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British teacher George Casley: Modern technologies make students passive

Today we are having British teacher George Casley in the TV program Simple Questions.

Good afternoon. Thank you for your time. In Soviet times, there was a popular belief that British education is the best in the world. What can you tell us about it? Is it true?

George Casley, teacher, consultant, education institution supervisor in the UK:
I think that education in the UK is really good even though we keep researching it. In my opinion, the best graduates show the best results in colleges and universities. This way, this rule applies to successful students.

However, British education proved its quality in such spheres as languages, history, and some exact sciences.

Thank you. George, I know you visited some middle schools in Belarus. What surprised you the most?

George Casley:
Belarusian students are full of enthusiasm when it comes to studies. And the way they wanted to know how exactly they are being taught, as we have been trying to involve British students in such process.

While visiting Belarus, I met a lot of students who want to talk about it. What surprises me the most is their interest in getting a broader education. They are trying to study more disciplines every coming year. In the UK, there are fewer and fewer disciplines every academic year. Our countries differ here. It would be interesting to exchange students in our countries and see what happens. To see if they would be able to switch.

Thank you, Mr. Casley. Modern technologies change the world, and, obviously, education system. Some people think nowadays students do not need some basic knowledge, as it can easily be found on the Internet. What is your opinion?

George Casley:
Modern technologies showed teachers a lot of new possibilities. Sometimes we should be careful with these modern technologies.

Example: many schools started to use PowerPoint presentations, but it does not help the education process, and it does not help students to learn new information. What helps is breaking students into groups and discussing. We research the way brain remembers and processes information. It turns out it is easier to remember something if you are using this information. We should know that modern technologies make students more passive.

People use their memory, get involved in the education process, do everything more actively, and that is exactly where we get real knowledge.

Anyone can use a search system to get to know something, but it does not make us smart or educated. The way we use and apply the information makes us educated. And that is exactly where a teacher should demonstrate what can be done with information and how to process it. This is why we need teachers.

They say every great man has a great teacher. Can you assume that teacher figure is not going to be as important as it is now?

George Casley:
I would assume something opposite. Today we get an enormous amount of information, see a lot of different cultures, and a lot of expertise and experience. It is globalization. We need teachers to be here and help us. We need them to impart their knowledge and skills to a new generation so that we could understand, analyze and use this information for the good and prosperity.

I want to say we need teachers more than ever.

You know, a lot of teachers think we should teach kids where to find information, and not give them important knowledge…

George Casley:
I would argue with that. What students need today is to learn the way to analyze their knowledge, not where to find it. But it is not easy to see what is true and what is not. They can look for something on the Internet and find people who think the Earth is flat or something like that. That is why they need to analyze information. To see what is real and what is not. To question the information you see.

The perennial question: genes or environment? You probably know that in the USSR, it was considered that environment is more important for human development. There even was a famous book by Soviet scientist Makarenko. So, what is your opinion? Genes or environment?

George Casley:
My colleagues from the Cambridge University research human brain and get to know what happens to it in different situations. I think it is complicated. What I can say is that the first two years of our life are extremely important. It was announced a few weeks ago in Cambridge. The experience kids get during these first two years of their lives will have a long-term effect.

However, all students are different.

Their creativity and ability to analyze things they see for the first time are important. It is different for every student. This is exactly what we are researching at the moment. Now we research way more complicated things.

Human brain is extremely complicated, beautiful, and amazing.

Thank you, George. I would like to ask you about music. I know you founded a music festival…

George Casley:
That is right, I run Womad fund. It was founded by Peter Gabriel to introduce music education to schools. He wanted people to know about music all around the world. Peter is phenomenal himself; he also wants people to hear music they never knew existed.

And you invited Belarusian folk band Troitsa to the UK?

George Casley:
They played at a Womad festival. It was amazing. There were more than 40,000 people in the audience; musicians come from over 90 countries.

I find it amazing that musicians start to interact, play; they start to understand there are huge differences in music genres and they are trying to find something familiar. And it helps to understand the real world a little better. We are trying to do the same thing with education. Some of the students I met in Belarus could not talk about the fact the world is changing.

Today we know more about the world than our parents and grandparents could. I think if young people want to understand it, they should learn more about other cultures art and lifestyle. This is what makes us human.

Many rich people from Russia send their children to study abroad. They think education there is better, is it true?

George Casley:
Every student needs a matching school – this is key to success. For some young people going abroad is a unique and life-changing experience. It gives them opportunities.

There are students from 62 different countries in a London college where I work.

And this experience is phenomenal. After graduation alumni know exactly who they are and their place in the world.

I think for many students it is a great opportunity to study in English. It is an international language. It is very important for students to interact. For example, we have English culture; those Belarusian musicians have their music, their art. It is very important. We need to keep the traditional art.

George, thank you for your time and the interview. Welcome to Belarus, and we are looking forward to seeing you.

George Casley:
Thank you.

British teacher George Casley: Modern technologies make students passive