Project Details

Indian school girls, one is looking at the camera


Improving elementary education and life skills of children across the world.

By Hole-in-the-Wall Education Limited

Project URL:

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Education
  • Physical Computing
  • Social Software

On 26 January 1999 Professor Sugata Mitra carved a “hole in the wall” that separated his office from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji, in New Delhi. Into the hole he put a computer that anyone wandering along the alley behind his office could use. He wanted to see how long it would take for slum children with no education or experience of using a computer to start using the machine. Within hours swarms of slum children were using the computer to play games and learn. Within days they had mastered the complete system.

That first Hole-in-the-Wall computer started what has become one of the most inspirational and intriguing experiments to see how far children can lead their own learning using the support of computers.

The first application was the installation of more than 30 public computers in the dusty Madangir Resettlement Colony on the edge of Delhi. The computers housed in heavy yellow steel cases have provided the local children with a vital resource to help them continue learning outside and after school.

Since then Mitra’s team has worked in scores of settings, in schools and communities, both urban and rural, testing different approaches to see how well children learn with one another with minimal support and supervision from teachers. With the help of a $1m TED Prize, awarded in 2013, Mitra is planning to develop a “school in the cloud” platform to support self-organised learning among children using computers.

Mitra argues his experiments show that children can learn far more than expected when they are left to their own devices, with interesting challenges set by computer-based learning programmes. Self-organised, computer-based learning is more motivating, he argues, than traditional rote learning, which can leave many children bored and demoralised. As a result self-organised learning could help reduce drop-out rates. But in addition, self-organised learning using computers, in which children help one another to learn, should particularly help children in the poorest areas in India that find it hard to attract teachers.

Image 'Salhundi March 031' courtesy of TED Conference

Last updated: 09th of May, 2014

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