An International collaborative School Research Project exploring the Role of Maths in Technology
Figure 1: Global Communication Flows (Butler, 2010)
Globalisation is the “shift or transformation in the scale of human organization that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations across the world’s regions [which] can be mapped by examining the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of social interaction” Held (2004, p1).
Irrespective of the precise nature and institutional architecture of globalisation, there are a series of ‘deep drivers’ that will continue to operate for the foreseeable future including the global ICT revolution; global markets in the knowledge economy; and economic migration (Held, 2010, p243). These particular ‘drivers’, representing technology and information dissemination, can be thought of as prerequisites for a knowledge economy which the World Bank (2003, p2) explains is predicated upon four pillars, including an ‘educated and skilled population to create, share, and use knowledge’. With science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects critical, therefore, to this emerging global knowledge economy, Project Jugaad was established with the aim of providing pupils with a real world, open-ended project which would not only develop their mathematical understanding but, in addition, foster key skills such as inquiry, collaboration, communication, leadership, global awareness, and cultural understanding which will be crucial to success in further education and employment wherever they ultimately end up working.
In 2013 UK Prime Minister David Cameron led the largest business delegation ever assembled on his state visit to India with ambitions of doubling UK-India trade by 2015 (Nelson, 2013). There are tremendous opportunities for firms to benefit from economic growth in countries such as India and, given the changing economic landscape, providing our pupils with experience of working on collaborative projects alongside their peers in developing economies should help prepare them for myriad opportunities in the global knowledge economy. Jugaad is a Punjabi term that can be translated as using innovative approaches to solve problems effectively given limited resources. As such, it was chosen as the name for this collaborative educational research project into the role of Maths in Technology initially set up between Bluebells International School in New Delhi and Southfields Academy in London (Radjou et al, 2012).
For the inaugural project, two top set year 9 classes (13/14 year olds) were selected and the project was deliberately open-ended to promote a growth mindset by exposing pupils to areas of mathematics that extend beyond the confines of the syllabus and challenging them to develop new approaches to thinking about the role of maths in the technology that surrounds them (c.f. Dweck, 2008). Groups consisted of two pupils from each school and, although they were free to communicate however they saw fit (Facebook, BBM, Skype etc), their activities were scaffolded by the fact that each member had to adopt a specific role (Project Manager, Chief Researcher, Digital Engineer, Communications Director). Whilst some groups did struggle to establish contact at first, as the deadlines approached there was a flurry of activity and nearly all groups established effective communication in order to submit their projects on time. In so doing they formed new friendships with their peers in an international collaborative environment which seeks to simulate what pupils can expect to find when they embark on a career in the global knowledge economy.
The array of topics covered by the pupils was huge and the deliberations involved in shortlisting the final four were agonising. These 13 and 14 year old pupils completed extensive research into topics as diverse as maths in medicine and maths in space, and discovered, for themselves, topics that go way beyond the curriculum such as the Bernouilli Principle and calculus. Eventually, the four shortlisted groups were agreed upon and the pupils set about preparing to present their findings. This was a more intimidating task than normal, however; not only did the pupils have to present to a class full of pupils and a panel of judges sitting in front of them but, via Skype, they were also addressing pupils and judges in a class 5,000 miles away where the other members of their group were. Coordinating such a presentation within the strict 5 minute time limit required thorough planning, and it was brilliant to see how all the groups managed to achieve this with aplomb! In order to facilitate cultural understanding, pupils were also encouraged to produce short videos on ‘Life in London/Delhi’ with the best one being selected to be screened in the partner school immediately before the final.
Figure 2: Shortlisted pupils presenting to UK class and class in India in real time via Skype.
Now in its second year, Project Jugaad has expanded to include schools as far afield as the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore and, appropriately enough given the myriad extreme environmental phenomena experienced on both sides of the Atlantic, this year the focus is specifically on the role of mathematics in Green Technology. In so doing, it resonates on more that just an economic development level with Hill (2012) who extols the virtues of international mindedness into education as:
“The study of issues which have application beyond national borders and to which competences such as critical thinking and collaboration are applied in order to shape attitudes, leading to action which will be conducive to intercultural understanding, peaceful co-existence and sustainable development for the future of the human race’.
Where once skills were recognised as a key lever for prosperity and fairness, and material forces dominated growth, globalisation has led to the situation where countries can outsource their material production and concentrate on research and development: increasingly skills are the key lever (Brown et al, 2008, p132). As the rate of technology transfer increases, the link between education and economic growth becomes ever stronger as scientific knowledge accelerates the pace of technological innovation (Sab & Smith, 2001). Equipping pupils with the skills to succeed in this new economic landscape through classroom activities such as Project Jugaad is surely, therefore, not just in our interests as education professionals. It is, moreover, a powerful vehicle through which to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future in a manner that resonates with Hill’s vision (United World College, 2014; Hill, 2012).
Brown, P., Lauder, H. & Ashton, D. (2008) ‘Education, Globalisation and the Future of the Knowledge Economy’. European Education Research Journal, 7, 2, 131-156
Butler, P. (2010) ‘Visualising Friendships’, Facebook Inc. Accessed 16/02/14 https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=469716398919
Dweck, C. (2008) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine: New York
Held, D. (2004) Global Covenant: The Social Democratic Alternative to the Washington Consensus. Cambridge: Polity Press
Held, D. (2010) Cosmopolitanism: Ideals and Realities. Cambridge: Polity Press
Hill. I. (2012) ‘Evolution of Education for International Mindedness’, Journal of Research in International Education. 11, 3, 245-261
Nelson, D. (2013) ‘David Cameron to lead second trade mission to India’. The Daily Telegraph, 15 February 2013. Accessed 16/02/14 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9871786/David-Cameron-to-lead-second-trade-mission-to-India.html
Radjou , N., Prabhu, J., Ahuja, S. and Roberts, K. (2012). ‘Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth’. Willey & Sons: New Jersey. Accessed 16/02/14 http://as.wiley.com/WileyCDA/PressRelease/pressReleaseId-102985,descCd-release_additional_material.html
Sab, R. & Smith, S. C. (2001) ‘Human Capital Convergence: International Evidence’. International Monetary Fund Working Paper, WP/01/32. Washington, D.C. cited in World Bank (2003) p5
United World College. (2014) ‘United World College Mission and Values’. Accessed 16/02/14 http://www.uwc.org/about_uwc/mission_and_vision.aspx
The World Bank (2003) The Knowledge Economy and the Changing Needs of the Labour Market. Accessed 16/02/14 http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLL/Resources/Lifelong-Learning-in-the-Global-Knowledge-Economy/lifelonglearning_GKE.pdf