Learning systems for poverty and the role of technology in delivering education became the focus of discussion at the Education@theMargins (E@TM): A Global Alliance conference on October 28. The virtual conference brought together experts from the fields of education technology, policy reform, and community development to tackle how to improve instruction and learning for those who need it the most. It also launched a growing global alliance of 15 like-minded education organizations.
“Educating low-income students is challenging for a number of reasons,” explained Nigel Cabison, PHINMA Education’s Chief of Analytics. “First, they do not possess a good foundation in education ability and college readiness competencies. Second is an overall lack of resources, including cultural and emotional capital, and a lack of a growth mindset. These are complex challenges in access, completion, and employability,” he said.
The conference panelists included Dr. Nene Guevara, President of Synergeia Foundation, Jessica Rees-Jones, Founder of AfricaX Academy, Fahad Tanveer, Chief Executive Officer of EDKASA, Francis Larios, Chief Learning Officer of PHINMA Education, and Dr. Charles Prince, Chief Higher Education Officer of Global Education Executives, Inc. It was moderated by Esther Galvez, Senior Strategy Officer of PHINMA Education.
While the panelists agreed that technology can play a critical role in facilitating education, Dr. Prince emphasized that it is not the sole enabler to close equity gaps. “We have to be able to educate in different ways. We need to have multifaceted people who can teach without technology,” he said. Dr. Guevara added, “Learning is not just about knowledge, and you cannot do that with technology alone, because learning is also about value development. You have to teach the children to think, to assess, and to evaluate.”
Larios shared that during the pandemic, PHINMA Education tailored learning delivery to the technology students already had. “In the Philippines, not everyone had access to the internet, so we created print-based materials and sent it to everyone,” he said. But because learning requires support from teachers and peers, they partnered with telcos to also provide sim cards with mobile data that renewed every month.
Tanveer, for his part, spoke about the importance of giving young people purpose. “There’s a huge sense of disbelief amongst young people. In Pakistan, 70% of the population is below the age of 30, that’s 220 million people. We want to make education easy for them through technology.” He explained that by expanding focus beyond traditional education and into lifelong goals, youth are given a purpose beyond just passing their exams.
The panelists also discussed the generational training gaps being experienced by Gen Z, the opportunities provided by the internet and the social and economic divide it creates, and how governments and schools can work together to solve educational issues. Rees-Jones commended E@TM’s effort to bring global experts together. “[We need] collaborative forums that bring together real tangible solutions. Communication and collaboration is the key,” she said.
The E@TM global alliance currently includes Global School Leaders, Bridge International Academies, AfricaX Academy, Teach for All, Luminus Education, Virginia Union University, Ânima Educação, Kaizenvest, University of New England, Funzi, Edkasa, ALX, Philippine Business for Education (PBED), Synergeia Foundation, Knowledge Channel, Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF), and Eskwelabs, with PHINMA Education spearheading the effort.
“While the problems are global and shared, we tend to look at solutions on a local level, on a domestic level, on our own. E@TM is an attempt to reach out, to find other kindred spirits who we can learn from and debate with. These problems need everyone to come together to find ways forward,” concluded Dr. Chito B. Salazar, President and CEO of PHINMA Education.
Serving the Underserved: Learning Systems for Poverty is the second annual E@TM: A Global Alliance conference. The two-day conference in 2021 tackled the widening gap in education within countries, helping marginalized students cope with the long-term effects of the pandemic and global and tech solutions to educate those who need it the most.
Last year’s panelists included Christopher Bernido and the late Ma. Victoria Bernido of Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF), Amanda Kelleher of Luminus Education, Sujatha Muthayya of Bridge International Academies, Seth Trudeau of ALX, Ken Vine and John Pegg of the UNE SiMERR National Research Centre, Rafael Oliveira de Ávila of Anima Educação, Sandeep Aneja of Kaizenvest, Edna Novak of Teach for All, Love Basillote of Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Annum Sadiq of EDKASA, and Aape Pohjavirta of Funzi.