'Championing the rights of children'

Lessons in spelling 'have no place in 21st century schools'

Garry Mon 05 Aug 2013 12:13

Schools should stop providing lessons in spelling and grammar because children can correct linguistic errors on their mobile phones, according to a leading academic.

Traditional classes in English language are a “bit unnecessary” at a time when pupils have so much access to state-of-the-art technology, it is claimed.

Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, said good spelling and grammar was necessary “maybe a hundred years ago” but "not right now".

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He insisted that children should be encouraged to express themselves in a number of different ways – including using mobile phone text messaging – rather than relying on established linguistic rules.

The comments come despite a new drive by the Government to promote the basics of English language throughout compulsory education.

Under new plans, a revised national curriculum is being introduced that requires pupils to accurately spell 200 complex words by the end of primary school.

For the first time this year, 11-year-olds in England have also been required to sit a new exam in spelling, punctuation and grammar.

In a further move, pupils have been told they will have points docked in GCSE exams for failing to use accurate English in their written answers.

But Prof Mitra, who recently won the prestigious $1m TED Prize to develop a generation of “cloud schools” where children learn from each other, said it was a mistake to resist technological change.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement, he said: “This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now.

Read more... (Daily Telegraph - 2 August)