Promoting quality education for all.

Taking a broader and more holistic approach to education through tech and local language literacy

by Tara Stafford, 

by Tara Stafford, Connect To Learn

As the international education community begins to focus a long lens on the Sustainable Development Goals taking shape around secondary education and quality, lifelong learning, with special emphasis on technical and vocational skills, Connect To Learn too is evolving our mission to build upon our work providing girls’ scholarships and ICT tools in remote, resource poor classrooms into one that takes a broader, more holistic approach to education.

Our renewed strategy starts with building a strong foundation of local language literacy skills during the early grades of primary school through tried and true techniques based on cognitive neuroscience. Ensuring students develop basic reading skills in early grades is crucial for building fluency and comprehension skills. Students with a grasp of these basic reading skills will be less likely to drop out of primary school, and are better placed to continue with secondary education. Students entering secondary school will be supported with online remediation tools to ensure that their language skills are at a level necessary for learning in all other subject areas. Students and teachers at the secondary level will adopt more learner-centered approaches in and outside the classroom that integrate ICT and e-learning tools which CTL will adapt in collaboration with education technology partners. And learning in core subjects will be enriched through extra-curricular programs that build students’ leadership and life skills.

Implementation of this strategy will require a package of interventions which CTL is experienced in delivering and which include:

  • Teacher professional development in teaching of local language literacy and integration of ICT tools including computers, tablets and digital resources
  • Assessment of learning outcomes and uptake of ICT tools by teachers and students using phone-based data collection systems
  • Development of curriculum-aligned digital learning resources
  • Provision of robust ICT infrastructure through partnership with Ericsson
  • Financial support for students to help ensure universal access and gender equity in secondary school enrollment

As we stand in 2015, CTL has enrolled 771 students on multi-year secondary school scholarships across 12 sites in 10 sub-Saharan African countries, and will enroll another 600 girls across 31 schools in Myanmar this year. CTL’s ICT solution has now been installed in 21 countries and reaches over 50,000 students. CTL scholarship students in Rwanda have participated in a number of international advocacy events, including urging girls who’ve dropped out in their communities to re-enroll in school during International Day of the Girl, while students in Nigeria have learned vocational skills such as soap and candle making, and have sold their hygiene products to the local Millennium Villages Project office for distribution to primary schools for their health and hygiene programs.

After piloting our local language literacy learning approach in Malawi over the past year, CTL will launch this program in Rwanda with preschool and early primary grade students over the next few months. In Tanzania, CTL is working with Swedish and Tanzania-based Studi to pilot a curriculum-aligned e-learning platform in STEM subjects, and will conduct research to identify how teachers organize their lessons to integrate the platform, and how students use the video and assessment content during and outside of class to enhance their learning.

CTL is also preparing to deploy new phone-based data collection tools to collect gender disaggregated attendance data at the secondary level in classrooms where CTL’s scholarship students are enrolled, and to test new EGRA-style literacy assessments adapted for students entering secondary school.

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of CTL’s home institution the Earth Institute, recently published a call to action for the world’s high net worth individuals, companies and governments to come together to fund the post-2015 education agenda. We invite those and all other stakeholders to come on board and help make quality, lifelong learning for all a reality. In the meantime, we’ll continue working to demonstrate how a science-based, ICT integrated approach to teaching and assessing literacy, STEM subjects, and leadership and life skills can ensure that all young people have the foundation of knowledge they need to succeed.

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