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How A Better Approach to Ed-Tech Can Solve World Hunger

My father had a chauffeur (let's call him Rasheed) who couldn't read but he was a great driver. Once he was driving my mom and her friend from Peshawar to Islamabad. He missed the Islamabad exit and kept driving for hours until my mom noticed "Chakwal" on the signage. The poor fellow didn't understand what his mistake was.

Rasheed is certainly not unique. A full (40%) of Pakistanis cannot read or write. Around the world there are many others like them. Literacy (ability to read) and numeracy (basic arithmetic) can help them earn a living. So, the solution to world hunger, may be rooted in educating these people.

However, this is not something new. We have known this for 40 years. Educating people in such large numbers requires that we use Technology. There have even been many experiments in educational technology with mixed results. The tech part is easy to figure out. The people part is not. Unfortunately, most people shy away from educational opportunities, even if they are free. Here are some possible reasons: A. Content Issues:

  • Mind-numbingly BORING!

  • Little or remote link between what they are learning and the real-world (how do I use this to earn a living)

  • Ugly design (dark, drab colors or dated clip-art images)

B. Learning Management Applications Issues:

  • Complex (read: Busy) interfaces

  • Unfriendly navigation

  • Expensive (price and maintenance)

C. Sustainability Issues:

  • Dependence on bandwidth that is not available in major parts of the world

  • Wrong KPI’s (e.g. measuring enrollment rather than effectiveness)

  • Zero motivation for learners to spend time and effort

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. However it does help put the challenge in perspective.

Ed-Tech designers who take up this challenge will have to build widely accessible technology (Android App for mobile devices?) that can keep a student engaged (game?) while it teaches them literacy and numeracy (read and count in at least one language). I would love to see the ideas from some of our staff.

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