New York Times: Schools Drop One to One Laptop Programs

   
   
   
   
   
new york times olpc
The shirt says it all
New York Times says, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops. The New York Times article doesn't even mention OLPC project, but OLPC can't be happy about the headline. A few school districts that tried "one-to-one" laptop programs "are now abandoning them as educationally empty - and worse." A school board president says:
"After seven years there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement - none.... The teachers were telling us when there's a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It's a distraction to the educational process."
Ouch! My name is Amir Karger. I have no affiliation with OLPC, no training in education or economics, no experience in development and foreign aid. Really, I'm just another hacker who thinks OLPC could be really amazing. But I worry about the leap of faith we (and national ministers of education) are being asked to take. Especially given results like these: "Districts have dropped laptop programs after resistance from teachers, logistical and technical problems, and escalating maintenance costs." Alas, these are just the problems that Wayan and OLPC News posters have been warning of.

The only good news in the article is of the "jury is still out" or feel-good variety. Echoing the earliest successes in Porto Alegre and Cambodia, "Many school administrators and teachers say laptops in the classroom have motivated even reluctant students to learn, resulting in higher attendance and lower detention and dropout rates."

OLPC Brazil Kids
She enjoys OLPC technology

The bad news is a bit more specific:

  • Students cheated via IM.
  • Students used the computers to "download porn and hack into local businesses"
  • Computers broke
  • Computers cost too much
  • Many students and teachers rarely or never used them for learning
Of course, cheating and hacking (the bad kind) are age-old problems; we can't expect OLPC to fix everything. And to their credit, OLPC have done some work to fight the above problems. Their accomplishments include:
  • Simpler, more rugged computers
  • The Bifrost security plan (This won't stop *outbound* cracking, of course.)
  • Relatively cheap laptops (though not compared to some countries' education budgets)
What worries me most, though, are two larger, systemic problems: first, teachers didn't incorporate the computers in classroom teaching; second, students didn't perform better on grades or state tests.

Indeed, quantifiable benefits are hard to find: "it is less clear whether one-to-one computing has improved academic performance - as measured through standardized test scores and grades - because the programs are still new, and most schools have lacked the money and resources to evaluate them rigorously." And one of the largest studies so far "found no overall difference on state test scores."

One education professor quoted in the article has an interesting perspective. Noting that some students did amazing things on their own with their laptops, he says:

"Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research. If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful."
This sort of independent exploration sounds a lot like what we hear from OLPC. And standardized tests may not be the best way to measure education. Still, a lot of countries (like America) consider tests pretty important. Maybe the professor's right, and constructivism is mostly a benefit for bright kids. But are we spending millions of dollars to help just a few kids?

OLPC Brazil Teacher
Teachers are key to OLPC success

Maybe it's the fault of uncreative teachers, who don't use the laptops to foster kids' creativity and learning. In that case, where's the implementation plan to show the teachers how to help the students? Or will kids with laptops magically start educating themselves?

OLPC does provide benefits for rural areas of developing countries, which the Times article doesn't address: textbooks without any additional distribution cost; outdoor-readable monitors; knowledge of market prices for their parents' produce; and hours of exploration outside of school.

These benefits are real and significant. But some of these benefits are irrelevant in America, where OLPC now says they'll sell laptops. And if test scores don't go up, many countries will consider the project a failure - even if they do discover a new Steve Jobs or two.

Given the large number of current and planned "one-to-one" projects, we will definitely be getting more data; we (and OLPC) can only hope that the data will improve. Perhaps innovative teachers will build curriculum that helps children explore with the laptops. Perhaps districts will eventually find more substantial benefits, as teachers build curriculum using the new resources. Perhaps creative children will explore on their own, and share their explorations with other OLPC kids around the world. But perhaps not.

My greatest hope is that someone will write a response to my post, and refute every one of its points. No doubt, they will tell me why OLPC is nothing like these "one-to-one" projects. Please, OLPC folks: prove me wrong!

I feel guilty writing this critical review of OLPC-like projects, especially since I didn't get to say all the wonderful things OLPC is doing. Not least, they're prodding people to think creatively about difficult issues. So let me conclude by saying I hope OLPC has (and will share) answers to all of these issues. And if not, then I hope their leap of faith has a happy landing.

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27 Comments

To be able to compare it equally, we should know whether comparable students without a school laptop use computers and internet at home. And I seriously doubt whether the school district will stop all use of the internet and computers, say, by closing down their web site and return to only use pencil and paper.

Btw, the school district mentioned can be found here:

http://www.liverpool.k12.ny.us/
http://www.lhs.liverpool.k12.ny.us/
http://www.anx.liverpool.k12.ny.us/

Having anything distracting in the classroom can be considered bad. And this includes laptops and library books. Teachers rarely allow students to read library books during class. Only the pages under consideration are allowed. That is not an argument against using libraries in education. Likewise, in international conferences, organizers also try to block internet access in conference rooms during talks. And we don't assume that science conference organizers see the internet as unhelpful to science.

I see it more as evidence that you should think about what function your computers and internet should have in education. And I certainly agree that just dumping computers into a classroom is not the correct approach. But the whole point of Sugar and the OLPC was to design an interface and software for education.

The crucial difference is that the intended receipients of the OLPC laptop have no other means to access computers or the internet. Nor have they access to libraries, and only limited access to school books.

In contrast, I think the NY students will have ample alternatives. An I am pretty sure they will use them for their classes.

Compare this to starting a school bus service for students that all have a car, versus such a service for students that can only walk as an alternative. In the former case, I can understand that it will be a complete failure. In the second case, I have much more convidence that it might work.

Winter

I like your take on this report by the Old (Grey) Lady. It goes to the main issue at stake, the relevance of this specific investment, against many other demands.

Problem is, as you state, that OLPC is a leap of faith, but also that is being sold as a ready-made solution. That's terrible.

Amir,
I fully agree with your criticism. Of course it would be exaggerated to claim that all laptop usage or all one-to-one laptop usage is fruitless because laptops werw generally wrong in education. As you say, most probably the laptops are not used the right way in school and for homework. There might also be some indifference or even refusal to learn how technology works in classrooms by some teachers themselves. Many reasons are possible to cause this phenomenon.
Obviously OLPC is aware of this. Their solution is not to rely on teachers. If a teacher wants to stick with the traditional style he can use the XOs just as e-books, nothing more. Then the kids would use the exploratory functionality of the XOs outside of school. This is the scenario for which Prof. Negroponte seems to design OLPC.

However, this "learning-by-playing" in the sparetime most probably is not going to be directed towards school learning goals and won't show up in the test scores of schools. I.e. kids learn things that are not asked for by schools and does hardly help them in school and finally leads to news head lines as you have shown us. Of course this would still be better than never introducing laptops or even dropping them.

If the goal is to also improve the school test scores there is probably no way around the teachers and a very well thought-out implementation plan. And that is the weakness of OLPC up to now. So far OLPC does not take the teachers on board. In countries where this is regardless starting to happen (AFAIK e.g. Nepal) it is because the local support communities, teachers and the government started to work together.

This could be the way out of the dilemma. If OLPC cannot or does not want to get involved in implementation then national or even international collaboration of ministries, teachers and support communities have to jump in. I.e. beside OLPC another non-profit organization is required that coordinates the collaboration concerning the implementation of OLPC (b.t.w. also Classmate) hard- and software in the classrooms on national and international level. In this organization the lead should be with educators who picked up technology rather than technologists who picked up education.

One of the reasons the "one to one" program failed was the fact that modern OS are not actually designed as educational tools. So, I am not surprised these laptops were used for purposes not related to education. This is a great opportunity for Sugar, if implemented correctly. As Eduardo said, we don't have elements to judge how well the OLPC will work as an educational machine, other than believing "it will just work". This in practice puts the XO in the same league as the conventional PCs and Macs used so far, unless we are all proved wrong by solid case studies and proper testing.

"If OLPC cannot or does not want to get involved in implementation then national or even international collaboration of ministries, teachers and support communities have to jump in."

The OLPC is in a real quagmire here. They need to get educational content and teachers support on the OLPC. However, if they try to change the educational content, the nations will protest.

Take any country you know, and imagine an outside, foreign, organizations comes in and tries to specify what they should teach their kids. It is bound to induce hatred and violence.

The OLPC can only leave the initiative to the receipient countries. They pay for it.

Rob

Rob,
if such an international organization would concentrate more on how to teach than what to teach it could be less delicate.
The actual content could be dealt with by the national groups.

Another way of working could be that the international part works out sample content and the national part customizes it to local requirements/preferences.

Rob,

No one is suggesting that OLPC "tries to specify what they should teach their kids."

What many of us suggest is that OLPC give guidance on how to incorporate XO technology into the schools. Guidance on how teachers can best maximize the laptop itself (mesh networking, etc) and how countries can develop content that leverages the technology to improve education.

Right now OLPC says "here" and does neither, which means many countries will just see it as a cheap laptop, not a way to fundamentally shift their educational actives - a laptop project, not an education project: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/press/debate_laptop_education.html

Hi Amir

I'm not an expert on education but I do follow the research on the subject of the impacts of ICT in society. It's not the first time I read something about the link between computers and school performance. In most cases what I have found follows the same path reported by NYT: no visible improvement of students performance as measured BY TRADITIONAL STANDARDS.

When people ask me about OLPC or CLASSMATE here in Chile I always say the same: do not expect better grades. It may happen, but it is not the first reason why we should get these new technologies for our kids.

The answer, or 'a better answer', is given by a teacher you quote:

"Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research. If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful."

The point is: developing nations really need more creative minds. We need kids that can produce the next youtube or the next whatever 2.0 big idea comes next.

OLPC can be a tool for that. We don't believe it is a magic tool, but it surely can help.

take care,

Luis Ramirez
UCPN.cl

Luis, it is interesting that you earmarked Mark Warschauer's comments, because that's where the main contradiction of the OLPC project lies.

OLPC presents itself as a democratizing tool, as a way to allow all kids to reach his or her potential. That's nice, but then again, not all kids have the kind of potential that the OLPC computer may bring forth.

As a tool for gifted kids, the XO or any computer may do wonders. Exactly what may the XO do for the rest of us? So, what's the priority? Better education for all, or really good for the minority? (Certainly, a minority that's not been taken care of right now).

I think that's the kind of discussion lacking right now. And my opposition to the OLPC concept stems precisely from there: as a solution for system-wide educational woes, it is wrong, and the steamrolling of politicians is even worse.

This article touches on the main reason the OLPC project is experiencing difficulties: it does not offer a clear path to successful implementation.

Without a tested implementation plan, countries are going to be very reluctant to commit much-needed money to what may amount to just another failed idea of technology performing miracles on its own.

And, the truth is that, if the OLPC will not make a VERIFIABLE positive impact on kid scores in the classroom, then it is not different that any other failed desktop/laptop project anywhere in the world.

Can we compare NY state high school students with, eg, Nigerian or Peruvian children?

These NY students with laptops are compared to other NY students with computers at home, internet access, a library card, and abundant books. The Nigerian or Peruvian students most likely have none of these.

Note that the Liverpool school district (and the schools) still have extensive web-sites (http://www.liverpool.k12.ny.us/) which also display their libraries etc..

And I do not believe these schools will hencefort do without computers and the internet, returning exclusively to books and pencil and paper.

It is obvious that teachers should be wary of letting students "play" with their laptops during classroom instruction. Just as children normally are not allowed to read library books in class. That is not an argument against libraries, but for keeping the students focused.

Think of it as a providing bus service to students. If all students have a car, this will likely fail. If the alternative is that students have to walk for an hour, I think it will succeed. The OLPC project is about supplying children without all these educational resources with basic services. NY students have shown that they do not need extra resources.

Winter

PS, I have tried to post this before, but I think it got lost somewhere.

Winter, following your line of reasoning: if NY kids do have all those resources and still use the laptops just to play, while would kids from Nigeria or Peru, that do not have any resource at all, not play with them?

One of the points you make is quite valid:

"It is obvious that teachers should be wary of letting students "play" with their laptops during classroom instruction. Just as children normally are not allowed to read library books in class. That is not an argument against libraries, but for keeping the students focused."

Test-based instruction collides with play-and-explore laptops. Either you structure instruction around the laptops or you discard testing and let them discover and play. The original OLPC aim of transforming education into a "very different animal" of a constructivist persuasion was at least consistent, not that I necessarily agree with it. Problem is: how do you convince education ministers to do as that? Else, the XO will suffer the same setbacks as the laptops have in the US

Winter wrote:
"It is obvious that teachers should be wary of letting students "play" with their laptops during classroom instruction. Just as children normally are not allowed to read library books in class. That is not an argument against libraries, but for keeping the students focused."

I couldn't agree more, Winter.

...which brings me to the next questions:

"What if the emperor, indeed, has no clothes?"

What if, in spite of being wonderful devices, computers are only a distraction in the classroom?

What if, like library books, they are better for students OUTSIDE the classrom (take them home or go to the computer/library room?

Now, this is NOT any new concept. Most institutions have used them like that: every school and college in the USA has one or more "computer rooms".

That said, would Negroponte's offer look attractive if he admitted that his laptops are probable best used at home?

I don't think so, because of the many difficulties arising from such scenario:

Printing would be a problem, internet access would be a problem, etc.

"Test-based instruction collides with play-and-explore"

If curriculum, content, technology and a modern teaching method are tightly interwoven, I can very well imagine that there are also goal-oriented play-and-explore episodes in class. This is not only possible but might be one of the decisive differences to traditional style and might boost score results in the end.

The problem is that tightly interweaving educational topics with technological topics requires teams proficient in both. Maybe the lack of those dually-skilled people/teams is the reason of so many unsuccessful laptop projects.

The requirement of tight interweaving of those two topics is also a reason why separated development of technology (OLPC) and content (countries) might not be successful. There must be a good mix of different skills in the same team.

Allow me to complement all of the commenters for the high level of this discussion. A consensus appears to be forming that some third party must appear to coordinate educational software development for the XO and similar systems. That or OLPC will have to get their act together - an unlikely prospect because it would involve a retreat from the ship-or-die mindset typical of most startups.

In effect, OLPC should admit that it is a laptop project and spin off their education devlopment efforts (of which we know very little) under a separate roof, which would accommodate candidate-country efforts as well.

OLPC would have to find a way to survive without losing all of its talent. This may not be as hard as it seems since many are on secondment from other companies (e.g., Google), and funding is coming under nonprofit rules as donations rather than under investment rules with lawyers standing at the ready.

The main casualty would probably be Nick's ego, of which the less said the better. That kind of problem has killed many a startup in the past.

Face it, OLPC needs a "turnaround" - a process well known in the world of startups. New money with new conditions, the role of the leader redefined, and a "get well plan" drawn up with new, more realistic targets and better defined goals.

Typically, it's investors that initiate a turnaround, and in this case "investor" maps to "major donor". The sooner it gets started, the better.

All these discussions are focussed on Classroom instruction. But that is not where computers are used. Nowhere.

Take for example Computer Sciences students. I know of no-one who will claim that you can study CS at a modern university without a computer and the internet. But I also do not see students using computers in the classroom during instruction. Some may use a laptop for taking notes, but most just use a pencil.

Education is instruction, learning, and practise. Instruction is done in the classroom, learning at home or in a quiet place, and practise at home or with peers during practise hours.

Just as students don't read library books during instruction in the classroom, they normally don't use computers in a classroom. I have seen a lot of people using computers, and the internet, productively in education.

Actually, the educational model of universities in general, but also highschool education the Netherlands heavily depend on the internet for efficiency and information exchange. However, rarely have I seen classroom use of computers.

But the discussions about the OLPC are completely focused on classroom intergration of computers. Why?

The OLPC is targeted at use during instruction as an eBook, and beyond instruction as a collaboration, information, practising tool. That the children play with the laptops was the intended purpose. Children MUST play, that is the only way they can learn to use anything productively.

Children who don't read books for pleasure, don't learn to read properly.

Winter

Didn't those laptops use Microsoft (r) Windows and Microsoft (r) Office? OLPC's OS is quite different from these and is supposed to be used in a different manner...these schools all can afford textbooks anyways, vs. the need for them that OLPC can provide in developing countries.

Everyone is missing a central point.

As Negroponte alludes to in his talks (see olpctalks.com) the priority group for olpc is student in areas where there is a gross shortage of teachers. In these areas schools have split sessions and a typical student gets only 2 1/ hour instruction a day, if that.

Olpc hardware and software is designed to overcome this problem. Instead of hiring more teachers, which developing countries can't afford to do, the idea is for students to become self-directed learners.

Will the idea work? That remains to be seen. But don't jump all over olpc unless you correctly understand its rationale.

Oops, that should be 2 1/2 hours

Just remember one thing when reading thousands of words: Laptops are 21st Century Pencils... the better they get sharpened, the clearer we will write. OLPC people: keep up the good work :) !

From the NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/opinion/l08laptop.html

To the Editor:

Laptop pilot programs in Maine, Brazil and Cambodia, to name a few places, have demonstrated that children use technology to explore, create and share ideas with others. Yes, kids are going to play video games and sometimes download adult content, but that’s part and parcel of living in a free and open society. It’s up to parents and teachers to help children learn how to evaluate different types of content.

It will be a tragedy if your article influences other schools not to invest in technology. While other countries are investing in laptops for their students, the United States is in danger of moving backward.

We live in an information age, and it is time for the United States to infuse computing and technology into every aspect of learning.
It will be an even bigger tragedy if developing nations are influenced by our bad example, because these countries have no libraries, books are too expensive and teachers are scarce.

We need children to participate actively in their own learning. Connected, low-cost, rugged laptops are one way to do it.

Nicholas Negroponte
Cambridge, Mass., May 4, 2007
The writer, the founding director of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory, is the founder and chairman of One Laptop Per Child.

Typical Negrponte semi-truth, semi-lies, pure double-talk.

"Laptop pilot programs in Maine, Brazil and Cambodia, to name a few places, have demonstrated that children use technology to explore, create and share ideas with others. "

No mention of education improvement, though, lest the NY Times begin asking pertinent questions...

The paragraph before the Warschauer quote is key, however: "But Mr. Warschauer, who supports laptop programs, said schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes.

(Emphasis mine) - laptop programs need a strong focus on teacher training and inclusion. Who'ddathunkit?

There seem to be some misconceptions (a) about the New York Times article, (b) about my comments in the New York Times article, and (c) and about the role of laptops in K-12 schools. I'll address each of these in turn.

First, a number of people are taking the New York Times article as evidence that lots of schools are abandoning laptop programs. I've examined laptop programs across the country and haven't found that to be the case. Rather, lots of districts are expanding laptop programs every year, and very small numbers of laptop programs are being scaled back--and almost always because of problems due to financial sustainability rather than due to questions about their value. Indeed the New York Times reporter looked all over the country and couldn't come up with much beyond one school in New York (as an example of abandoning a program that didn't appear to be working.)

Second, as to my quotes, I was not suggesting that students do not learn with laptops, or that only privileged students learn with laptops, or that students only learn independently with laptops. I believe students learn a great deal with laptops, and that what they learn is very important, and takes place as part of classroom instruction, but that it just isn't measured well by today's standardized tests. That's a problem with the tests (which are almost always done with paper and pencil over limited time, and focusing on multiple choice questions or brief timed essays), rather than with technology-enhanced learning.

Third, somebody brought up a reasonable point above that computers may be valuable for education, but just not in classrooms. That may (or may not) be true in a higher education setting, when students have limited time in classrooms and do most of their serious work outside of class (and almost all have access to computers and high-speed Internet access for their out-of-time work). But in K-12 instruction, students are actually in classrooms for the strong majority of their weekly study time, and K-12 students have inconsistent access to computers and high-speed Internet access outside of class, so the relative value of computers inside the classroom changes.

All this refers to laptops in U.S. schools. I'll hold off to commenting on the OLPC project for now.

wow, it sounds like the One-to-One programs had absolutely no plan for how to use the laptops in class. It as if they blindly purchased 10,000 books from Amazon.com, handed them out to all students, and then were surprised when little was gained.

Where do people get off thinking that just by having a device, magically some kind of educational learning will just happen? The XO is no different if THAT is how it is handled but from the blogs I've read, it is not. Teachers are educated on how to use the devices, why they should use the devices, how to create curriculum around the devices, etc. And I think there are plans to post curriculum on the internet for anyone else to use.

Computers are not magic and those leading the classrooms must have a GOOD understanding of how to use these tools to enhance the course work. If the teachers don't know how to use the tool, there is little hope of students magically learning anything but how to play around with what is pre-installed. Also, having an internet connection is not going to do the job either. It can help in certain projects but one does not need an internet connection to learn the "story" of Tom Sawyer.

At a local event, I mentioned inexpensive ways to get computers into the local elementary schools to a handful of teachers. They were all excited but what got me was that none of them asked about what kind of course work could be used with them. It was as if just the thing, "the computer", was what students needed to improve their grades and accelerate their learning. I also know that the local colleges turn out computer illiterate teachers and the high schools don't teach computer skills but instead, they just teach students how to click their way through one or two applications( MS Word and MS Powerpoint ).

OLPC would fail if they were to think the device is magic but they don't. Thank goodness for that.

Great, the worse americans do the better. The end of imperialism and western hegemony is near. They will not be totally lost when the rug is pulled from underneath them lol.

It has to be taken into account that the public education model where public schools are left to their own devices, or are ordered around by amateur-staffed state Boards of Education, and government assesses their performance by occasionally throwing "standardized tests" at the students, is a US-specific model, that most of the world, including even developing countries, rejects.

The model is often like this:

1. A national-level body of education officials, psychologists, specialists in various subjects applicable to schools (linguists, mathematicians, historians, scientists, etc...) sponsors research and development of curriculum, writing of textbooks, certification of curricula and recommendations as well as teachers themselves.

2. Schools are handed down what is, or at least is supposed to be, the minimal curriculum, recommended practices, heavily subsidized textbooks, etc. This is not a part of some local-property-tax-supported or charitable program, and most countries don't even have an equivalent of US-state-level government to mess with decisions made at the level of central government -- it is supposed to be the direct order to public schools from government that funds them. All tests and curriculum are part of the whole, there are no "standardized tests" performed by some kind of adversaries of local school's officials to assess their, or students', performance, they are part of normal school exams, and the whole school system is expected to act as one organization.

3. While schools can add things beyond the minimal curriculum, resources available for it are often slim, and depend on local programs, sponsorship, charity, etc., that are not common. To replace a piece of curriculum, you need government to approve your program as special or experimental, and hopefully a part of research that can be used for future curriculum changes. "How we can use expensive piece of equipment that is not produced within the country and can not be obtain within a reasonable budget" is a very poor subject of government-sponsored experiment in public schools. "How existing textbooks and homework assignments can be augmented with locally developed software that can run on desktops salvaged from computer recycling program, but is better on shiny laptops that can later be produced locally, and are available now" may keep you from being kicked out of Ministry of Education building, but the content of proposal should better not be limited to "Duh, I wonder if it works".

4. Everything that is taught within the minimal curriculum has to be supported by proper textbooks and other materials -- if anything is added, be it a laptop with educational software or a poster on the wall, it should provide information in a way compatible with the form presented in textbooks. If a poster in Astronomy class lists Pluto as a planet but textbook is updated to agree with IAU (given that local education system cares about IAU opinion in the first place) does not, it's not a huge problem, especially if teacher can use this example to explain that the whole naming system is a matter of common definitions. However if poster on Mechanics claims that centrifugal force does not exist while textbook says that it does, but only in non-inertial reference frames, then you won't see a poster anywhere in the Physics class. Same if vice versa, and textbook is trying to avoid mentioning things that require more math to be fully explained than students can handle. Same would happen with anything that has Ohm's law formula written as "I=V/R" if the textbook has it as "I=U/R", and makes a point of distinguishing variables and units ("V" being reserved for Volt, the unit).

5. Presence of material in language that kids are not expected to understand can be obstacle of the same level as a textbook printed with goatse on the cover. There ARE public schools with English as the primary language used for teaching in non-English-speaking countries, however a program that can be only used there is unlikely to be welcomed by education officials responsible for 99% of the system where it can't. Multiply the level of their disagreement by an order of magnitude or two if the language in question is English, and the country had some unresolved beef with British Empire, modern UK or US within last two centuries, or if the country has rules against use of foreign language in government communication (that public education belongs to), or if top-level education officials are former writers or nationalist bigots. One more order of magnitude if there are similar circumstances and the language is NOT English, that has an excuse of being common.

Granted, in many developing countries public education is too underfunded to implement those principles consistently, but this is pretty much what everyone is trying to do. While it may look too heavy-handed to Americans, it is good at keeping education from falling far below the accepted standards. It also keeps away quacks with saddled dinosaurs and other derailments -- at least until the point when supposedly educated government really wants to see a saddled dinosaur in a classroom and accepts the expected consequences in the quality of future biologists and historians.

US, where system relies on poorly paid teachers' creativity, money from property taxes, and federal government's efforts are only directed against crime and racism in schools, is an exception, not a rule. To think of it, US schools may be a BETTER target for those laptops because so little is set in stone.

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