Google declares: “Ready, set, go!”

Google has declared that it wants to help educate the millions of students around the world who don’t have any literacy or numeracy skills. Some 221 million children across the globe are taught in a foreign language, and 74% do not have access to the internet. The figures were provided recently by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In March 2017, Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, announced that between now and 2019, it will grant US$50 million to non-profit organisations in 20 countries. The organisations must be involved in using tech-based tools to teach basic education. One of the first grantees is the Foundation for Learning Equality, located in San Diego in the US, which reaches out to children in Latin America, India and sub-Saharan Africa with online learning materials such as books, quizzes and video tutorials.

Google.org is also determined to deal with the problem of teacher shortages around the world. In India, for example, three million more primary school teachers will be needed by 2030 to meet the demand of a growing population. The Million Sparks Foundation in Uttar Pradesh is another Google grantee. Google engineers will help teacher trainees with the organisation’s mobile ChalkLit app, which contains content aligned to India’s national curriculum, broken into digestible chunks. Teachers can also use the app to connect with one another and compare teaching and learning strategies. In the Middle East and Africa, 32 million children have had their education interrupted by conflict and displacement.

Google grantee War Child Holland, based in Amsterdam, has proven successful in the use of the Can’t Wait to Learn app. This app is game based and adapts to the curriculum of a host country, such as Sudan, where children in refugee camps use it to have a chance to catch up on some schooling. Other grantees at present include Pratham Books, based in Karnataka, India, which uses the StoryWeaver app to translate books for young children anywhere in the world as they read online. The well-known and hugely successful online classroom (hundreds of lessons are available for free, covering a wide range of topics) Khan Academy in the US is another grantee, as is the George Clooney Foundation for Justice, which offers children in Lebanon digital primary education.

In Brazil, Google.org will bring teachers from around the country together to develop the first-ever set of digital lessons aligned with the new national standards for subjects including maths, Portuguese and the humanities. The project is called Nova Escola. In Kenya, Uganda and Nepal, teachers will benefit from on-site professional development, thanks to Tangerine:Tutor, an open-source software platform built by RTI International, an independent, non-profit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition, which is headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina in the US. Google engineers are also part of the package. They will help grantees with issues such as video-compression technology, content integration, user experience, design, translation, off-line functionality and data analytics.

Category: e-Education, Winter 2017

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