Slumdog trail leads to UK

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The man who inspired the 'Slumdog Millionaire' story delivered the keynote speech at the Montessori Centre International's annual awards ceremony on 3 December.

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Sugata Mitra, who is now professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University, was responsible for a ground-breaking experiment which saw Indian children independently learning through a planted computer in a New Delhi slum in 1999.

A computer was embedded 3ft high into a slum wall and a secret camera filmed children who had no access to education exploring the internet. These videos were part of the inspiration behind author Vikas Swarup's novel Q&A, which went on to be made into the Oscar-winning film 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

Professor Mitra said, 'At the ceremony, I showed videos of my work in India and explained how the ideas travelled from the slums of India to the UK and changed completely.

'At that time the focus was on children who did not have access to education and gathered round a computer and taught themselves and each other.

'The English children I now work with in the north-east demonstrate how this practice can become a method of education. The schools are reporting some very interesting results - an increase in self-confidence and in ability to work in groups.

'The Montessori connection is that Maria Montessori was discovering these methods of learning years ago. She teaches how children can look at objects and construct knowledge from them. In the context we have today, the internet inspires children to levels even she couldn't imagine.'

There are now 600 'hole in the wall' computers spread across India, as well as in six different African countries and Cambodia. The project is now run by Hole in the Wall Education.

The awards ceremony, held at the University of London's Institute of Education, celebrated the achievements of more than 300 Montessori students and the work of the Montessori Evaluation and Accreditation Scheme (MEAB), introduced in September 2009. It honoured a further 19 newly accredited Montessori schools making a total of 95 MEAB status schools within the MSA.

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