Slumdog Millionaire

We are sure by now that most people would have at least heard of Slumdog Millionaire, if not seen it. It is the most successful movie of 2008 and it is undoubtedly the most successful Indian movie internationally.

But did you know that Slumdog Millionaire was inspired by a particular educational research? The movie is based on a book, “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup. He said that he was inspired by the “Hole-in-the-Wall project”.

The project, also known as the “Minimally invasive education”, was an idea to put a computer into a slum where poor children were allowed to use the computer to surf the Internet without any supervision.

The results were astounding. According to Professor Sugata Mitra, the scientist responsible for the project, the children taught themselves to be computer literate, improved their English, Math and Science, become better at working together and was able to display higher order thinking skills.

According to this school of thought, all children are capable of learning. However, the intervention of schools has created a situation where children who fall behind are suddenly labelled as “slow”, “stupid” or “disabled”. The followers of this school of thought prescribes to the “Sudbury model school” where the students and staff are equal members of a democracy. There are no classrooms, but simply places were people gather. The students decide what to learn and are expected to be self-motivated to learn the knowledge themselves. Students mix with each other regardless of age and the older ones tend up end up mentoring the younger students.

We admit that this idea of Sudbury type of school is very alien to the Singapore education landscape. And not much research have been done on the Sudbury model. But the Sudbury Valley School, the pioneer Sudbury school boasts an university admission of 80% among their alumni.

Nevertheless, there are some learning points. Firstly, it might be worthwhile for schools to allow their students to lead their own learning. Some schools have shown some flexibility by allowing student-initiated Co-Circular Activities (CCAs). In RGC Future School, while we have a curriculum, we have no qualms of gearing our teaching towards a particular subject if the students show interest in that subject. We believe that self-motivation is really the best motivation out there.

Secondly, collaboration between students is also important. Again, we will emphasis that we believe that collaboration is also very important. This collaboration should be between the teachers, the students as well as parents. Only then, will the learning experiences of our students be enriched.