The Challenge


How might we increase the availability of affordable learning tools & services for students in the developing world?

Challenge Brief

Enterprising Schools, an initiative of Gray Matters Capital Foundation, is sponsoring this challenge, focused on increasing the access of low-cost and appropriate learning tools for affordable private schools in India and worldwide. The submissions will contribute to the development of a catalogue of existing tools and would provide inspirational concepts to entrepreneurs who will be encouraged to take them forward and build businesses to provide affordable private schools with much-needed tools and materials. The purpose of this engagement is to provide access to quality learning tools and materials to affordable private schools first in India, and secondarily, worldwide.

What’s the price of an education? It’s estimated that 100 million students in the developing world are attending extremely low–cost private schools where they pay less than $10 a month in school fees. That’s a significant sum for many families. Still, parents choose to spend it, with the hope — and the belief — that education is the path out of poverty. Independently owned and operated, these Affordable Private Schools (APS) are typically run by local social entrepreneurs who recognize the need and demand for private education services for underserved communities. The schools have little access to the resources that most of us take for granted — things like curricular materials, books, computers, play equipment, and teacher training. There’s an opportunity to create a market for extremely affordable tools that would help these schools improve learning and ultimately poverty in these regions. With this challenge, we’re hoping to gather creative thinkers who can help spark a whole new sector — one that could change the quality of teaching and learning around the world. The needs are diverse – everything from curricular tools such as software and teacher guides, to the basics of writing tools, to services that support the ongoing development of teachers. Even the physical infrastructure – things like chalkboards, furniture, and multimedia equipment – are often in need of low-cost alternatives. By asking the question, How might we increase the availability of affordable tools and services to drive more effective learning for children in the developing world?, we’re hoping to: 1. identify low-cost and effective tools and figure out how to encourage better access to them 2. develop concepts for new affordable tools, materials, and programs to serve the unique needs of this market For more information on Affordable Private Schools, please visit: This challenge is sponsored by Enterprising Schools, an initiative of Gray Matters Capital Foundation. Enterprising Schools is redefining the affordable private school market by raising awareness and building partnerships across the sector. Our global community is dedicated to transforming the market by increasing school performance.

Our Challenge Administrators

Check out how our global community is contributing - and the winning ideas!

Comment on the Brief

If you'd like to leave us your thoughts on this brief, tell us what you think. Be sure to also check out the challenge

Join the conversation and post a comment.

Congmin Liang

February 26, 2014, 01:48AM
I like what Justin Kurtz said in his post "Education needs to be redefined. Education is not a one time process over a predefined period of time. It is a lifelong way of achieving goals and ambitions. We need to get back to pursuing our passions and allowing the need for more information to guide us toward the education we need to succeed", and I am totally agree with him. It is not much website that could allow people to increase their skill and knowledge through the learning tool and services, they still need to go to somewhere meet other people to learn more skills.

chang liu

April 04, 2014, 01:00AM
good idea~

Fei Xin

April 17, 2014, 04:54AM
I agree with your point "It is not much website that could allow people to increase their skill and knowledge through the learning tool and services, they still need to go to somewhere meet other people to learn more skills". The website is not only provides a platform for communication of views, we need to learn more knowledges and skills to improve ourselves, and then get successful.

random guy

October 22, 2013, 08:08AM
I can't go to the website from france.

random guy

October 22, 2013, 08:20AM
I would like read more. and first silly idea is making something like coursera, but it will be impossible, because they don't have a cinema or a computer... I will keep going to think . from today. it is my first post on open ideo. I wish to make a valide contribute.

Alvaro Ricardez

August 08, 2012, 01:20AM
I think that old people is a very valuable resource that is not fully used in most contemporary societies. Old people have been charged with teaching young people in everyday conditions in almost every human society in ancient times.
We put our old people in retirement "homes" and deny them the joy of teaching and our youth the joy of learning from experience! If we could create something like old-young forums easily reached by walking in every neighborhood, and pay old people over 70 to implement meetings, courses, talks or just telling stories for our kids and youngsters, we could make basic education more attractive and meaningful for our kids, giving our old people a great opportunity to become useful and respected again. Of course that this activity should be planned and coordinated by some authority, and I think that if it is mixed with some physical work, like planting or gardening, it should be really revolutionary to facilitate our kids adjust bit by bit to adult society and achieve it without the pain and suffering that modern "education" so often means to a child.
Well. It's just an idea, because education seems to be useful to make students better workers to make bigger profits for rich people, forgetting about values, dreams, challenges and happiness, abstract concepts which are very real and important to make our short lives in this planet more significant and lovely.

Hernán Carranza

February 19, 2012, 00:23AM
If Moore’s law keeps going on, education will switch completely into digital content in no more than 15 years, and that will invert the model completely. Instead of relying on the teachers’ capacity, often poor and heterogeneous, those educational networks either private or public that are large enough to afford creating their own curricula will start depending on a creative centralized team capable of developing enjoyable content.

With self-motivating and permanently updated content, teachers’ role would become closer to facilitators or mentors rather than content experts. And that, together with teleconferencing (i.e. Skype Classroom) would switch education to rely a lot less on teachers as individuals, and that would be an extraordinary step forward for schools in the remote areas of the Andes or Himalayas, where quality of educational professionals is extremely scarce.

Ajao Olayinka

December 11, 2011, 08:29AM
This is a very similar project that EducateAfrica is currently working on! Although, we are currently using mobile technologies to bring education to poor communities in Africa. We are also using solar-powered TV-sets in places where there is no electricity.

Recently we created, a website where Africans can get access to educational resources.

Will contribute more to this idea as time goes on!

Frank Spitthöver

July 13, 2011, 15:00PM
Hallo to all interested,
every child is curious by nature and the most successful strategy in learning is to keep this motivation alive and use it properly. Just three important basic aspects here that are well proved by studies: self directed learning process, quick successes and a positive social environment. The first two aspects are task of the teacher. He has to use the appropriate methods and he has to be passionate for to deliver his topics. So his education and his attitude have the biggest influence on pupils.
The third aspect is a more general one but for the class of pupils and smaller learning groups also the teacher is the one who sets the moral rules for behavior in the class room.
When this is all fine we can consider other aspects like technologies and learning methods in detail………..
Best wishes

Tony Yet

June 06, 2011, 09:27AM
The Vigyan Ashram model of "learning by doing" in rural India works really well, should be example of other rural places:

Tommy Hollingsworth

April 11, 2011, 22:27PM
Free online learning and it works with students and teachers : -Bill Gates likes it..! Seriously though i watched the TED video and it seems amazing.

Nidhi Prasad

March 24, 2011, 09:44AM
I completely agree with Jim Mikles. I had the chance to take Instructional audio-visual technology to tribal children in India in form of a Computer Based Training program (CBT). This CBT digitized 6 months of educational content from the English text course book. Within 2 weeks of training with this CBT, the children picked up content that they would take around 18 weeks to complete in traditional class rooms.
Portable instructional audio-visual technology can work effectively with less time in educating children.
There are several Indian IT companies which donate their low-end computers to Indian government schools. CBT designed to run off these machines can help children learn faster and better.

Justin Kurtz

November 12, 2010, 16:48PM
Education needs to be redefined. Education is not a one time process over a predefined period of time. It is a lifelong way of achieving goals and ambitions. We need to get back to pursuing our passions and allowing the need for more information to guide us toward the education we need to succeed

Razak Issah

October 17, 2010, 14:08PM
This is off topic but is something burning deeply in my heart that I want to voice out.I am of the notion that fact feeding education should come to an end.We can do better when we teach people practical things that they feel associated to rather than something which is not close to them.Education ,should be define again to people.We talk about the importance of education but fails to see that as a means to an end.Education should solve our problems in our society and to achieve that we need practical education else we will continue to pump money into education and not see the expectation we had in mind.Learners nowadays distance their life from school because there is no that connection.They have different thinking set from what is being taught.And until this is made explicit we will build all the affordable facilities and still not achieve our goals.

Pablo F. Méndez

October 15, 2010, 11:53AM
Congratulations to the winners and thank you OpenIDEO for this great opportunity! Good luck in implementation. Greetings to everybody.

Doug Livingston

October 05, 2010, 13:58PM
I agree that equipment is only part of the equation. Providing ongoing teacher and leadership training is paramount. Creating a partnership with a for-profit company that has a vested interest in emerging markets could provide a sustainable model. For example;

Establish teacher training centers sponsored by a large hotel partner, like Starwood. Experienced teachers could safely travel to central locations in developing countries for short or longer term sessions, provide training and paying a reasonable fee that is tax deductible for their stay. These basic "hostels" would reflect local culture and the hotel partner would employ and train local communities to run them. Net profits would buy supplies and equipment for the APS network and pay for travel expenses for local teachers to and from the training center. It would also provide a pipeline of employees in emerging markets for the hotel chain. Well known architects could be challenged to design affordable training centers using local materials and focused on low, sustainable energy consumption.

Rajsh K

October 01, 2010, 18:43PM
How can i share my thoughts about this challenge? I not able to find the link.

I want to share my thoughts about the APS challenge.

Local Private schools can participate, utilize the high school students and faculty to develop the contents required to provide the training for APS school teachers.

Also Private schools also can help raising money for operations of APS
through the contribution of private schools students along with there fee
this model also teaches the private school students about compassion.

Other sources for funding is by involving the government to match the funds
contributed by private schools students, local community, business also can
adopt the model of private school students to participate in the well begin of

development of APS is not single organization responsibility, creating a model and platform for every one to participate would help.

Creation of public libraries also will help.

Here is one model used for creating the affordable health care
(lv prasad eye institute) in India, the same model can be adopted for
the APS.

Reba S

September 25, 2010, 21:44PM
I know this is off-topic but I have to wonder why Indian students see education as a path to something bigger, yet so many American students don't. I'm no expert on education in the US or India, but the difference is striking.

Adam Richman

September 20, 2010, 20:56PM
WATCH THIS TEDTALK re: Child-Driven Education:

Christy Morrell-Stinson

September 16, 2010, 00:01AM
Taking this challenge at face value, one might step into a silo, when in fact, education is just one area of the interconnection of what creates a lifestyle.

Commentators have pointed out some of the factors in the various societies that contribute to a lack of education. A holistic approach that raises an entire community to a sustainable and healthy lifestyle requires systemic change.

Change can come swiftly and effectively through a dynamic leader / group of collaborating leaders with the influence to shift the very culture.

This is my fascination, and my obsession is the vision of the Quantum Common Wealth: systemic global prosperity. Our big idea is to create sustainable fair-trade economies at every level (individual to family to neighborhood to community to region etc.) and get business involved across the planet with this effort.

We are absolutely LOVING the OpenIdeo concept, and learned about you through TED (specifically, Chris Anderson.) You both are illustrating how collaboration can raise us as humanity to a place of co-creation of beauty and happiness for all. It's amazing how raising the conversation to the level of intention (instead of arguing about tactics) changes the result. (an idea to spread)

Jim Mikles

August 30, 2010, 22:52PM
We have seen that instructional technology without learning context is prone to failure as an intervention in developing regions. However, technology and content that is appropriate for specific learning objectives and strategically deployed within the prevailing environmental and socio-cultural contexts has a very good chance to succeed.

Instructional audio-visual technology that is portable, affordable and self-powered, when coupled with audio-visual instructional content generated by instructors who are attuned to the learning norms of their target populations, can be a powerful knowledge-sharing solution. Affordable, easy-to-use equipment exists, such as palm-sized, rechargeable micro-projectors, mini-loudspeakers and digital audio players, that can play video and audio instructional content delivered to remote regions via flash media sticks or cards. They can run on grid power or on battery packs that can be recharged via solar, hand crank, or vehicle batteries. They are simple, versatile, and are maintained in the care of a trusted apprentice instructor. The equipment does not go home with students, and is not stored in a public place, but still can be easily used very publicly in any semi-darkened environment, from a room with window coverings in the middle of the day, to beneath a tree at twilight.

Imagine an apprentice instructor in an extremely rural village, completely off the main power grid, able to project a video lesson to a group of 50 or more learners at a time, of a highly skilled instructor teaching within the predominant language and socio-cultural contexts. The lesson was recorded with a small camcorder 2,000 miles away, was simply edited to include points for pause and discussion that could be facilitated by nearly anyone, and which promotes comprehension and retention. (The instructional method here is called "tutored audio-visual instruction", and is based on a pedagogical approach pioneered and evaluated by Dr. James Gibbons of Stanford University). Knowledge can be shared on topics as diverse as math and language literacy, disease prevention, agricultural extension, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health, environmental sustainability, conflict resolution, civic engagement...whatever learning outcome the instructional entity is attempting to accomplish.

A video-based instructional approach is being championed by some NGOs already, such as Digital Green in India, and it is the platform approach that we are pursuing at Polder, Inc, with our initiative One Media Player per Teacher. We are very happy that others are considering how to improve and increase educational tools for developing regions as well. Without knowledge, there is only darkness.

(ps, a note for the Ideo crew - I tried three times to upload this as an inspiration, without success. Operator error I'm sure, but too bad there is no "save work" feature in the inspiration interface. It's a best practice to allow a "save" when you are asking for so much info as you are to be submitted in a single form, and that's a lot of work down the tubes when you get a submission error - jm)

Salma Al-Mishwat

August 29, 2010, 23:16PM
i am trying to upload some inspirations, i cant figure out how to do it.. how can i share inspirations?

Yoshinori Ichikawa

August 25, 2010, 05:02AM
I think high tech is not always the best solution for developing regions. High tech requires electricity, it will be an obsolescence quickly and once it's crushed, they can't fix and then, it's no use.
Also, contents of basic educations don't change so often. It means it doesn't need latest and massive volume of information which is available on the web.

Let's go with low tech and slow way.

For calculator tool, there is 'Soroban' in East Asia. * Soroban in Wiki:
It's very cheap, built with eco materials, strong but easy to fix.

For class books and tools like Soroban, how about make them rental/sharing model? A local entrepreneur to buy books/tools and lend them to schools. Schools can rent them as much as they need. This will reduce cost of going school for family.

For note books for kids, it doesn't have to be perfect, clean, new paper. People in developed countries like us consume tons and tons of paper which back side is blank. Instead of shred and recycle to milk bottles, just ship it as-is in bulk to school. They can bind it like note book and write on it. It'll be free notebook.

L Raines

March 26, 2014, 05:29AM
Agree. I also believe electricity in today's world is a bare necessity mainly because kids need to read at night.

L Raines

March 26, 2014, 05:29AM
Agree. I also believe electricity in today's world is a bare necessity mainly because kids need to read at night.

spread a lil love

August 23, 2010, 17:00PM
Hi everybody, it’s so good to have read lots of design thinking, towards the promotion of the health and wellbeing of others :) bless you all x

Just suggestion- Art workshops in deprived communities prove invaluable as they give us an unparallel view of the human condition which empirical analysis trends cannot always provide. Art translates into many mediums from paint, drawing and sculpture to writing, and together produce a colorful catalogue of expressive consciousness. These tools are useful and cost effective and introducing new ways of looking at art other than a visually pleasing object. For individuals with learning difficulties and much inner turmoil art becomes a new language to talk from and to be understood as well as encouraging people to think more deeply for them, reflect and seek to do better. It becomes an expressive medium which can help individuals to surface and heal subconscious turmoil that may only be vaguely being known of as well as validate new transitions.
Having an art setting in this way also strengthens bonds between individuals as they connect on much deeper levels as well as encouraging people to voice their ideas which aids community growth. The children are needed as much as the adults and both should be encouraged to learn from one another in such settings. A good teacher assisting the ‘community workshop’ with promotion of arts wider dimensions.
Also programme’s such pottery workshops where people engage in making colorful utensils for the community or clay bead painted necklaces allows children to express and play and serve as gifts which families (mums and dads) who perhaps are not used to receiving anything which they can feel appreciated by!! Craft could also be sold as a means of generating income to company’s abroad highlighting the programme’s in place as a means of raising further awareness. Art works shops become a place where people can find release of inner turmoil express and share as well as be a fruit way of generating income.

Blanca Romana

August 12, 2010, 12:14PM
Hello everybody,
I have read all the comments, and it is great how you can learn and improve with the interaction of people!
I am a London based communications designer, and I was working in India for two years as a communications manager of an indo-spanish NGO called Vicente Ferrer Foundation. Over there they work in the fields of Education, Ecology, Woman dev., People with disabilities, Community Habitat and Health.

Thinking about how they have been working in the Education programme I would like to share what I have seen:

As you were saying, there is a previous step to education which is that the parents allow them to go school. It is true that the reasons may vary from needing the child to work, or to do house tasks...But it is also very important to take into account that many of them simply don't think “education” is something they deserve. On top of it, they do not understand what it gives. And if we talk about girls, they do not even want them to go to school.

In the case of where I was working, it took years before they understood the value of education.
Years working closely with the community, understanding their first needs, and also gaining the respect and trust from them.
After those years, they started implanting small schools in every village. Those schools work as a support for the government school (which normally is placed outside the villages in a bigger commercial zone). The village schools time table is from 7 to 9 am, and from 5 to 7 pm every day. This helps the parents who have to go to work early as they can leave the children in the village school instead of taking them to the field, and it also helps the children as the school is used to revise the subjects that each child is working on (today they have more than 1600 schools of this type).

Furthermore, the school building itself is used in other hours for community bonding/exchange. Before, there was no common infrastructure where people could meet. And a strong community that can learn how to team work helps development (any kind of development).
Right know, the communities are starting to take care of the teacher fees, so that little by little the NGO will not need to contribute and will be able to expand somewhere else and start a similar process.

Regarding the tools. In India (Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh) they realised that they needed a lot of basic school material for the children). At first everything was bought, but nowadays they decided to integrate the process of bookbinding in the community, so that they would create jobs that would cover the needs of the community itself. That would make the notebooks more affordable and at the same time would generate some work.
Right now this work is done by several teams of widows and team of teenagers with physical or psychological disabilities (normally those groups are excluded from society in poor areas).

Going back to the first question: How might we increase the availability of affordable tools and services to drive more effective learning for children in the developing world?
My suggestions would be:
-Create new spaces to support the children and the parents and to encourage the exchange of opinions
(I.e. village community building)
-Self generate the tools to lower the cost and generate new work(I.e.bookbinding schools and ateliers within the communities)

I really like the idea of volunteer teachers, and actually it can punctually help. But for a long process of development it is important to work with the community itself, and give opportunities to the people that is going to be living in the area, and speak the language, and that are committed to the development of the zone.
(Taking the example of the Health department of the NGO I was with, one of the pillars is to form the local people in the tasks needed: nurses, doctors etc... This way, you do not need to try to find people from far away which will normally only stay for few years in the field).So maybe the volunteer teacher could help with “teaching the teachers”.

bamatthew Wright

August 12, 2010, 04:17AM
Rather than taking eduction out to students, why don't we take the students to the educators? Three significant pieces of the puzzle are supply-chain management, the range of inherent complexity/unknown variables and scale - so why don't we just take these issues away? Eduction is only as effective as the society/system it's performed in - so the task at hand here is to raise the bar at a societal level. To do this, it is important to think about the tradeoff between volume and quality.

I'd propose industrialising the education process in order to effect economies of scale. Regional 'super-schools' could be created where sufficient materials exist that can be re-used again and again and are selected on account of cost/reliability/flexibility. Of course materials would be basic, but the goals here are ultimately to house/feed the students for say 1 month's worth of intensive education, and transport them to/from the place of education - perhaps this would involve a lengthy walk to get to/from their location

Many of the topics studied would revolve around entrepreneurialism, design thinking, problem solving etc. The students who perform best are invited to stay for longer - perhaps those from the previous intake who perfom well could be invited to stay for the following intake to 'embed' into the groups and act as mentors.

John Waugh

August 11, 2010, 01:52AM
Education could be based on community needs rather than more abstract standards. Take any community in the world and ask it to consider its assets and its vulnerabilities, through, for example, a community self-assessment questionnaire. Consider how the community can respond to significant system perturbations - from war to extreme weather events to economic meltdown to pandemic disease - the list is long and communities in many places are more vulnerable now than they have been in the past because of dependence upon a networked economy and society- a finely tuned system that is highly vulnerable to perturbations. How do we feed ourselves, care for ourselves, govern ourselves in times of crisis? Schools used to teach skills that were relevant to self-sufficiency. Let the communities decide what they need to know to be more self-reliant, and build a curriculum that strengthens that, rather than one that contributes to the brain drain as the educated are lured away. What schools teach hydrology and water management, alternative energy production, sustainable agriculture, local manufacture, community-based health care? Listen to the communities - they will tell you what they can support when asked. Know-it-alls from outside seldom think to ask. I know, I've been one.

David Griffin

August 10, 2010, 16:19PM
If the parents can't afford to send them to school and they need the child to work, then what about helping the child learn while working. Imagine a bullet proof MP3 player with two batteries (one charged by day by solar power while the other one is in use), gets new lessons continually pushed to it via highly redundant FM data broadcast at night. (Local transmitter can cover many villages, child can see from LED whether nighttime data receiving location has good enough signal). Several days a week the child could work for the parents while also listening to the lessons. Unlike with a radio, the lessons can be paused, rewound, postponed till convenient time etc. Only need good reception at night (when not moving around) Then maybe one day a week the child would come into "real" school and do more hands on stuff etc, put what they'd learnt into practice.

Imran Khan

June 14, 2013, 02:25AM
Use of low cost technology in such areas where education is at bottom in the list of essential facilities for children. FM radio lessons or these days mobile phone lessons,educational games and small programmes for low cost java phones can be used as a Teaching Learning Material that will enhance self learning too.

Tanner Roo

August 09, 2010, 19:54PM
this documentary Born Into Brothels (Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids), presents a good hard look at what i was referring to in my earlier post. to do any good for any child, before we can contribute to any form of education to underprivileged child, we have to be conscientious and aware issues that prevent children in even entertaining the idea of a better life through education.

Soni Pitts

August 08, 2010, 17:49PM
I agree with Tanner Roo that we have to consider the cultural and financial issues that prevent kids from getting an education. In many areas, parents simply don't have the luxury of sending kids (especially girls) to school because they either can't afford the fees/books or they can't afford to have a potentially productive member of the family taken out of their earning/work capacity.

I suggest making the schools working schools, where the students produce a salable item or service (crafts, small electronics repair, a communal farm, etc), and where the curriculum is built into the process: young students could learn basic math and use it to sort raw materials used or count finished products, while the next level learn higher math along with how to do basic inventory, then move up into accounting, etc. Literacy is taught alongside the production of product literature, websites, grantwriting; history, geography and other such subjects can be used to broaden their view of the world and to aid in market research; science tuned to apply to what the kids are doing (at a farm, for example, it could be targeted at soil testing, nutritional testing of products, weather forecasting, water quality testing, measuring and fencing plots, etc) Kids would spend half the day in purely educational pursuits, and half the day working in the shop (whatever that is) using what they've learned to do their work and to innovate and improve. Entrepreneurial classes should also be a part of this curriculum, as it would strengthen both the sustainability of the school and the students themselves.

The product or service the school makes would be used to fund the school's needs, and a dividend would be paid out to each student/worker, allowing them to provide for their family and learn a trade, as well as educating them. It would give their families an incentive to keep them in school, would help the students earn money for their own use and would train them in the basics of starting and running a business.

Tanner Roo

August 08, 2010, 17:05PM
i think we need to keep in mind the sociological issues why many of these kids cant and wont go to school... their parents are a major contributing factor why many of these kids cant get an education. many parents need and want their kids to earn money for the family, either through prostitution and or begging or from child labor.

is this challenge about how we educate them "after" this big hurdle... or just about the materialistic means in which to educate children?

Ralf Lippold

August 07, 2010, 19:37PM
Affordable schools start with new thinking of how knowledge can be grown within people's own capabilities. Instead of building schools and installing institutions that use again large junks of the money provided there are other ways.

Learning through teaching (entrepreneurship & self-learning competences) through OpenEducation: (my dear friends of TeamAcademy in Jväskylä, Finland)

Using collaboration technology in the least resource consuming way for learning and making people fit for the challenges to come.

Happy to connect and share, Ralf

James Corbett

August 07, 2010, 10:00AM
I would suggest checking out what the project is doing with Amazon Kindle ebook readers in Ghana. They make an interesting point about the hierarchy of gatekeepers in education and suggest that ereaders can be a kind of (good) Trojan horse at the teacher level in terms of change.

Eroteme ?

August 07, 2010, 03:30AM
I suppose the underlying assumption is that we need tools and artifacts from outside of the environment in which such APSs need to be setup. E.g. we need a computer, we need formal school infrastructure, etc. This is usually not viable given that construction costs are high and electricity is usually not available (or available only for an hour or so) during the day. Hence, we would be better off considering options which didn't assume what most of us are fortunate to have without having to plan for it. In the rural areas, all these are dreams or luxuries.

Here are some of the ideas that come to my mind and I would love to discuss them with this community.

1. Educate the educator about utilising readily available resources for education purposes.
2. Make education a collective investment.
3. Simple display units to present graphics (charts, diagrams, visuals, etc.)
4. Cheap slates, chalks, notebooks and pencils
5. View-Master like toys for visualising concepts and storytelling
6. Involve the community in the teaching process
7. Make teaching distributed and not dependent on the kindness of some individuals

I'll start with these and we can enhance the list.

1. The farm, the nearby river, the livestock, the forest, the seasons and the agricultural business that surrounds the APS has sufficient material to help a child learn what most children in the affluent schools get by participating in a day-trip to the farm! We assume that material for learning is only in a book or on the Internet. Even the 3 R's can be introduced in such a setting using examples, stories and analogies from the immediate surrounding. The ability to do this is what is more essential than all the tools we can manage to bring in. Hence, educate the educator.

2. This and 6 overlap slightly, but I am merely referring to the investment in education. To make education seem irrelevant to a family which has no children or where the children are already grown up defeats the purpose. It helps to make the entire community see and realise the benefits of education in a fairly tangible manner.

3. Projectors, computers, etc. are expensive. Damages to them are not easily serviceable and maintaining them is expensive. We need simple scrolls which can be backlit with sunlight, candles or incandescent lighting (when available). These can be manually turned to bring different illustrations into the frame. If done rapidly, it could simulate a rudimentary motion picture. These are highly maintainable and can be repaired by the folks in the village itself.

4. These are vital for providing practice to each student. Slates are reusable and hence, are cheaper alternatives to notebooks, but their carrying capacity is low (only one screen's worth). Manufacturing of these could be made tax free and resources required for manufacturing these could be provided at subsidised rates. But then, abuse of these subsidies can kick in.

5. These toys go a great distance in a rural setting. To most of us they are probably lame, but for children in the weaker sections of society, these can be their sole entertainment and learning aid. These do not require much maintence and can be managed rather easily.

6. Involving the community would imply that each person introduces his/her knowledge to the gathering. A farmer brings his knowledge, the mechanic explains how the axle needs to be fitted, the washerman explains how he soaks the clothes and washes them and so on. The teacher could then extrapolate to tie these in with scientific principles and the like. This makes everything relevant and doesn't inculcate the wrong notion of "heaven is away from this horrible village where nothing worthwhile happens" which is often the consequence of educating people in the village resulting in a mass exodus and other repercussions which aren't wise in the long run.

7. We often assume that teaching is not possible without a teacher, the teacher being someone up in front of the entire class. This is usually not sustainable esp. when teachers are asked to come and teach in rural areas. The pay is less and the living conditions are hard. If each child is empowered to teach another, then this is not so much a problem. Having learnt addition, if I can pass that on to another child, then the teacher is no longer that one person. This mandates a shift in thinking about teaching itself. In this scheme of things, teaching is no longer instructing but empowering. I, as a teacher, need to ensure that you learn grammar and are also skilled enough to pass it on. This makes it easier for the school to be distributed (I could go back to my hut and teach my uneducated mother about photosynthesis and the role of water conservation, while she serves me dinner). This then makes teaching viral.

Other thoughts revolve around changes in societal and regulatory processes and I am not sure whether discussions in that context would divert the focus on this challenge.


August 05, 2010, 19:45PM
Hi there, i was involved in the installation of this software in rural communities all over Mexico, we basically installed interactive classrooms that consist of an IBM computer with satellite internet access and an interactive board in which the teaching material is projected. this may sound like a big investment at first but the funny thing is that all of the hardware is not being bought but leased instead which means that maintenance of the equipment is included in the contract with the government and it can also be replaced with better and cheaper hardware and software in the future. i strongly believe that the use of technology in this matter constitutes a strong solution because it brings people closer to the tools being used today and the technological era , in other words, not because they are poor communities they need to stick to the traditional teaching techniques( pencils and notebooks). furthermore, teaching based on a piece of software can reduce costs in many ways and ensure quality. this program implemented by the government in Mexico also offers training for instructors and has been greatly accepted among rural communities
the project is called Enciclomedia,

Suze Ingram

August 05, 2010, 02:46AM

Simon von Heereman

August 04, 2010, 18:39PM
To me the best and cheapest tool is a great teacher. One, who is inspired and open-minded, and shows the world in the class-room. Why not set up a voluntary "teaching-squad" of highly motivated young teachers from universities in "developed countries"? Just like "Medicenes sans Frontieres" they might have a big impact.
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