5 leaders educating kids who don’t have schools or teachers

By Kitty Knowles 19 September 2017

No teacher? No problem.

Around 250 million children across the world cannot read, write, or do basic maths.

For many, this is because they live in developing countries, without regular access to schools or teachers.

Fortunately, there are brilliant teams around the world helping these kids overcome the hardships they face.

Five of these have just been awarded $1m, and are now testing their new educational tools in Tanzania.

Global learning

Xprize, the non-profit that awards funding to tech companies that benefit humanity, has just announced the five-strong shortlist for its Global Learning award.

Each of these teams have built software to help children in developing countries teach themselves, and will soon begin 18 months of field testing in Tanzania, with the help of 8000 Google Pixel C tablets and solar charging stations.

“Children with basic literacy skills have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty,” says the Xprize team.

“By enabling a child to learn how to learn, that child has opportunity – to live a healthy and productive life, to provide for their family and their community, as well as to contribute toward a peaceful, prosperous and abundant world.”

The CCI Xprize team. Pic: CCI.

Meet the leaders

One of the shortlisted winners is CCI, a team from New York, who’ve not only built teaching programs, but a platform to help any non-coder develop their own learning content in any language or subject area.

“We believe that our technology has the potential to unlock life-changing opportunities for millions of kids using literacy as the key,” said Colleen Jones, president of CCI.

Chimple, a team from Bangalore, India has created a platform that helps children learn through more than 60 engaging explorative games and 70 different stories.

“We believe that children learn best when they are exploring with their friends,” says the Chimple team on their website.

“Our software will be a guide which enables a group of children to learn together.”

Kids enjoy using Kitkit school.

Kitkit School, designed by the Berkeley-based video game specialists Enuma, is a flexible platform that meets the needs of each child individually through a range of mini-games, books, videos and quizzes.

“Kitkit School is the result of decades of education, gaming and international development experience,” said Sooinn Lee, CEO and Creative Lead of Enuma.

While onebillion, developed across the UK, Malawi, and Tanzania is focused on merging numeracy content with literacy skills.

“Using Malawi as a model of what is possible, it is our goal to expand to other countries around the world, and unlock the potential of one billion children,” say the team.

Learning with onebillion. Pic: onebillion.

Finally, of one team of Pittsburgh researchers leveraged Carnegie Mellon’s research in reading and math, speech recognition and synthesis – and even machine learning – to make a robot tutor that kids can use wherever they are.

The team hope their RoboTutor will “address the acute shortage of teachers in developing countries.”

Each of the finalists will now be open-sourced for all to access, iterate and share – and a Grand Prize Winner will be announced in April 2019, taking home a $10m reward.

Today, access to education might depend on where you’re born, but these brilliant minds are building a brighter future for kids everywhere.