This month’s WIRED cover features 12-year-old Paloma Noyola Bueno, currently the top ranking student in México. This cover story filled me with joy and not because it’s focused on poverty in borderlands and autodidactism (although that’s definitely a plus), but because it’s heartening to know that there is people like Sergio Juárez Correa creating contrast in education in Mexico, especially in poverty-stricken areas that don’t have a lot of resources. Juárez Correa, tired of ineffective teaching methods and fruitless results, began to research new teaching methods and came across Sugata Mitra’s methods on self-directed learning. Mitra is best known for his experiments in India where he left computers for children to use and “without any instruction, they were able to teach themselves a surprising variety of things, from DNA replication to English.”
With the first trial of self-directed learning lessons, Juárez Correa, not only was able to bring down the national standardized exam fail rates (from 45 percent in math to 7 percent and 31 percent in Spanish to 3.5 percent), but he was able to bring his students to the top of the math and Spanish rankings in Mexico. He also didn’t just lead self-directed learning in math and Spanish, but in other topics including controversial topics.
Juárez Correa began hosting regular debates in class, and he didn’t shy away from controversial topics. He asked the kids if they thought homosexuality and abortion should be permitted. He asked them to figure out what the Mexican government should do, if anything, about immigration to the US. Once he asked a question, he would stand back and let them engage one another.
The article has great studies that have been done on self-directed learning. You can read the article here.
“The bottom line is, if you’re not the one controlling your learning, you’re not going to learn as well.”