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A computer on every student’s desk

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Kevin Rudd Prime Minister of AustraliaA computer at each school desk! Is this the best solution to the education problems? What is the point behind arming our schools with technology? Where is the benefit for the coming generations? To listen to an excerpt from the radio broadcast, click on the green arrow below. This broadcast is spoken in Arabic.

Below is an English transcript of the Arabic interview.

If you would like to read the Arabic version, please click here for a PDF file.

Radio Program ‘The Youth & The Future’

An interview with Jonar Nader about the Australian Government’s Decision

‘A Computer for every student’


A computer at each school desk! Is this the best solution to the education problems? What is the point behind arming our schools with technology? Where is the benefit for the coming generations? And what about the rule of the teachers and the curricular?

The new federal government and based on one of its election pledges have approved a 1 billion dollar budget to provide schools in Australia with computers, and have called for schools to prepare a list of their technological needs, dedicating a 1 million dollar for each school.

This is what we are going to be talking about with the technological expert, the author, and the social and educational lecturer, Mr. Jonar Nader.

Host: At first, please tell us what do you think about the fact that just like there is a table and a chair for each student, there is going to be a computer?

Jonar Nader: I have always wanted people to know how important education is, and that is why it is nice to hear news about investments in education, and that we are going to help the students, and that we are going to provide the schools with better equipment. So, this is a good thing, although I don’t know where exactly the solution is. If someone comes into your home and told you that he is going to place a machine into your home, you will ask him ‘what for?’ the machine looks nice, but what does it do? And that is why I don’t like that talk that ‘Sounds Good’. I always hear in the corporate and government life things like ‘we want to help the employees’ and ‘we want to make better decisions’, and all the corporation mission statements that I have read were something great. And there is something great in this government decision, that every student will have a computer, but what is the problem that we are trying to fix here?

Host: what is the problem? I think maybe because the computers are wildly depended upon in these days, and it is possible that the government thought from this prospective, so why do think this is not enough?

Jonar Nader: Will, we have to be specific about what we are talking about here; are we talking about the students who finish schools these days with no interest or enthusiasm? And who does not prefer work? Who don’t know what they are going to do with their lives? Ask a student about what he or she wants to do after they finish school, you will find that they don’t have any compassion about a specific thing, they might say things like ‘I want to be race car driver’ or ‘I want to go to the moon’, you will find them talking about big things, that is what they want, to be a rock star, a super star a movie star, that is what they will tell you if you ask them about what they want to be when they grow up, but if you ask them about what are they really going to do when they grow up? they will answer ‘I don’t know’

So, what is it that we are trying to fix by providing them with computers? Before giving them computers, we should examine the educational system that is producing students that have no trust in life or in the working force, and technology is not going to place that in their hearts.

Host: I think students these days do not lack any technology, because I think technology is with them since birth, and I don’t know if having a computer will be good or bad, and wither it will affect their skills or not?

Jonar Nader: Yes, and I have asked about this. Let’s assume that I came to your office, and told all your employees that I am going to give them new mobile phones, the reaction will be ‘That is good’ or telling them that I will give them a new car each, they will say ‘that is really good’ but will this lead to a better radio station? What have we really achieved? Of course the employees will be happy to have a new car, and the students will be happy to have a new computer, because they are not really thinking of what they are saying. I have asked students of what they think of this new computer policy, they said ‘Yeah, I think it is good’, and when I asked them why do they think so, they said ‘because when we go to the library to print an essay, we don’t have to wait anymore’ and when asked ‘don’t you all have computers at home’ they said ‘yes’, so is the computer going to improve your essays? The answer is no, so it is just more convenience, and more access, but what value did it add to education? And where is the lesson? What are we trying to put in the students’ brains and hearts? And where will the inspiration come from? I am not saying that we should not spend on education, but I prefer people determining what they want to fix or invent before they start spending.

Host: Jonar, through your almost constant meetings with students, high schools students and others, what did you find out? You ask ‘what is inspiration?’, so what do you think will give students the inspiration and the encouragement?

Jonar Nader: We call our life a 3D life, and the school is usually 2 dimensioned, I mean if I wanted to teach you about the lion or the bird or the moon, I will have to show you these things in photos, because I would have to take you to Africa to show you the lion for real and in a 3 dimensional view, but we don’t do that, we only talk about birds in black and white through papers. Life is filled with inspiration, and everything in life can be amazing, even if you looked at microscopic cells you will be amazed, but you will need someone to show that to you so it can stick in your mind, and so you can say ‘wow, this is great’ so the problem is in the educational process, and not in the technology, so we have to examine the entire education curriculum, and what exactly do we do. To begin with, we have to educate our students with analytical skills so they can tell the difference between colors, and we teach them mathematics, and we focus on building their thinking process while their young, but when they are 15 years old, we have to show them inspiring things, and not technical things. But who can give something inspiring? Only an inspired person can. So I think that the investment should first be placed in teaching the teachers, because when I walk in the school corridors, I feel very frightened when meeting the teachers, I know they will be mad at me, but they know that there are not inspired. So show me any school or any teacher that have the ability to convince a student with anything unless the teacher him/her self is convinced with, and is inspired, interested and has complete knowledge about. How will this be achieved through a computer? Let’s assume that the computer is a piano, and that we are giving each school a piano, and you were asked to teach them? What do I or you know about pianos? And how can we make the students say something like ‘wow, I want to do a great concert’ this will never happen. That is why I say that we invest in teachers and in schools and not in computers simply because it sounds trendy. And I don’t want this to be just a political statement, we all know that everything is now connected to technology, and you can’t even go to a dentist without technology, and we are all excited about how bright technology is, but what is the use of it in the hands of someone who can’t use it.

Host: Ok, aside from teaching the teachers, what is required for students?

Jonar Nader: Students are worried about work, they think it is a very boring thing, hence you have to explain to them what life is really about, because they only see life as a 3 parts circle: ‘Work, Rest, Play’ and they say that working is boring, and I hate work and don’t want it, so can I do something not to work? So they start thinking of a way not to work, and then even if they work, they will be bored, hard hearted and will be looking at the clock wondering how can they rest. After that they move from work to rest, because they are exhausted and have no more stamina, and once they are done resting, they would want to play, so it is a ‘work, rest, play’ circle, which is a vicious circle. So they plan now to find a way not to work, because they are convinced through someone that work is not fun, or entertaining. This of course will come from home, but it will also come from the school that places things in their minds like they must learn math, geography, geology, biology, etc etc, in a way that would make the student wonder about what he is learning, and wither this is life? And then they will say to their teachers ‘Ok, you are working, and I cannot imagine that you are happy in what you are doing. So, what is it that you keep telling us about? We are now 16 years old and you want us to be like you? Yelling at kids and sending them to detentions?’

In each school there is a teacher or tow that are considered good and affective, the rest are just being laughed at by students, so where is the rule model? If we want to invest, we have to focus that each teacher and school has a system that the student would look for. If you watched a student watching a TV show or looking at a magazine, you will find them amazed by Brad Bit or other celebrities, and you will find them inspired by them, and they think that their work is fun, when they don’t really know anything about the celebrities work, and they don’t know it is a very hard work, but they are impressed by it, and want to do something like it. On the other hand who looks at the 50 teachers at school and say they want to be like them?

Host: Maybe because there are celebrities and they see them only in movies, but they see the teachers in real life, when they are really tired. I am not very sure of what you want to say here Jonar, is it the question of what needs to be done to get the student inspired and interested?

Jonar Nader: what I am trying to say is that we should not make students look at life as a 3 parts circle only ‘work, rest, and play’ and that they come to school so we can teach them how to work. Because then they develop thoughts like ‘what do I want with work, when everyone around me who works is not happy’

Host: Ok, almost a week ago, one of the first decisions made by the government was to approve the 1 billion dollars budget for school to provide kids between 9 and 12 years with computers. If you had that amount of funding, what would have you done with it?

Jonar Nader: I would not spend it on computers, because computer without software is useless, and finding software that would teach students subjects like physics will be very expansive. Besides, what can a computer teach me that a teacher cant? Because the good teacher can teach you anything you want, while good computer can show you models or do a computation of some sort, or have a multimedia or show you a picture of a bird or a lion, just like a TV, but what about the curriculum itself? I can show you a multimedia system in a classroom that would astonish you, but it is not about the show, nor is it about what is impressing only, or about the ability to compute things in a fast manner, that is not what the school is about, the school is about placing subjects in the heart of the student in a way that would make him love to learn, so he can say ‘I can’t wait to get home to learn more’

If you have a toothache for 5 years, and someone gave you a number of someone who can heal it, you would run home to dial that number and find out more about this person, but what are we doing to make our students run home wanting to learn more? So we can defiantly use the 1 billion dollars to establish an entertaining system for the students, but I would want to use that amount to improve the entire system, I would use it in developing the teachers to be professionals. Let’s take the piano example again, I would want to teach the teachers how to be great pianists, and then teach them how to teach that to their students.

If you remember few weeks ago, we have spoken about driving; and wither to allow people to drive at an age younger or older than now, and I have said that if someone’s father was a good driver, that does not necessary mean that he can teach that someone to be a good driver. Having a certain skill, does not necessary mean having the ability to teach that skill.

So if you ask me how would I use the money, the first thing I would do is teaching the teachers how to be on a very high level of inspiration and full knowledge of the subject they are teaching, and then teach them how to teach these subjects to their students, because many do not know how, and I think that is more important.

And I will also study the entire curriculum, and why we are teaching students these subjects. Because putting a computer alone will not help with anything, it is like walking into someone’s house and finding it dirty and missy, and then you offer them a bigger house. If you visit these people a year later, you will not find their new house any cleaner.

So the big house will not solve the problem, nor will the computer change anything about the way I feel and think. But it ‘Dose look good’, just like giving a new car, mobile phone a computer to the staff will make them happy, but will that make a different a year from now?

Host: We know that you always have lectures at schools, so, what is new with you?

Jonar Nader: I am always happy to be invited to talk to students, and when I am told that students have thick heads and that they won’t listen and my help is needed to talk to them and try understanding what do they want. So I go and I talk to the students for an hour or so, and we have so much fun.

However, this time I asked about the problem. I told them that I want to talk to the teachers first, they agreed, and so we are having a 5 hours long session with the teachers. Then I told them that I will not be able to talk to the students or to the teachers unless I speak to the senior management team first, and they agreed, so that is another day. Then I told them that I want to talk to the board of directors before I talk to anyone, and they agreed, so I am meeting with all 9 of the board of directors in a morning session. Then I told them that since I came here, and since this is a small community, then I would like to talk to the community and that I wanted to learn about the people controlling this community. Because families alone does not shape characters.

Host: You mean that it is no longer a triangle ‘Family, School, Student’ and that it is the society as will. So we have a square now instead of a triangle.

Jonar Nader: Yes, I mean that the town and the entire community affect the way a child is raised, and that is why they agreed to all of the above, and we have been working on the arrangements for a while now. The event is going to be in March, and it is going to be a first for me to talk to everyone, so I will either inspire them or drive them crazy.

Host (Joking): They will either run away or go crazy.

Host: Thank you very much Jonar for all the interviews you do for the Arabic show for this year and wishing you a successful and productive year.

Jonar Nader: Thank you Ghassan.

Host: The Educational and social lecturer, the technological expert and the author Jonar Nader, and with this we end the youth program ‘The Youth and the future’

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