The 60 million girls Foundation believes that harnessing new technologies is the key to achieving global education objectives. The Global Goals, a set of objectives geared to ending poverty and hunger, call for 12 years of universal quality education for all children and adolescents. Yet this will be hard to achieve without a new educational framework.
Technology provides an additional platform to help more children reach their academic goals by giving them access to fun, interactive and up-to-date learning materials which are often lacking in poor countries, particularly in remote areas.
Even trained teachers are in short supply around the world. This means that there are very large class sizes as schools try to keep up with demand for education. In fact, 69 million more teachers will be needed, globally, by 2030 to meet education objectives. (UNESCO Institute for Statistics)
In addition, conflict is a major factor depriving millions of children of a quality education, as displacement causes children to miss school – often for several years. Even once settled in a camp or urban setting, refugee children attend school at a much lower rate than children in stable situations, with just 61% in primary school compared to 91% for the general population. (UNHCR)
For all of these children, easier access to learning tools is vital to ensure that they are not left behind. The latest figures from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics show that the number of out-of-school children and adolescents has risen to 262 million, more than half of whom are girls.
Just as worrying, however, is the fact that even children who are in school just aren’t learning. A 2017 report shows that 617 million children and adolescents are not meeting minimum standards in literacy and math proficiency.
So what can we do and how can technology help?
The 60 million girls Foundation has designed a Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) to address these challenges. It is an offline source of educational materials which are fun for children to use and is relatively inexpensive to set up.
The MLL consists of a small suitcase filled with thirty 7’’ off-the-shelf tablets, a small solar charging system and a rechargeable server called a RACHEL-Plus. The server, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, can hold up to 500 GB of open source, high quality, offline content.
Currently, the content includes a wide range of learning tools such as Wikipedia Academic, KA Lite, a math and science tutorial, Fantastic Phonics and Feed the Monster for literacy, as well as thousands of e-books, encyclopedias, information on agriculture, geography, history, social sciences and coding.
This content can be custom-loaded for each community’s particular needs and can be modified at a distance at any time by simply hooking up the RACHEL-Plus to an Internet connection where available in a larger city.
So, no Internet or electricity is required. All learning materials are pre-loaded and the devices can be charged via solar panels.
The total cost of an MLL, including 30 tablets, three solar panels and RACHEL-Plus is $5,000. In other words, the MLL can be set up anywhere in the world at a relatively affordable cost.
Please read the evaluation of our project in Sierra Leone for more information on the educational gains for students using the MLL, along with details about setting up this technology.