Education is essential to ending poverty and ensuring a productive life for people all over the world. With today’s technology, all young people in the world can have the opportunity to learn. Mobile broadband technology offers the opportunity to connect even the most remote village classrooms so that they can benefit from a 21st century education.
Connect To Learn is a public-private partnership that involves the use of ICT solutions to promote universal access to a quality secondary education, with an emphasis on schooling for girls. Ericsson is contributing by providing technical expertise and solutions in this partnership with the non-governmental organization Millennium Promise and the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the US.
Connect To Learn’s goals are being achieved by:
Connect To Learn puts particular emphasis on improving access to quality secondary education for girls. About 70% of African girls in some sub-Saharan countries don’t get a secondary education, according to the World Bank. Girls often are unable financially to stay in school after age 12, and drop out even after passing the high-school entrance exams. They are also much less likely to complete primary schooling when secondary school opportunities are not available. The consequences of these shortfalls are not limited to children’s education. They also directly impact health outcomes, fertility patterns, employment opportunities, and women’s empowerment.
There are considerable challenges in introducing modern broadband technology to schools in developing countries, among them: logistical difficulties of bringing connectivity to rural areas; access to electricity; security; low levels of IT knowledge among teachers; and the lack of a strong business model to ensure efforts are sustainable. Connect To Learn is helping to meet many of these challenges by demonstrating the business opportunities to operators and convincing governments to include ICT in national education policies and budgets.
To address these challenges, Ericsson is deploying a cloud-based ICT solution in schools that lowers both initial costs and total cost of ownership for schools, and significantly reduces the complexity of technology solutions for teachers and students alike. By using cloud technology, it aims to remove ICT support tasks from teachers and provides them with technology that is simpler to manage, so they can focus on improving the quality of education. The solution is provided as a service, and is designed for users with little or no IT competence. Improved access, energy efficiency and reduced costs are made possible because users do not have to worry about virus protection, software updates, application installation or maintenance – all tasks that are managed in the cloud. The solution also promotes the role of the network operator as a provider of both bandwidth and applications for educational purposes.
Technology improves educational opportunities by enabling personalized study, while enhancing the potential for learning through community-based education and access to educational resources, even in remote rural schools.
School2School is a flagship program of Connect To Learn. This program promotes cross-cultural learning and communication by connecting students, teachers, and classrooms from the Millennium Villages and Millennium Cities in Africa to classrooms in the United States. A syllabus based on the Millennium Development Goals has been developed and eight African schools are connected with American schools for interactive, collaborative learning on aspects of the MDGs. Building on these successes in these schools, Connect To Learn will expand the program to connect other secondary school students and teachers in additional parts of the world.
A collaborative action research study together with the Earth Institute is looking at developing an intervention model to overcome challenges and barriers in implementing ICT programs in schools in resource-poor settings. The findings, available in 2013, will be used as input to future development of the program.
As of end 2013, over 39,000 students have received access to quality educational resources enabled by the cloud-based ICT solution deployed in their schools.
These students attend secondary schools in Millennium Villages in Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Malawi and Rwanda. Connect To Learn has also been deployed in schools in Accra, Ghana, Cape Verde, Djibouti, India, China, Chile and Brazil. Ericsson has also established a baseline from which to measure the socioeconomic impact of this initiative over the coming years, based on the academic results of students who graduate from these schools.
The initiative has already made an impact on the lives of hundreds of young people, mainly girls in the secondary schools in the Millennium Villages in Ghana and Tanzania. They are the first students to start the comprehensive four-year scholarship program that has been developed over the past year by experts at the Earth Institute and Millennium Promise. The first wave of students graduated in 2013. It includes a rigorous selection process requiring the explicit buy-in of the students themselves, their families, the school and the local education authorities.