Education TechnologyAs the world continues to grapple with persistent inequalities in access to quality education, the emergence of innovative education technology (EdTech) offers renewed hope for bridging the global education gap. Socioeconomic disparities and geographical barriers continue to undermine the universal right to education, leaving a vast number of children and youth out of school. EdTech solutions, including diverse initiatives such as open online courses and interactive digital learning platforms, have begun to demonstrate their potential to make education more accessible and widen the scope of high-quality learning opportunities across the globe.

The Global Education Gap: EdTech as a Solution

According to UNESCO, more than 258 million children and youth were out of school in 2019. This figure represents a significant hindrance to global development, worsening both poverty and inequality. Therefore, bridging this gap is an urgent global priority that demands immediate and comprehensive interventions.

In response to this pressing need, EdTech has emerged as a potential game-changer for education across the globe. These technologies include an array of educational initiatives ranging from open online courses to interactive digital learning platforms. Not only do these platforms make learning more engaging and personalized, but they also hold the potential to make education more accessible. In overcoming physical, social and economic barriers, bridging the education gap becomes more attainable.

The Interplay of EdTech and Poverty Alleviation

Beyond its potential in education, EdTech is playing a crucial role in poverty reduction. When efficiently incorporated into educational systems, technology can empower individuals and communities, ultimately enabling social mobility. The World Bank affirms that EdTech can foster economic transformations by shifting toward knowledge-based models. These models are not only more sustainable but also foster equitable growth in the long run. 

Ensuring Inclusive Adoption of EdTech

While the adoption of education technology is rapidly gaining momentum, it’s crucial to ensure that these advances do not inadvertently exacerbate existing inequalities. To maximize the potential benefits of EdTech, there is a pressing need for a coordinated, holistic approach. Governments, NGOs and private sectors must collaborate to ensure that these technologies are accessible and beneficial to all learners, preventing the emergence of a digital divide in education.

EdTech in Action

Taking the digital leap, programs like Samsung’s Smart Class are playing a pivotal role in rural India. Samsung India’s initiative provides classrooms with Wi-Fi and necessary training for teachers to effectively employ advanced digital tools like interactive Smartboards, laptops and tablets. The result is a noteworthy increase in student engagement and comfort with technology. On the African continent, two significant projects, BraceKids and Africa Code Week, are introducing coding to hundreds of thousands of children. These programs provide programming language workshops, equipping young minds with important digital skills for the future.

Efforts are also underway to promote diversity in tech education. Nonprofits like Rails Girls, founded in Finland, offer worldwide training in basic programming, sketching and prototyping to encourage women to engage with technology. Another example of this is with the Ministries of Education, which is exploring virtual reality (VR) for classrooms, globally. In Singapore, the Rails Girls is partnering with a local company to create virtual field trips, meant to supplement, not replace, traditional learning. Early results show students’ insights have improved with this tool. These initiatives exemplify the potential of EdTech in bridging the global education gap. By demonstrating how technology can help facilitate education and provide quality learning opportunities, these efforts shine a light on the path toward a more digitally inclusive educational future.

Education technology holds remarkable potential to bridge the global education gap and to fundamentally reshape the future of learning. However, the journey to realizing this vision is complex and requires meticulous planning and execution. Successfully rising to the challenge opens the path for EdTech to revolutionize the education landscape, extend learning opportunities to those previously left behind and make a significant contribution to global poverty alleviation efforts.

– Mari Caitlin Riggles 
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence Teaching Robot
Robotics using artificial intelligence have become increasingly prolific over the past decade. Usually, the programs power the execution of rudimentary tasks such as walking or holding items, and the robots often have sensors that make them aware of their surroundings. Additionally, the actual programming software that developers use for AI robots is a simulation of human intelligence. This allows the robot to process and analyze information and data, as well as “think,” communicate with and respond to humans. AI robots can also accumulate experience through special algorithms which allow them to learn rapidly. Here is some information about Vietnam’s artificial intelligence teaching robot.

Vietnam’s Artificial Intelligence Teaching Robot 

EdTech startup Open Classroom recently developed Vietnam’s first artificial intelligence teaching robot, Tri Nhan. In addition to the typical features and functions of traditional artificial intelligence robots, Tri Nhan stands at 1.8 meters tall and has synthetic human organs such as lungs, a heart, a simulated DNA double-helix structure and “good” and “evil” circuits, making it seem even more human-like. 

Tri Nhan means both “artificial intelligence” and “wise man,” and the world’s first robot, Sophia, meaning wisdom, inspired it.

Tri Nhan is also equipped with five “senses” — vision via cameras in its eyes, hearing via long-range microphones, smell via air quality sensors, touch via temperature and pressure sensors and taste via a meter attached to an anti-toxic device. These artificial “senses” have merged with a Google search engine, allowing the robot to conduct various tasks. 

Additionally, Tri Nhan has also been equipped with an artificial “personality,” which is almost human-like, according to Pham Thanh Nam, the AI expert who developed the robot. Tri Nhan has a certain level of emotional intelligence and even tells jokes. 

How Does This Improve Education? 

Tri Nhan can recognize voices speaking both Vietnamese and English and process natural human conversation, as well as translate sentences from other languages. Currently, Tri Nhan’s main purpose is for teaching assistance. It can answer questions from teachers and students and cater to many different subject areas, as it recognizes a question and then searches for the information online using search engines. This artificial intelligence teaching robot can also solve mathematical equations and read poetry, making it a useful tool in any classroom. Using its high-level programming, Tri Nhan helps to actively teach children, as well as give them assessments and correct their mistakes. It can also help students learn from their mistakes and use the skills they have learned in lessons. Parents can also receive reports and track their children’s grades via an app linked to Tri Nhan. 

This helps both students and teachers in Vietnam significantly, as teachers are often overworked due to the shortage of teaching staff in the country, and students lack a high level of personalized attention from the overworked teachers. The Vietnamese education authority stated in 2022 that Vietnam needed more than 94,700 teachers across all levels of education. Many areas that lack teachers are remote, but even high schools in Ho Chi Minh City are suffering from overcrowding and staff shortages.

Innovations such as artificial intelligence teaching robots have improved the quality of teaching for many students and teachers who have had the opportunity to use them, which is a welcome advantage in less developed countries such as Vietnam. 

Education and Poverty

Lack of education is one of the main factors perpetuating poverty and impeding economic development in many countries. Inadequate education prevents people from acquiring the fundamental skills and knowledge to obtain meaningful employment and financial stability. Higher levels of education can break cycles of poverty and improve people’s standard of living. 

Although there is still a certain amount of technological development required to produce a fully-functional teacher in Tri Nhan, it is highly feasible that an AI-teaching robot such as Tri Nhan could be educating children in the future, and it is clear that the Vietnamese EdTech sector has established a solid foundation in this sphere.

– Molly Wallace
Photo: Flickr

Youth Empowerment in Indonesia
The information technology (IT) and mobile technology sectors in Indonesia have flourished in the last few years, and the country is poised to dominate those fields in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. In order to meet the growing demands of such booming sectors, tech-oriented education in Indonesia has become a prominent national goal.

Education and Technology

Throughout the past 20 years, Indonesia has made great strides toward increasing the quality and accessibility of education. Although Indonesia still has one of the lowest national education expenditures per GDP in the APAC region, the increased spending since 2005 has had positive impacts on Indonesian students. Schools’ capacity and reach have grown, and education has become more and more available to youth in rural communities through educational outreach and education technology.

In fact, a 2018 Cambridge Assessment of International Education found that Indonesian students are some of the most technologically engaged in the world. As education and mobile technology became more accessible, young Indonesians sought both. The surveying that the Cambridge Assessment completed found that around 40% of students were in computer science courses, which would help prepare them to enter the professional world of technology.

US Assistance

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked to help prepare Indonesian students for employment in various fields. With regards to technology, USAID recognizes the growing IT sector in Indonesia and the potential for student success in related positions. Therefore, USAID created a plan called Accelerating Work Achievement and Readiness for Employment 3 (AWARE3) in which 25 vocational schools in Jakarta are able to maintain partnerships with local businesses and corporations.

Within these partnerships, there are opportunities for students to engage with current business structures and potential employers through work readiness training, internships and more. The partnered businesses also assist the schools with maintaining an up-to-date curriculum that will best prepare students to enter the professional world with regard to the specific industry or vocation.

USAID and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture have goals for AWARE3 to meet by mid-2022. They hope to equip 250 or more teachers in Jakarta with resources to provide work readiness training for their students, and they aim for this training to reach areas all across Indonesia through distance-learning methods. The goal is to reach 4,500 students with the work-readiness curriculum via a remote learning platform. USAID has updated these goals based on the COVID-19 pandemic but hopes exist that the remote nature of these educational opportunities will limit the negative impacts of the pandemic.

Use of EdTech in Tech-Oriented Education in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture has worked with global organizations and foreign governments to implement several strategies and initiatives to broaden the reach and efficiency of its public education system. One of the most significant ways in which it has made education more accessible in Indonesia is through the use of education technology (EdTech). The World Bank, with help and funding from the Australian government, started the Improving Dimensions of Teaching, Education Management, and Learning Environment (ID-TEMAN) program in 2016.

This program works to analyze educational information from the Ministry of Education and Culture and push Indonesia to reach its full educational potential. The ID-TEMAN program is all about effectively using and appropriating the country’s resources, which are becoming abundantly technological. Indonesia is still working to provide more internet and mobile coverage across rural areas, which would expand educational opportunities through EdTech.

Bright Futures for Indonesian Students

As the world has seen in the past decades, and especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is becoming increasingly efficient through the use of technology. This includes tech-oriented education in Indonesia, with more accessible remote learning in rural areas and initiatives to better prepare students for potential employment opportunities. Technology is the new way of the world, and Indonesian students are gearing up to successfully enter the workforce.

– Hayley Welch
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 and EdTech
COVID-19 has profoundly redrawn the global investment matrix, driving a structural shift toward emerging technologies. It is also wiping out capital investments in major sectors such as tourism and the automotive industry. The substantial increase in educational technologies (EdTech) due to COVID-19 could benefit people living in poverty in developing countries.

COVID-19 and EdTech

Because of COVID-19, schools had to close all over the world. More than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries were unable to attend schools as a result of the pandemic. School closures put considerable pressure on educational systems. For example, considering that in many education systems, professors and teachers are often on the chopping block when there is no revenue. Many countries were unprepared for the transition to online distance learning, both in terms of familiarity and access to EdTech. Therefore, a major concern during the pandemic was the widening of the gap for disadvantaged students due to a disparity in access to EdTech. The pandemic not only exposed traditional education systems’ limitations but also social disparities that supporters believe digital learning can help fix.

Growth in digital education is inevitable. The rapid shift away from the classroom has left many wondering whether the growth of online learning will continue after the pandemic. Even before 2020, there was substantial development in EdTech. Global investment hit about $18.66 billion in 2019. With the introduction of virtual tutoring, language applications, video conferencing and online learning technologies, experts agree that the potential demand for online education can only expand.

The Future

It is difficult to envision post-pandemic learning without EdTech. In addition to direct learning applications, EdTech can promote resource sharing, create and grade quizzes and assist with homework. In UNESCO’s flagship Digital Technologies in Education event, Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, shared his experience during the pandemic: he created additional online educational tools and stated that “The digital divide is the number one headline of COVID-19.”

Therefore, it is essential to build for the rebuilding phase. The pace of transition provides an impetus to reimagine the future of education and is inclusive of all students worldwide. Barbara Holzapfel, Vice President of Microsoft Education, contributed to this discussion by saying that “COVID-19 has accelerated the transformation in education that was well underway and we’ve seen years’ worth of change in just a matter of weeks.”

During 2020, COVID-19 and EdTech have forced many to consider that future. Education systems can emerge from the crisis stronger and more resilient to future disruptions. New solutions will build more gender-equal education systems and digitize educational content. Although the way to address educational inequalities is still a challenge, EdTech could provide more flexibility in addressing gaps and inequality in the education system compared to traditional education. Change is possible if policy and research agendas occur properly.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Distance Learning
The appearance of COVID-19 late last year left education systems in disarray. The following months saw school closures across nations and the emergence of a completely new structure to education. In order to slow the spread of the infectious disease, governments closed schools and enforced quarantine guidelines. Students and teachers turned to education technology (EdTech) to continue schooling. School looked completely different— students and teachers interacted virtually, isolated within their homes. Some say the shift to distance learning is an opportunity to explore more personalized approaches, and may eventually improve education methods. However, that result can only be expected when countries and people have sufficient programs to support Edtech.

5 Countries Using EdTech to Improve Distance Learning

  1. Afghanistan: In order to combat the educational challenges of COVID-19, Afghanistan shifted to distance learning. In-person classes became broadcasted lessons. This solution is viable for the country because it utilizes existing technology throughout the nation. Broadcasting also offers advantages because it is compatible with so many different technologies, granting access to more people. Lessons could be broadcasted through television, websites, social media, or radio., an international organization working to reduce barriers to education, has a program in Afghanistan that works to increase access to technology in struggling communities. They distribute digital learning resources and format their education plans to make them relevant across the nation. This organization aspires to make education more accessible, especially when distance learning is the only option available. Broadcasted school, in combination with organizations spreading interactive learning materials, is the future of Afghan education during the pandemic.
  2. Argentina: Argentina also has broadcasting capabilities and expands education options by offering both public channels run by the Ministry of Education and private channels contributing to university or community content. They also provide notebooks for children without access to broadcasting. Notebooks contain educational information and require the child to fill out the lesson plans. Seguimos Educando is another initiative supported by the Argentinian Ministry of Education. It is an online program that offers education by subject and includes everything from “self-learning resources, suggestions for families and teachers, films, interviews, educational and communication proposals through social networks and videoconferencing tools, agendas for online events as well as proposals for free time for students.” The government is committed to equal opportunity for students. The Argentinian government is asking companies to keep digital education free of charge. Additionally, they have been distributing tablets and netbooks to communities who would otherwise be unable to afford them.
  3. Bulgaria: Bulgaria began their adjustment to online learning by creating online textbooks and corresponding broadcasting channels. Using this method, students were expected to learn for about six hours a day. The Ministry of Education and Sciences has since introduced new programs to support their textbooks and broadcasting. For example, they organized an online library, the National Electronic Library of Teachers, where teachers can share resources, lesson plans, and ideas about how to make online learning the most effective for their students. All schools also received free Microsoft team accounts so teachers and students can communicate on a digital platform.
  4. Columbia: Colombia approached the COVID-19 school closures by developing two separate education plans based on internet access and resources. Students with internet access can use “Aprender Digital”, a website with learning tools for students, teachers and the general community. It features games and video games to keep students excited and engaged in the material. It also encourages language acquisition through its National Bilingualism Program. For students unable to use online resources, Columbia developed at-home kits to continue learning. The kits are also very interactive learning devices, equipped with games, art projects and even family activities.
  5. Kenya: Kenya established four major platforms for distance learning. The first two options are radio and television broadcasting. Their third option incorporates a new digital learning platform: Youtube. They created a Youtube channel called EduTv Kenya which live streams lessons. The last platform is the Kenya Education Cloud which stores electronic copies of textbooks so students can access them for free. However, Internet access is not guaranteed throughout the country. To make sure that students everywhere could use the internet, Kenya partnered with Google to allow Loon Balloons to fly over rural areas. Loon Balloons create internet connectivity with 4G-LTE capabilities. One balloon provides internet access to a population within a 40 km radius. Using a balloon-provided network, students can continue distance learning despite the pandemic.

COVID-19 pushed education into an unprecedented space. These countries, all with significant portions of their populations below the poverty line, utilize the resources available to them to continue to progress the education of their youth. Edtech is here to stay so that populations can stay safe from COVID-19. By prioritizing distance learning, these countries are displaying their attention to both education and safety.

– Abigail Gray
Photo: Flickr