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Steve Jobs In 1996: ‘What’s Wrong With Education, Can’t Be Fixed With Technology’

News of the upcoming Apple event tomorrow have been making waves around the tech world. It is highly expected that Apple will introduce an e-book creation tool at the event tomorrow and that this tool may be the first step in revolutionizing the world of textbooks. But how effective will that be in furthering educational goals? In this interview given in 1996, Steve Jobs said that the main problem was with the educational policies and socio-political factors involved, and that technology can’t solve all these problems.


In 1996, in an interview given to Wired, Steve Jobs was of the opinion that technology can’t solve what’s fundamentally wrong with education. He stated, “I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.

It’s a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical. The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy.”

Jobs then went on to propose a business model for education. He said that if parents were given $4,400 vouchers a year, everyone would want to open a school, take it as a business, design an excellent, useful curriculum and that, perhaps may mend the problems with education. Jobs was of the view that the fundamental problem with education lied with the bureaucracy that formulates and benefits from educational policies. In his opinion, that has to change before technology could make an impact on education.

However, from a business point of view, he did consider the world of textbooks as a very viable business opportunity. And he had plans of taking these textbooks to the digital realm and include them in the next big thing for Apple. That is why everyone is quite expectant that the announcement that will come from Big Apple tomorrow will most probably be about an e-book creation tool or a platform to facilitate the creation of digital textbooks very easily.

However, some people have cited that this may cause some legal hurdles. According to US laws, the curriculum in a school must be such that students with disabilities face no hindrance in studying there. While Apple may be tested against this benchmark, I think with the awesome novelty of Siri and with the kind of functionality iPad can provide, Apple will eventually emerge triumphant in this realm too. And if indeed this does happen, this will truly revolutionize the realm of education, making it very accessible to nearly everyone with an iPad.

Image courtesy acaben.

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