Descomplica is a Brazillian start up that aims to bring education to students through computers and phones in a big way. Last year alone the company had three million students users and half a million students watch the live online lessons. In the latest series of raising funds the company received $5 million, which brings their total funding to $7 million.
The company’s co-founder Marco Fisbhen (@marco_fisbehn) says that the company is lessening the inequity in the education market because it is an alternative to the very high priced private tutoring market. The company is putting its library on SMS platform, which gives access to even more students. With internet penetration in Brazil rising from 9% in 2002 to almost 50% in 2012, some Brazilians are finding great ways to utilize the population’s new internet access.
Descomplica is showing the education is a market that can use new technologies in successful ways, and investor confidence implies that the technologies market in Brazil has a lot of potential.
When discussing the use of ICTs in education development, it seems like the majority of efforts are centered around youth education. However, as brought up in this weeks lecture, what happens to those who are left out of the ‘youth’ bubble? Although starting a movement to target children’s education early on is crucial to ensure development, how far can a country develop if they lack the ability to provide higher education? It seems that this issue was not only a concern for my classmates, but also for New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In early January, Friedman wrote on the need for higher education, and found a solution with the program of free massive open online courses (MOOC).
MOOCs are programs established by notable colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and MIT, which provide free online education for anyone. Although this education does not give you college credit or an established degree, it does provide many with the skills and capacity building programs needed to lift them out of poverty.
Coursera, a market leader amongst the MOOC programs recently partnered with the World Bank’s New Economy Skills for Africa Program (NESAP) and the Tanzanian STHEP Project to pilot the Youth Employment Accelerator Program Initiative (YEAPI). This project aims to help fill the highly demanded IT jobs in Tanzania through the skills learned by the MOOC programs. The skills acquired by these MOOC programs can prove to be incredibly beneficiary to the development of Tanzania, especially in terms of reducing youth unemployment rates and encouraging higher education.
However, after reading many cases where educational development has failed, especially the project of One Laptop Per Child, I feel that this program is struggling to address some of the key issues at hand. While these online courses can be incredibly helpful for the continuance of education in rural communities, they fail to acknowledge certain infrastructural problems that these populations might face. This program assumes that individuals will have access to computers and that these computers will have adequate access to the internet. Furthermore, this program assumes that individuals will want to partake in such education, even though it lacks initial incentives. While I completely understand and support this program’s initiatives, I feel like the pilot program will show that there are much greater problems at hand.
In the following video Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, explains why education today is faulted. He utilizes the analogy of learning how to bike stating: “ Imagine learning to ride a bicycle, and maybe I give you a lecture ahead of time, and I give you that bicycle for two weeks. And then I come back after two weeks, and I say, “Well, let’s see. You’re having trouble taking left turns. You can’t quite stop. You’re an 80 percent bicyclist.” So I put a big C stamp on your forehead and then I say, “Here’s a unicycle.”
His solution for this problem was creating Khan Academy, an online database with instructional videos of various topics. With this method students can learn at their own pace and whenever they have time. However, what if this new technology could be used to provide education to children who lack access to it? What if instead of trying to force kids to go to school we could make school accessible to them at any time.
I believe that even though free online education resources are not a panacea for the education crisis in the world they can be a very useful complements to programs such as One Laptop Per Child. Khan explains this in his own words when describing the potential for Khan Academy “ Imagine what it does to a street kid in Calcutta who has to help his family during the day, and that’s the reason why he or she can’t go to school. Now they can spend two hours a day and remediate, or get up to speed and not feel embarrassed about what they do or don’t know”
Khan academy is just one example of how education is changing, and it is important to understand and take advantage of the potential that this new education can bring to the development world. Those working in improving education in developing countries should be actively trying to incorporate ICTs into their work and not only try to build more schools.
Intel’s new health program is determined to train one million healthcare workers in developing countries by 2015. The 1Mx15 Program will use educational and ICT tools to improve healthcare specifically for women and children. The “Skoool Healthcare Education Platform” has an “anytime, anywhere” multi-media content delivery and assessment platform. It will have an open access license with no charge for users. The idea is that the company will provide the platform to governments and healthcare workers for free, forgoing what might otherwise be an opportunity to collect licensing fees. Specifically, it is a collection of online and offline educational materials designed to help healthcare workers in developing countries address health issues primarily affecting women and children such as malnutrition, communicable diseases, and childbirth safety.
Sri Lanka will be the first country to employ this platform to better serve its healthcare workers and students. Intel already has a history of working with Sri Lanka,’s President and Minister of Health. The program will hopefully expand to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Central Eastern Europe and parts of Asia by 2015.
Originally Posted By Suzannah Schneider