November 10, 2004
Lego – in the middle of the intersecting circles

I think a lot of the success of Lego is that when you read a report like this you don't only think: blatant marketing.

SINGAPORE : Southeast Asia's first Lego education centre opened in Singapore on Thursday.

It features not only a galore of Lego blocks to teach basic physical science to pre-schoolers, but also a Mindstorms programme – which allows students to build robots - using the principles of mechanics.

The centre will cater to students from pre-school to teens and has tied up with local education provider Crestar to offer seven different curriculums ranging from design to physics.

So far, an estimated 800 students have signed up for classes which begin next month.

Four more centres are expected to be launched by 2007. – CAN

It is blatant marketing. Get them young, build brand loyalty, get them addicted. Yet despite all the obvious commercial calculation, this is not like getting kids addicted to potato crisps or hamburgers or rap music videos. Here, you feel, is a case where commerce and education, as claimed, really do go hand in hand. They really might be teaching some real design and some real physics here.

CirclesS.gifAs I ruminate upon education, I find myself attracted by a topographical model of education involving intersecting circles, like those diagrams they use to explain how the different colours come together to make TV work. There are three circles. These denote: the interests of the child, the interests of the child's parents, the interests of the child's teachers. When a proposed item of education occupies none of the circles, no worries, it just doesn't happen. When it occupies only one of the circles, there is conflict. When it occupies two, the third party tends to get bullied into line. The child has to do it, the parents have to put up with it, or a teacher is found who will provide it. Best is when all three areas overlap.

This Lego thing has the feel of being in all three circles. Your first reaction might be: this is only in a completely irrelevent fourth circle occupied by those dubious individuals who hover on the outside of education looking to further their own interests but to make nothing but trouble for children, parents and teachers. Junk food salesmen, sex fiends, etc. But here is a hoverer who has parachuted himself right into the middle of the intersecting circles.

Which of course makes it very clever marketing.

LegoSteff.jpg

I found this Lego picture here.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:20 PM
Category: Education theoryThe private sector