Top 10 TED Talks that make you rethink children’s education

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Ideas worth spreading

I love watching TED Talks. In 2015, I did a post about my favorite TED Talks on Parenting. The idea behind it was simply to keep all my favorite talks at one place – sort of like a playlist – so that the next time I was inspired to revisit them, I did not need to search for them.

That post became quite popular at the time and to my surprise and delight, was picked up by Brain, Child Magazine. It was shared on their social media feeds, bringing me a huge surge of traffic. For a rookie blogger, it was a wonderful feeling indeed! Till date, that post has remained one of my favorite listicle posts of all times on FertileBrains.

Since then I have watched many more TED Talks on varied topics and been inspired, awed, shocked and moved by the width and depth of every single one of them. Of all the topics out there, Education is the closest to my heart (besides Parenting). There is an utter need for a revolutionizing change in our thinking towards education if we are to match what we teach our children in the classrooms to what they are going to need later in their adult lives. Agreed, no one can predict the future, but surely (whether there is a general consensus on the topic or not), this archaic, factory model of education is no longer the best way forward.

As many of you already know, I feel quite strongly about this topic and the alternate forms of child-centric education that must come into the mainstream curriculum if we are to keep our children’s curiosities and their love of learning intact well into their adult lives. When I hear similar sentiments reflected by expert educators in the talks I have listed below, I am reassured that the unconventional path of education we, as a family, have adopted may not be such a bad idea after all. Check these thought-provoking TED Talks out (not in any particular order) and see for yourself why we need more and more parents and educators to begin this much-needed dialogue for change.

TED Talks that make you rethink education

1. Do schools kill creativity? – Ken Robinson

This is THE MOST POPULAR TED TALK of all times and chances are, if you have ever been on the site, you have already watched it, perhaps multiple times. In this funny, yet profoundly thought-provoking talk, Creativity Expert Sir Ken Robinson asks a hard question – “Do today’s schools kill creativity?”

2. Why some of us don’t have one true calling? – Emilie Wapnick

We have all been asked this question at some points in our childhood – “What do you want to become when you grow up?”
Or, perhaps a little less scary – “What is your favorite subject?” – which kind of leads to similar extrapolations.
For specialists among us, the answer to this is as easy as adding two numbers. But for many, who are not driven by the pursuit of a single objective and have many, equally loved interests, these questions could cause anxiety. In this refreshing talk, writer Emilie Wapnick gives the “Multipotentialites” (as she calls them) their “aha” moment, just like author Susan Cain did for introverts with her groundbreaking “The Power Of Introverts” talk. A must watch for parents trying to understand their children’s interests and inclinations.

3. Bring on the learning revolution! – Ken Robinson

In this follow-up talk to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes a compelling case for a child-centric personalized model of education, where each child’s natural talents are nurtured versus the “one-size fits all” model of education. This is by far my favorite talks on education.

4. Build a school in the cloud – Sugata Mitra

When we talk about child-centric education model, how far can we stretch it? Can children learn by themselves without a teacher? What about the poor children who have little or no knowledge of the written language, to begin with? Educational researcher and winner of 2013 TED Prize, Sugata Mitra answered this and a lot more with his “Hole in the wall” experiments across India and abroad and came to incredible conclusions about the ability of children to self-learn given the right resources and left to their own devices with the right questions.

5. Let’s use video to reinvent education – Sal Khan

In 2004, Sal Khan, a hedge fund analyst, began posting math tutorials on YouTube. Twelve years later, Khan Academy has more than 42 million registered users from 190 countries, with tutorials on subjects from basic math through economics, art history, computer science, health, medicine and more. As one of the 42 million users of the Khan Academy, when I first tried using it for our homeschooling needs, I was a little less impressed with the seemingly “boring” videos on the topics. But the funny thing is that sonny loves them! He loves the non-distracting nature of the videos (Maths ones, we have only used those till now) and also the fact that he can practice on his own.
This is the story of Khan Academy and how audio-visual content is redefining the way we teach our children without introducing a fear of failure into the learning process.

6. How to learn? From Mistakes – Diana Laufenberg

Talking about “fear of failure” – We all remember them, those special few teachers, who stood out from the rest – the ones who taught us to be inquisitive, to embrace failure and to learn from them. Why? Because there is no better way to learn, as veteran secondary social studies teacher Diana Laufenberg tells us in this insightful talk.

7. Every kid needs a champion – Rita Pierson

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level, this TED talk reminds us of the teachers who are the lifeline of the broken education system of today and fighting for the children’s right to learn despite all the odds.

8. Three rules to spark learning – Ramsey Musallam

“Educators need to leave behind the simple role as disseminators of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry.” This thought has been repeated many times over in many forms throughout this list of TED talks and High School Chemistry Teacher Ramsey Musallam also embraces and emphasizes this thought process in this fun and personal TED talk.

9. Learning from the barefoot college – Bunker Roy

Learning is not degree dependent. Learning is not gender dependent. Learning is not class dependent. In this funny, eye-opening talk, Barefoot College’s founder Sanjit “Bunker” Roy takes you on a journey through this extraordinary college in rural Rajasthan which teaches poor, mostly illiterate villagers – chosen from all over the world – to become solar engineers, artisans and more; and encourages them to become catalysts for change in their own respective communities.

10. How to escape education’s death valley

Last, but not the least, to end this post, I am listing one more of my favorite TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson. In this talk, he outlines three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational “death valley” we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

Since you made it so far, here’s a bonus talk from RSA Animate by Sir Ken Robinson. In this summarizing sort of talk, he lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers. If I have to choose just one from this list due to a time crunch, this bonus talk will be it.


We are at the cusp of change when it comes to our children’s education. The time when there were only a handful of “respectable” professions to choose from is long gone. The sky will not fall if your child does not make the cut to be a doctor or an engineer or (god forbid!) even a professor, gasp! There are a thousand other exciting professions to choose from. The idea is to nurture the children’s natural abilities and find the thing (or things) that make their eyes twinkle with the excitement of possibilities. That, in my opinion, is the best indicator and the best way forward.


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