Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’

Traditional classes in English language are a “bit unnecessary” at a time when pupils have so much access to state-of-the-art technology, according to a leading academic. This is from the Telegraph…

Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, said good spelling and grammar was necessary “maybe a hundred years ago” but “not right now”.

He insisted that children should be encouraged to express themselves in a number of different ways – including using mobile phone text messaging – rather than relying on established linguistic rules.

The comments come despite a new drive by the Government to promote the basics of English language throughout compulsory education.

…But Prof Mitra, who recently won the prestigious $1m TED Prize to develop a generation of “cloud schools” where children learn from each other, said it was a mistake to resist technological change.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement, he said: “This emphasis on grammar and spelling, I find it a bit unnecessary because they are skills that were very essential maybe a hundred years ago but they are not right now.

“Firstly, my phone corrects my spelling so I don’t really need to think about it and, secondly, because I often skip grammar and write in a cryptic way.”

He added: “Should [students] learn how to write good sentences? Yes, of course they should. They should learn how to convey emotion and meaning through writing.

“But we have perhaps a mistaken notion that the way in which we write is the right way and that the way in which young people write through their SMS texting language is not the right way.

“If there is a generation who believe that SMS language is a better way of expressing emotion than our way, then are we absolutely sure that they are making a mistake and we are not?”

But Joe Walsh, co-director of the National Association for the Teaching of English, criticised the approach.

“The skills of using grammar effectively in the context of writing and spelling accurately are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago,” he told the TES. “Electronic devices can suggest alternatives but they cannot think for you.”

More at:  Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’

Interesting – what do you think about Professor Mitra’s (@Sugatam) and Joe Walsh’s (@NATEfeed) comments? I wonder what employers and @CBItweets think? Please share your reactions in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Teaching.


  1. AssessWell

    SchoolsImprove NATEfeed Given Sugatam speaks from no demonstrable track record of achieving meaningful outcomes 4 kids anywhere as yet…

  2. BuSue

    SchoolsImprove Sugatam NATEfeed For equity of opportunity, it is vital that lower-ability students and deprived students are taught SPaG.

  3. School Governor

    Prof Mitra is just plain wrong in my opinion. He admits that he is a lazy writer and is finding excuses for his own shortcomings. Good English is a discipline and again, in my opinion, discipline is one of the essential ingredients for good scholarship. 
    It is good to see children taking pride in their writing and in their spelling; being a school Governor I am often in class with children who aspire to produce good quality written work and if Prof Mitra has his way much of this enthusiasm will be frittered away.

  4. JoeThebaron

    SchoolsImprove Big Brother thought in much the same way in 1984; that’s why the Party introduced Newspeak. #Education

  5. JaneCo

    Often in life there are times when people need to express themselves unambiguously. This would be extremely limited without adhering to common rules. This opinion is analogous to “why bother with maths when I can use a calculator”.

  6. integratedbrain

    SchoolsImprove I understand what he is trying to say but if you are dyslexic you need to be taught other wise or end with spell check hell!

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