[1.IV.6.5] The Future of Education

The Internet is obviously changing the nature education. One of my objectives in writing this book on the WWW is to make education more cost effective. Looking back to my primary education and college days, I marvel at the efficiency of the educational processes that I had gone through. Yet the promise of much greater efficiency via the internet is staggering by comparison. Here are some of the advantages of internet based education:

  1. No more waiting for school buses, or running from class to class; in fact no more cost of school buildings and associated facilities.
  2. No costly textbooks. All books are up-to-date, compared to many textbooks used in universities that are over 10 years old. Cross referencing, indexing, topic searches, etc., can be done electronically. Any book is available anywhere.
  3. Many people can collaborate on a single book, and the job of translating into other languages becomes very efficient, especially if a good translation software is used to assist the translators.
  4. Questions and suggestions can be emailed and the teacher has ample time to consider a detailed answer and these interactions can be emailed to anyone who is interested; these interactions can be stored for future use.
  5. The teaching profession will change drastically. On the one hand, there will be more one-on-one interactions by email, video-conferencing, and exchange of data (such as audio from a piano student to the teacher). Any teacher can interact with the “master text book center” to propose improvements that can be incorporated into the system. And students can access many different teachers, even for the same topic.
  6. Such a system would imply that an expert in the field cannot get rich writing the best textbook in the world. However, this is as it should be -- education must be available to everyone at the lowest cost. Thus when educational costs decrease, institutions that made money the old way must change and adopt the new efficiencies. Wouldn’t this discourage experts from writing textbooks? Yes, but you need only one such “volunteer” for the entire world; in addition, the internet has already spawned enough such free systems as Linux, browsers, Adobe Reader, etc., that this trend is not only irreversible but well established.
  7. This new paradigm of contributing to society may bring about even more profound changes to society. One way of looking at business as conducted today is that it is highway robbery. You charge as much as you can regardless of how much or how little good your product does to the buyer. In an accurate accounting paradigm, the buyer should always get his money’s worth. That is the only situation in which that business can be justified in the long run. This works both ways; well-run businesses should not be allowed to go bankrupt simply because of excessive competition. In an open society in which all relevant information is immediately available, we can have financial accounting that can make pricing appropriate to the service. The philosophy here is that a society consisting of members committed to helping each other succeed will function much better than one consisting of robbers stealing from each other. In particular, practically all basic education should be essentially free. This does not mean that teachers will lose their jobs because teachers can greatly accelerate the learning rate and should be paid accordingly.

It is clear from the above considerations that free exchange of information will transform the educational (as well as practically every other) field. This book is one of the attempts at taking advantage of these Utopian dreams, together with Connexions, Curriki, Qoolsqool, and others with similar objectives.