While principals can look forward to novel ways of electronically monitoring buildings and wayward charges, the microchip could soon reduce the institution itself to an empty shell. For among recent marvels unveiled in America is an automated roll-checking system. On entering the school or the classroom, students swipe their bar-coded library card through a scanner networked to the administration office. Roll marking then becomes automatic. The days of 'Smith - present; Jones - sir; Andropolous - present', will have ended and pupils playing truant immediately identified. Similarly, a management software programme offers the school registrar instant information about every aspect of management, including energy consumption in the classroom, depreciation schedules, equipment and maintenance work sheets. What next? Video cameras on every corner; desk-based microphones monitoring every mutter? Yet while surveillance is becoming Orwellian, the reasons for attending school are fast disappearing. As the PC replaces the pedagogue, students at home can tap into a vast array of information in library systems globally as text, graphics or pictures. Tens of thousands of people around the world are enrolled in virtual universities or online through traditional institutions and they study at home in front of a computer. To the young, tapping into a teacher is no longer a novelty. The new generation is no longer overwhelmed by the latest in information technology. Its members already know the power of the computer and are familiar with its features. In ways few people over the age of 30 can understand, microkids manipulate microchips with the same ease they skim down footpaths on their roller blades. By bits and bytes, they are spearheading an electronic revolution. In homes and classrooms, it is the youngsters - from tiny tots to towering teenagers - who are using the computer keys to open new doors to learning, thinking and reacting. Their interest has been stirred by video games, whose computer-generated flashes, zaps and pings not only have all the appeal the pinball machine had for their elders, but also go a significant step further: they create an urge in juvenile minds to learn more about this machine-made magic. That's why the schoolhouse, despite principals' new powers of invigilation, will become increasingly anachronistic, its blackboards and dusters and droning pedagogues a relic of a bygone era. Parents and teachers need time to adjust to the idea that the classroom as a child-minding service has reached its use-by date. But the day will come. Just you wait and see.