Tag Archives: Education

Featured on EducationInnovations.org

The Center for Education Innovations, a program of Results for Development Institute, has a launched a new site that identifies, analyzes, and connects non-state education innovators. They have a robust database of schools and education service providers in the developing world, as well as the latest research on education innovations. Our report on Ed-Tech in India is included in their database, and you can find the listing here.

Check out their site and spread the word about their work!

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Featured on Dowser

“One of the resounding lessons from the failure of initiatives like One Laptop Per Child has been that ed-tech initiatives fail to reach their potential when they lack understanding of the school environment and users. This is where design research comes in.”

Over on Dowser, we wrote an article about how design research should play more of a role in ed-tech product creation. We even provide some examples about how stakeholders can be involved throughout the design process.

“As ed-tech products become more sophisticated, integration of stakeholders needs to be present through all stages of the product’s creation. Investors and ed-tech accelerators can be an important part of facilitating this trend. For instance, Imagine K12 accomplishes this with its teachers in residence program. The constant conversation that the cohort has with teachers throughout their company’s development helps create scalable, workable solutions that can actually take hold in the classroom. Programs like Stanford’s d.school fellowship for Edu innovators could also be the beginning of placing thoughtful design and ed-tech in tandem.”

Read the whole piece here.

 

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Join the Debate at EduTech

EduTech Debate hosts monthly discussions on various topics–from MOOCs to this month’s topic on ed-tech in private vs. public schools. We launched the debate with a piece on why ed-tech in private schools matters, how it can be more accountable than tech in government schools, and how it can make all the difference in improving education for low-income students.

“Technology works in environments that support it. APS schools self-select for parents who are willing to invest financially in their children’s education despite their low-income. This can create an environment where parents are open to trying new approaches to helping their children succeed academically. We witnessed this personally in the tablet pilots when parents showed a willingness to pay for personal tablets that their children would use in the classroom despite never having used a tablet themselves.

Because the schools are for-profit, capital investments must have some kind of value-add to justify the cost. These levers of accountability can create incentives for trying new technologies and actually being invested in adoption.”

Read the piece here and leave a comment on the site and let us know what you think!

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Featured on NextBillion

We recently discussed the opportunities for ed-tech in affordable private schools on NextBillion.

To say that education technology is on the rise is an understatement. With the global education market currently valued at $4.4 trillion and estimates of 23 percent growth by 2017, ed-tech is set to make new entrances into education throughout the world over the next five years. As ed-tech innovators seek new markets for emerging innovations, one place they should look is India’s Affordable Private School (APS) sector.

Read the piece here.

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REPORT RELEASE! Education Technology in India: Designing Ed-Tech for Affordable Private Schools

Education technology interventions have promised the reinvention of education for children in the developing world. But time and again these interventions have failed to reach their potential due to a lack of understanding of the school environment and users, leading to poor implementation of the product.

As a team of researchers in Hyderabad, India, we sought to understand how education technology solutions could be better designed to serve the needs of users. Insights were garnered from surveys, interviews, various human-centered design research methods, and secondary research conducted in 2012 and 2013 in Hyderabad, India.

We are proud to share our findings, released in the report, which you can download at this link:

Education Technology in India – Designing Ed-Tech for Affordable Private Schools

Our hope is that the information provided in Education Technology in India will act as a foundation for better-designed technology in places that could reap the most benefit from well-designed product interventions.

Please read and share our report widely among your friends and colleagues and via social media.

Contact us here.

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10 ICT Trends in Schools

In the next few days, we’ll be releasing our report on ed-tech in APS in India. The report discusses barriers to implementation and gaps and opportunities for education technology in India’s low-income schools.

Yesterday, The Hindu published an article by Sitaram Venkat about ten education technology trends that India’s schools should be aware of. The article identified trends such as better content creation, personal learning, and the role of teachers, which we also discuss in our report.

He explains:

“The creation of an interactive experience for students is imperative. Similarly the new-generation teacher must be technologically enabled to meet the demands of the student. Establishing technology as an enabler instead of a disruptive force will create a teacher-led pull for technology adoption. Additionally, uniform access to world-class content is essential. The opportunity is available now to build such an ecosystem.”

Here are the 10 trends he mentions:

1. Personal Computing

2. Better Content Creation

3. Anytime, Anywhere

4. Learning Made Personal

5. Cloud Computing

6. Game-on

7. Teacher Generated Content

8. Smart Portfolio Assessment

9. Teacher’s Role

10. Learning Spaces

Read the full article and about these trends here. And stay tuned for the release of our report!

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Human Centered Design: Pt2- The Create Phase

Create logo

This is part 2 of a three-part series on how we applied IDEO‘s Human Centered Design tools to our Ed-Tech report. You can check out part 1 about the Hear Phase here.

After all the interviews, conversations, and observations that were made in the Hear Phase of the study, we were charged with the task of making sense of what all of it meant. This brings us to the Create phase of the work. The Create phase is all about taking everything that researchers and designers have “Heard” from their users, and using that information to build solutions that will help solve the design problem. In terms of our paper, it helped us form the building blocks of the finished product.

Making sense of data doesn’t just occur at the very end of the Hear phase. Synthesis and analysis is something that happens in several ways throughout the hear stage and afterwards. After every field visit, the research team would verbally review the most compelling or interesting elements of our interactions with the stakeholders by using “storytelling with a purpose”. It was important to be able to use storytelling as a tool to describe how we understood what we saw because it helped inform how we collected data, and helped identify themes to look for in subsequent field visits.

For instance, in our earliest school visits while conducting classroom surveys, we observed very gendered responses to questions about Internet and computer access. This was actually a bit surprising to us since APS  in Tier 1 cities like Hyderabad generally exhibit very gender equal enrollment, attendance, and performance among students. However, after our storytelling regroup in those first few sessions, we decided to probe stakeholders in ways that captured more information along gendered experiences of technology.  We also incorporated more explicit questions about gendered access to technology in subsequent in-depth interviews and surveys.

There was also the process of identifying primary themes and extracting insights which came through the process of affinity mapping—or in layman’s terms, going postal with post-its.

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We took the independent ideas expressed in each stakeholder’s interviews and fit them on a post-it. Then we grouped the ideas by themes that were similar, related, and interesting. This helped us identify themes across stakeholders that were not so obvious looking at each interview individually. It also helped us prioritize which elements of information were most important to each stakeholder’s perspective. The process of  organizing all these pieces of information was daunting, but it helped bring us closer to interesting and important insights to share with our readers.

Lastly, we made diagrams that represented some of the processes and relationships that were important to the APS and ed-tech community. We wanted to use simple diagrams that illustrated how different components work together and influence one another. These diagrams came in at a later stage once we knew what the paper’s main ideas would be. We wanted to choose images that reinforced some primary ideas well and helped communicate the point better.

Making sense of what happens in the field is what paves a pathway for the products and services that can bring new innovations to communities like APS. The act of building those solutions takes place in the Design phase. In our next blog we’ll share how we’d like to see insights from this paper inform other company and entrepreneurs’ design phase.

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Human Centered Design Series: Part 1 – The Hear Phase

This research paper employs a number of Human Centered Design methods in order to understand the APS community and its relationship to technology. IDEO describes Human Centered Design (HCD) as a process that:

helps people hear the needs of the people and communities they’re designing for, create innovative approaches to meet these needs, and deliver solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts.

This concept is made actionable with a comprehensive HCD Toolkit that brings researchers through the three stage HCD process. We used a variety of tools in each of the stages and each one brought a different kind of value to the process.

The Hear phase of HCD is about listening to the community. It’s about deciding who we want to talk to and gathering the raw input of conversations, interviews, and observations we make with each stakeholder.  This is where a bulk of our field work was done.

Some elements of this phase were similar to more conventional aspects of  research, like interviewing experts. In the earliest stages of our research, we had in-depth interviews with Madhav Chavan, founder of the  educational organization Pratham, and  Country Director of Gray Matters Capital Pradeep Sharma. Both offered useful perspectives on education, weaknesses in low-income schools, and where technology could fit.

We didn’t stop there. We conducted observations of various classes in order to see first-hand the dynamics that play out between teachers and students, and to observe various pedagogical approaches in all subjects. We conducted group interviews with students in order to understand the boundaries that authority figures set on what they could explore in technology and to discuss amongst each other what they understood the motivations to be. We also conducted group interviews with parents to hear their initial reactions to tablets, their fears about the device, and what they expected from their children.

We conducted one-on-one interviews with school leaders to hear in depth accounts of what motivated them to buy technology, what was lacking in the existing technology solutions in their school, and the broader vision they hold for their students and their school. We also conducted individual interviews with students who represented extremes in the profile of tech users in APS.

Through in-depth conversations with students who were exceptionally adept at technology, and students with little to no exposure, we began to understand the different people and conditions in their environment that affected the level of access to technology they had. One of the most interesting exercises we conducted in the  hear phase was the aspiration exercise.

We presented students with a series of 30 cards (created by IDEO for their HCD toolkit) with a variety of simple pictures on them. Some pictures represented careers, some were pictures of items, and others were more abstract representations of people. Students chose pictures that represented their greatest ambition and their greatest fears. They shared their interpretation of the image and why they chose it, then discussed how technology related to the feeling they articulated.

The responses through this exercise were interesting and dynamic, and lead the children to discuss abstract ideas and feelings more clearly than if they were just asked direct questions.

Check back to see how we used the Create and Design phase of the HCD process to learn more about the APS environment in Part 2 and Part 3.

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English Aspirations: How Ed-Tech Can Fill the Gap

School children line up in Cochin Kerala India

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The majority of affordable private schools in India are English medium schools. With the exception of Hindi and regional dialect language classes, APS teach all subjects in English. When parents hope to judge the value they are receiving from their child’s school, spoken English skills are one of the first things that they look for. Though parents often cannot speak English themselves, they ask their children to read English billboards and to repeat phrases they have learned in school to determine how much they are learning.

The best explanation for the desire for spoken English skills is the nature of the Indian job market. English is valuable for anyone who wants to work for a major corporation, become an engineer, enter into medicine, or even gain employment in the hospitality industry. The parents, students, and school owners of the APS community all know that English education is a vital part of reaching this goal.

However, APS teachers are largely untrained and often lack strong spoken English skills. Their primary vocabulary is from their own school years and textbooks, which they learned through rote. Even when only English is technically allowed during school hours, school staff and students often speak in their native language inside and outside the classroom. This translates into student English skills that are far below expectations.

Can I talk to the president please?

Can I talk to the president please? (Photo credit: Fountain_Head)

Education technology could play an important role in the APS sector’s desire to meet the need for proper spoken English training. There is mounting academic literature supporting the idea that ICT is the best way to spearhead English education, not only in developed nations, but all over the world. A recent UNESCO report argued:

“Literacy instruction traditionally emphasizes the acquisition of specific skills and information, but downplays the importance of analytic use of language. Recent developments in educational psychology suggest that literacy is best taught within a context that stimulates problem solving and analysis along with reading, writing and ICT literacy competencies. ICT can offer such learning opportunities (Alfassi, 2000). While learning with ICT, students are likely to become thoughtful, literate users of language.”

The potential of ICT for English education is beginning to be recognized outside of academic circles and in the business world. Airtel, one of the largest mobile service providers in India, has partnered with Brittanica and LearnNext to provide encyclopedia and educational games on computers. Another company, Applied Mobile Labs, has launched English On Mobile, a product that uses mobile phones to provide spoken English classes.

With India being the second largest smart phone market in the world, it is likely that there will be many more companies tapping the vast potential of ICT for teaching English.

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Ten Facts about Affordable Private Schools

Our research into ed-tech solutions for low-income schools in India has focused primarily on affordable private schools.

DSCN0827Affordable private schools (APS) are an educational alternative to government schools for low-income families. These schools are unaided by the government and charge fees as low as US$2 per month, and no more than US$25 per month, for attendance. APS are popular in countries like India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Parents choose APS for a variety of reasons, including the perception that private schools provide higher quality education than government schools, and because APS are primarily English-medium schools.

The APS sector is particularly robust in India. There are an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 low-cost private schools in India, and a very large market in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, where we conducted our primary research.

Here are the top ten facts you should know about APS:

1. APS enrollment in India has been steadily increasing over the years. One study in Andhra Pradesh found that APS enrollment of seven and eight-year-olds nearly doubled from 24% in 2002 to 44% in 2009.

2. Some schools charge as little as US$2 per month fees; however, the upward bounds of what is generally considered an APS is US$25 per month. A typical APS earns revenue of US$106 per student yearly, while spending US$72 per student yearly.

3. One universal problem for APS is timely and full fees payments. Given the low-income nature of the population and the fact that school owners are typically part of the local community, APS are generally lenient with school fees payments. This can cause a number of monthly and annual financial sustainability problems for the school. 18% of APS enrollments in 2012 were offered at free or discounted rates.

4. Most APS are plagued by India’s energy infrastructure deficiencies. APS in Hyderabad tend to experience power outages between 1 and 4 hours per day, which means that lights, ceiling fans, smart classes, and computers are unavailable during those times.

5. Contrary to popular belief that affordable schools in India aren’t accessible to girls, they make up on average 48% of APS enrollments.

6. While teachers in India’s APS are generally less trained and receive a lower salary compared to government schools, they have higher teacher attendance rates and better student-teacher ratios. Only 38% of APS teachers have formal teacher training qualifications.The average APS teacher salary in Hyderabad is US$70 per month, while government teacher salaries range between US$130 and US$350 per month.  The average student-teacher ratio in APS is 27:1, lower than India’s national average of 32:1.

7. The typical APS in Hyderabad teaches the following courses: English, Telugu, Hindi, Science (includes Biology, Physics, and Chemistry), Social Studies, and Maths. APS with large Muslim populations may also have Islamic Studies, Prayer, and Urdu language classes.

8. Parent’s are attracted to APS because of the sheer number of private schools often present in every community, the perception that private schools provide a better quality education than government schools, and the English-medium curriculum at APS compared to regional language-medium classes in government schools. Because parent’s are paying customers of the school, they often influence the school owner to constantly innovate by adding more service providers or ed-tech interventions.

9. There is a relatively high penetration of technology in APS. More than 60% have computer labs and 58% have smart classes. However, these statistics can be deceiving, because while an APS may own the technology, it does not mean that they use it regularly or effectively.

10. In 2009, the Indian government passed the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act, which will impact the APS sector. Under the law, elementary education for children age 6-13, is now mandatory. RTE also requires that 25% of enrollments in government and private schools must be offered for free to poor children. In addition, Section 19 of the Act requires all private schools, but not government schools, to meet a number of standards in infrastructure, teacher-student ratio, and salaries. Schools not meeting requirements upon thee years of inspection will be closed. While this new law could greatly impact the status of affordable private education in India, the accountability systems in India’s government are not yet in place for full implementation and regulation.

While there is generally much positive press about affordable private schools, it’s important to note that private schooling does not equate better quality education. Extensive research has yet to find that affordable private education improves learning outcomes and long-term success more than government schools in developing countries. Despite focusing our research on ed-tech in the affordable private school setting, we do not take a formal stance on the APS vs. government school debate. Rather, we chose to focus on APS because they provide a unique opportunity to observe ed-tech interventions in privately run low-income schools, where such innovations are more likely to occur.

For more information on APS, keep following our blog for our final report. You can also visit Pearson Education’s affordable-learning.com or our colleague’s new site itselementary.in, which both raise awareness about affordable schooling.


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