Case study: Hole in the Wall

by Kine Nordstokka on Thu, 2010-12-02 12:26
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Name: Hole-in-the-wall Education Ltd
Location: India and Cambodia
Date Founded: 2001
Mission: To improve elementary education and life skills of children across the world, especially those in disadvantaged communities in rural areas and urban slums


Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd (HiWEL) is an initiative providing computer access to communities in India and Cambodia. The organisation provides computers in a hole in the wall that can be used by anybody on the street. They have proven particularly popular with children, and observation of the learning patterns they display when using the technology has led to the development of new theories of educational methods.

Origins of the project

The first Hole-in-the-Wall computer was the idea of Dr Sugata Mitra, appearing in a slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi, in 1999. The experiment proved popular and was replicated in two other sites within the same year. In 2001 the initiative was formalised, as HiWEL was established as a joint venture between the National Institute of Information Technologies (NIIT, of which Dr Mitra is Chief Scientist) and the International Finance Corporation, a part of The World Bank Group.

The formation of the venture marked the beginning of a national research programme. Learning Stations, as the computer access points came to be known, were set up in 23 locations across rural India, and in 2004 the Indian government helped spread the idea to Cambodia. The organisation is now poised to scale up the idea of Hole-in-the-Wall, in view of improving elementary education and life skills of children across the world, especially those in disadvantaged communities in rural areas and urban slums.

About the idea

Dr Mitra recognised that the Learning Stations represented a completely different and innovative approach to education. The experiment strongly supported the idea that children were capable of teaching themselves, challenging traditional notions of the best ways to educate. As well as allowing the children to develop skills in using technology, the method encourages a form of social interaction that sees the children conversing about what is happening and learning from one another. There may be an adult figure present, but it is someone guiding and encouraging natural curiosity rather than defining learning objectives independent of the children’s interests.

Drawing on his observations and the extensive research that accompanied the project’s expansion, Dr Mitra formalised the concept in his theory of Minimally Invasive Education. The theory has been internationally recognised as an innovative approach to education.


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