Opinion: Lateral thinking can boost education equality

Opinion: Lateral thinking can boost education equality

It’s easy to think of education as a standard part of modern life and that, from an early age, the majority of children have automatic access to quality teaching. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Around the world, millions of children are either unable to access schools at all or are not receiving the support needed to succeed with their studies.

According to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity , there are a quarter of a billion school-aged children around the globe who are not regularly attending school. Additionally, there are more than 300 million other children who, although attending school, are failing to learn.

If this situation is not addressed, by 2030, around half of the world’s children and youth will either be out of school or failing to learn. This is a situation that cannot be allowed to occur.

Innovative delivery options
Some people believe that allocating more funding to education is the answer. By building more schools and training more teachers, they think the inequality gap can be narrowed and – eventually – closed.
However, on closer inspection, spending more money can only overcome some of the challenges. To reduce inequality in many parts of the world, attention must also focus on how education is actually delivered to students.

To help overcome these challenges, three organisations have come together to provide an innovative education service aimed at children in remote parts of the country. Many come from low-income families and have little or no access to the internet which rules out more traditional online learning.

Spotting this challenge, Oxford University Press (OUP) has teamed up with US-based teaching network Eleutian and car manufacturer IndoMobil to equip a fleet of trucks with large television screens and satellite data links.

During the school year, these trucks visit remote areas across Indonesia. Via the television screen, students can interact with a US-based teacher in real time and improve their English language skills.

Buoyed by the success of the initiative, the group plans to expand its current 15 trucks into a fleet of 500 during the coming years. This is a great example of how thinking ‘outside the box’ can result in innovative new ways in which quality education can be delivered.

The importance of face-to-face interaction
Whether remotely via satellite or in person, ensuring teachers can interact directly with students is vital.
Finding new and innovative ways to ensure such interactions are taking place for all children is one of the biggest challenges to overcoming education inequality, and this is where the focus should be placed.

While constant advances in technology are likely to develop new tools that will allow interactions in different forms, it’s also important to think about practical avenues.

Quality education can be delivered by a satellite-connected television, but it can also be just as effective aboard a boat on a flooded river.  Initiatives to overcome educational inequality come in many forms.

Zaver Sima is the founder of ALOKI, an organisation that enables students and people anywhere to access to the right people and resources regardless of social factors.


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