when required.
      2. Online Mechanism - I had clarified this point in one of my responses (refer below my response on June 19).

      Yes. Like in Serbia or elsewhere, a similar form of free education does exist in India also - but the quality of the education suffers. The challenge is to offer superior quality education free - it is a fundamental right to everyone. If we think of it that way, then the whole concept brings in numerous possibilities.
      Thank you
  • Jul 11 2011: In regards to university level education, I personally find it incredibly frustrating how expensive education is. Learning on your own and challenging the exams is usually the same cost as taking the course. I can not afford university however if I were to learn on my own, unfortunately where I live a degree is expected and thus I would not have a very good chance competing against those with degrees. I wish there was a respected online university that charged you for the time it took for marking your assignments/exams only, I bet I could afford that.
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      Jul 11 2011: My last course at a Univirsity, I had to pay for the course and then sit in class and learn the material on my own. Where's the lecture? Where's the reinforcing? LIberal schools dont seem to make very good use of logical thinking.

      On challenging the course, if they reccomend you buy a certain book, you can bet you will not be able to challenge the course if you did not learn out of that particular book.

      Math for instance, should be a course taught, reinforced by any book that teaches math. The course Challenge should be on Math, and not on that particular book.
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    Jul 10 2011: I am from Ecuador, Latin America. Here, government has started an innovative educational program called "Escuelas del Milenio (Millenium Schools)". Its purpose was bringing technology and knowldege to poor people, mainly to people living in rural zones. Government invested high amounts of money in computers and training teachers in order for they use those resources to teach students into a brand new educational environment, full of new methodologies and evaluative ways. It costs no money at all for its users. But, I don´t believe this will work at last, because several teachers are gone due to they took better laboral opportunities where they earn much more money than Government could pay to them. Resources like computers and virtual blackboards are not in full use or are being used sometimes. At last, those educational institutions are using the same old and outdated educational methodologies and ways of teaching, because new teachers finally do what they know. Therefore, applying a couple of good ideas is not enough for succeed in lending free (basic) education for all. I think it is necessary to create a brand new, parallel educational system that fits into true educational society needs.
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      Jul 11 2011: Thanks for your comments. From what you have mentioned Ramiro, it seems to be a "forced to fit" experiment. Such are bound to fail at some point or other. The trick and challenge is to include everyone - the teachers current & past, the government and the students. A similar experiment in India is reaping in dividends because the ownership is with the school and teachers and their pay is dependent on the success of this program. While even this is a artificial way, this is closer to what can be done today in a diverse society....
  • Jul 9 2011: I think its possible and in fact is being offered at some level via the web. The main issue it quality and collaboration. I mean we have the subjects like science, architecture, social studies, engineering etc....and we have lots of media subjects eg. multimedia, 3D, photography etc. Instead of projects issued with no use to the community why not use these mediums to illustrate and contribute to a first class education system for all.
  • Jul 9 2011: I agree with Ivan Illich which I think you are inspired by. We should put all the knowledge there and let the people learn whatever they need/want/enjoy to learn :)
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      Jul 10 2011: Yes Elif, you are right. That is the main purpose of my idea. The current challenge is to make it possible which makes ours a truly inclusive society, that is concerned about & proactive in making basic education available to all and thus enriching the knowledge-house of our Mother Earth.
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      Jul 10 2011: if only i can, Mohammad! maybe if we get this idea implemented, we might no longer worry about being presidents/prime ministers...everyone will become equal!
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    Jul 9 2011: An absolutly fantastic idea. Education is the backbone of our society and should be made free to all regardless of background or the social standing of their parents.
    The only negative of a fully educated society? Where do we find people willing to do the hard labour to implement the ideas conjured up by those with a high level of education?
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      Jul 10 2011: Alexander,
      thanks for your encouragement. A fully educated society will only create a upward spiral of ideas, thoughts and action. And just being 'educated' doesn't eradicate hard labour. Rather it makes it more productive, enjoyable and environmentally healthy.
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    Jul 9 2011: I think certain aspects of education should carry a small price tag while the other aspects remain free but money shouldn't be entirely removed from the equation because while knowledge gaps will most definitely decrease, there is a great chance that the value of education will drop as well and lead to under-appreciation in the minds of students across the world, not to mention the decreasing rate of good educators which we don't have enough of as it is. This system would push them away. It's easy to say that education should definitely be free when you think of all the poor countries where education is a luxury but when discussing something as revolutionary as free education across the planet, we need to look at this from a global perspective and what it can lead to, not an emotional perspective. Theoretically, free education sounds awesome and so did massive, free concerts here in Armenia that aimed to bring the country together and inspire everyone but the result was ugly. People just poured in and didn't appreciate a thing because they didn't earn it or have to put in any effort and those who did weren't able to actually focus on anything because of all the static and randomness. So naturally, another negative result was that the serious people - the real appreciators and fans - didn't show up.

    Art, culture, and education are three things that are very under-appreciated and to suggest making it all free around the world based on love and affection towards the human race might be very bold and beautiful but bring about negative affects similar to the ones I described. So my suggestion is to strike a balance and cut the prices of colleges and universities because paying $50,000-$100,000 is crazy and impossible for regular people to do. If normal prices are given and a balance is created by taking into account each country individually instead of the world as a whole, I am all for it. That would be a healthier education system than a free one in my opinion.
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    Jul 9 2011: Online mechanism will certainly help and it is working already. The learning can be fun and can be done for endless hours. But a part of it is already done (one way) by educational TV channels. Just the lack of interaction stops it from making online system. But that won't substitute schools.
    The drop out rates should not be a concern for now, as we are talking about online education it will not be rigid, no class, no roll calls. Same way, no fix count of students, no homework too ? Only then we are talking about free education. But with this, we won't get to know which student has learned how much. We need exams. There ! Oops, we again get stuck into the same cycle of teaching, examining, grading, passing. And we need the government to approve these exams and results. And we need to people to implement these systems again "remote teachers". So again the same cycle.
    The transformation is coming, but it will carve its own way out through millions of discussions like this one. For me, i am glad to be part of each one that concerns education.
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    Jul 8 2011: Information is bound to be set free.
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      Jul 9 2011: Of course, but the method in which it is set free is what matters more.
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        Jul 9 2011: Really? Could you explain what you are implying a bit more?

        The method, I think, will be the global electronic space (internet).
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          Jul 9 2011: That's fine but it needs to be regulated and presented in an effective and efficient way otherwise everything will be all over the place and eventually turn into a wasteland. Facebook is a good example of what I'm talking about. Their Pages platform was a great idea but their implementation and lack of regulation devalued it and made it totally random. Now it's all about liking pages constantly and getting the most likes on your pages. Information needs to be monitored and presented properly.
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        Jul 9 2011: I have to disagree with you, unless I am misinterpreting what you mean by some of the words that you have used, which is most likely the case.

        First of all, you sound like an a-typical big brother candidate. No offense intended, it is just what I am interpreting from your dialogue.
        We certainly need better regulation in many areas, it can help us move in the right direction. I think that ideals though force us to confront the issue of outcome. Business creates great focus on incomes but not so good on producing good output. Ideals force us to do what regulations cannot. It is impossible to regulate our way to better outcomes. We have to build our institutions that way in the first place. We should strive for self-management. It is at the heart of our genius to do so. But that gets into a whole other conversation.
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          Jul 10 2011: Matt,
          Probably Sargis mentioned it in a positive way. Any system that transcends culture, languages and locations has to have some form of regulation, whether we like it or not. It is altogether another challenge in ensuring that these regulations do not in any way affect the original goal. Thanks for your comments.
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        Jul 10 2011: Mohammad, the internet doesn't work like our world. It is much more open and can be altered by anyone. Let's take FB as an example again. Mark Zuckerberg managed to take control of the web and shape it in whatever way he liked, which is why you see like buttons and what not all over the place. Tomorrow, some other person can easily show up and do something bigger, which clearly shows that the internet is constantly evolving. So when you ask whether the world is willing to do something or not, take into consideration that the web doesn't have boundaries like our world does. If you have a good enough idea and enough investment, the ball is in your court. If someone creates a proper platform that is addictive and attracts people around the world, the standard will be automatically set. That's what FB did and people today use it whether they like it or not because it has become the standard for now.

        Matt, all I am saying is that information needs to be effectively categorized, organized, and presented so people will be able to digest it. Otherwise, it's like reading a massive history book with the pages mixed up and thrown all over the place. Presentation is everything and bad presentation can ruin even the best thing on the planet. Just look at the media and how effectively they manage to brainwash people and get them to believe what they want them to believe. It's all about presentation and we cannot create an effective online platform or system of any kind if we do it wrong.

        Mahadevan, you got my point.
  • Jul 8 2011: On basic education I think the answer is almost YES. Wikipedia founder Jim Wales announced a few years ago his next project of making free textbooks, but on the other hand I think teachers don't like work for free.

    On superior education I think the answer is NO because the intellectual property will exist for longer. Latest books and advances in many fields are spreading under payment and this will continue.

    Saying this I have to mention that Superior Education in some countries is almost free. As an example, here in Spain Public Universities costs are about 1.000€ per year. Very cheap. Private high-qualified superior education and phd are under 18.000€ per year.
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      Jul 10 2011: Well, Free today has lot of connotations. Yesterday I bought a toothpaste. It said 33% free! Actually I still need to pay the $1 to get the rest 67%...which incidentally is buffered into the cost of the product ;-)
      I agree that in a macroscopic sense, nothing is free. But Nicholas Lukowiak said below 'Nothing is free. Everything has a cost'. But if we ask the Question "free for whom?", then we get a better grip of the idea. Making education free for the un-educated, un-able and the un-fortunate.
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    Jul 8 2011: Perhaps 1 day, society will reach the maximum allowed information streams. Then once gained, the output of societal members will be of such magnitude, that to harness and in some cases, to 'control' the output of information-the need for total education will be realised by providing education for free. The outcome benefit will be for the control agents, and of course for the individual. How else can a unit of the whole society be expected to survive or even thrive, unless it adopts a new buy in strategy? The control agents will have a vastly willing supply of people in need of education-even beyond the compulsary years, once each individual is provided education from the cradle to the grave. Increased profits from the private sector, increased revenue/user fees from the government, will be a direct result from reaching full education and closer to full employment.
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    Jul 8 2011: Delivering on education is not just about the empowerment of individuals to realise their potential, putting opportunity directly into their hands. It is also the best anti-poverty strategy, and - with trade justice - the best contribution we can make to growth and economic development. But education must not be given for absolutely free. A minimum amount (say Rs. 2000 - 3000) can be charged. Because Free Education is nice as an idea, but it has no realistic positive outcomes as FREE - "There are no free lunches".
  • Jul 2 2011: First of all,I would like to tell you about the evolution and its drastic changes in the education process.First in India government started the education system for free and as when people recognized the nature and importance of education and when they thought to improve the educational standards, there came the involvement of private educational systems which was also lending its educational services for free.During the beginning stages the education system,it was started as a welfare service for public.When the rate of education has increased and the educational organisations expected some donations from the people and students.When the years rolled , there came the habit of donating money to school before joining their kid.This process continued and it let to the introduction of year donation and later this lead to monthly donation and in the past decades the the compulsory donation ( fee )process has introduced.Hence,there evolved many number of private organisations which turned social welfare educational systems into commercial means.Now there is a change in private educational system services,but the government educational systems are collecting less fee (To say in India the government organisations are collecting a fee of less than Rs.500 per year,Near my house the government school fee is Rs170 per year ).The basic difference is private organisations have more improved standards of education while the government schools have low standard.I appreciate your idea of making free education online.But if this is introduced practically then i think this will not become success as this online education may not reach many rural parts of the world.My idea is if some private systems support the government educational systems on increasing its standards then the education will be given to everyone with low fees.This will further be transformed into no fees.
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    Jun 29 2011: I state that access to knowledge is the best help possible, while material helps mainly increase dependency. Scrapping all governmental development help and rerouting the means to free online education projects would be what I'd do. That would not only help developing countries, but many citizens in the own state, too.

    Now if a society decides to hinder a part of its population from learning because of race, sex or other absurd criteria, it will cripple itself all by its own. At the same time, a society that places emphasis on general education will make the most out of this offer. So one and the same measure will automatically (!) benefit the progressive society while not supporting those which decide to stay unjust.

    The problem of fueling corruption, destroying the local economy and losing massive ressources to inefficiency would vanish at once!
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    Jun 28 2011: Probably a bit off-topic here, since most of the discussion seems to be focusing on free education empowered by internet. However, I think it is also possible to provide free higher education following models such as Berea College ( It is a small school located in the eastern part of Kentucky which offers full tuition scholarships to all students accepted. It does so using a combination of methods: fundraising from alumni and friends, having a work program on campus where each student works at least 10 hours per week, as well as using governmental funding. I was fortunate to study at this school, because it not only offers a high quality of education, but also instills on the students an appreciation for labor and service. Berea College’s specific mission is to help students of limited financial means who come predominantly from the Appalachian region of the United States, obtain high quality education; but it is also admits around 30 international students each academic year. While the cause is noble, what I am advocating here is following its model of financial viability and no-tuition program. A similar idea, I suppose, could be implemented for an “online” school.
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      Jun 29 2011: Thank you, Jeta. This is one idea worth trying I will spend more time understanding the model. Good day
  • Jun 25 2011: It is a fundamental human right to have access to free education. The consequences of such progress would, however, be mind-boggling and I question whether current political structures could accept the turbulence that would ensue.
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      Jun 28 2011: Hi Nick,
      The fundamental right is to have access to a QUALITY and free education.
  • Jun 23 2011: This is an interesting proposition. To make education free, in my view, you need to provide an alternative form of compensation to the educators.

    What I have noticed i my industry (web design/development). A common practice for individuals is to create a personal website, which essentially sells their skill set to the world, by displaying their portfolio and industry experience. They will many times also offer tutorials, tips, sample design files, etc. This serves two purposes. It provides real value to other people in the form of education, while also bringing traffic to their site, and growing their personal "brand" exposure.

    This model is being used in a number of industries, and it works great, however is it still very disjointed. There needs to be an organization of information for serious learning. There also needs to be a logical process. The information is out there online, no question. The challenge is consolidating the information, and sorting what is valuable and what is not (or redundant).

    The education model in my view will see some radical changes in the next few decades. It will be interesting to see how things pan out.
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    Jun 22 2011: I believe we are waking up to the realization that learning should not be standardized either by governments or institutions. I have founded Soweto Collegiate Independent Study in Soweto, South Africa where a group of registered students meet once a week and learn from each other. But these are registered learners who download and send essays online that are marked by volunteer lecturers. I am still looking out for more volunteer lecturers.
  • Jake C

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    Jun 21 2011: Here's a concept for you: in America (at least in the mid-south where I am from), a large number of people, perhaps the majority, attend church every Sunday morning. What if there were non-profit orgs structured similarly to church that taught more than just the Bible? They could include multi-media presentations, be supported by donations, and while they would lack a certain degree of moral obligation and insurance for a happy afterlife, might just be successful at motivating the population to learn.
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    Jun 20 2011: Great idea Mahadevan! We also need to work on the employment/corporate side to accept this type of education as valid. Educational entrepreneurship should be valued just as much as business entrepreneurship.
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    Jun 20 2011: There are several open source sites that already provide education content that people can access for free such as (like someone already mentioned),,,, and even iTunes has a lot of free education material. There are also several for-profit enterprises such as gradeguru, and others that provide supplemental services over the NET. I am a social entrepreneur that is trying to solve this exact issue of creating an effective learning system that will help everyone continually learn new ideas and theories, regardless of what they currently know or how much they can pay to learn. Education is not a privilege, it is a RIGHT! We are working on a number of promising ideas currently, and so are a lot of other innovators that I've heard of. This will be a completely different conversation in a couple of years, maybe even less. I hope this helps.
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      Jun 20 2011: Thanks Nevil. I agree the conversation will be a lot different in 2 years. And thank for the resources. I will read them up. Good day
  • Jun 20 2011: Mahadevan, here is an example from Carnegie Mellon University
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      Jun 20 2011: Thank you Julie. This is good information. I did not know it earlier! Good day
      • Jun 21 2011: You are welcome, Mahadeva. Matthew might be a good contact for you.
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    Jun 19 2011: i should first clarify. i think my point was probably misunderstood.i never said 'online learning'...i only mentioned with the amount of information available, with the no.of people available and willing to volunteer, and technology making this available anywhere in the world, is it time that education will become truly free? that was my question. let me give an example. a retired person who is wealthy enough to buy a tablet and a few pieces of paper/slate/board, can teach 10/20/50 students to read/write. this can then be taken over by next set of retired teachers/individuals/volunteers and so on. Through mobile phones, through ereaders etc etc...and villages all over the world where there are 100s of thousands of children can be taught to learn. Thank you
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      Jun 21 2011: Thank you for clarifying this as I did sort of misunderstand! But after reading this, a question came to me. This sounds, in theory, like a great idea... but what is the full outcome that you want to happen? It cannot be just a vague that children will be educated or that they will become literate, critical thinkers and come to the realization that there is a world out there. What will be the steps to their education?? I mean, there should be a progression of sorts with an end in mind, should their not?? Being literate and knowing things is all well and good, but without some sort of validation (like a diploma) of all of this, what could the child actually do in the world?? How would he/she be marketable?
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        Jun 21 2011: Hi Linda, My view is that education should be pure in its form - whatever possible, whatever needed, whatever available is what the learner should learn. Putting a fix on the outcome might not be a great idea...let me explain. The moment there is a goal, focus on the outcome, then the learner turns his attention to faster/better ways and that is where "commercialisation" takes place. Instead, for the learner (here the kid for e.g.) should learn whatever is being taught in that social set up through elders, knowledgeable/experienced/well-to-do people who are focussed on facilitating and not teaching. Once the focus is on facilitation, the learner will automatically align himself/herself to the preferred facilitator. But I agree, there should be a set of rules on the methods of facilitation, formats of content and credibility of the individual facilitator/s.
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    Jun 19 2011: The challenge is not as much in making avenues for learning available, as are more in making a child wanting to learn. Joe Delsen is most right in saying that the caring aspect decides how the child goes about in his/her education. Kids are easily fascinated by things that are explained to them. The challenge is to imbibe into the child the confidence that his curiosity is valid and to be respected (most of all by himself).

    Traditional schooling fails in inculcating a sense of applicability of knowledge. A surer way of establishing a sense of the curious is to allow for hands-on methods where the learner can see how the principles are applied to create something real. This is where having only an online method of imparting education has challenges. Yes, questions are answered online - but you can't have the questions by just staying online.
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    Jun 19 2011: Mahadevan, this is a great idea! With the estimated 2 billion internet users, your idea will have a fundamental impact in transforming our world. Our fellow Tedsters here are concerned about self-motivation but I think it's an issue that the great educators and psychologists can help solve.

    There's one principle that I always remember about education "The students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" - and this I believe is the key to motivation. If the families of the students are not giving enough care, then maybe their friends (online tutors) from the other side of the world can. http://Bit.Ly/KeyPower

    You might have looked into the work of Salman Khan ( and we can expand this "intuition" style, or other dynamic style of teaching in a collaborative effort like what we are doing with wikipedia.

    I challenge you to crystallize this idea and many world transformers like TEDsters can connect you to the right resources and people to see this come alive. Let me know how you are progressing and I'll help you anyway I can.
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      Jun 19 2011: thanks Joe for the appreciation. i will work on this. i have been working on this for over a year now. But i know i can and together we can. thank you.