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UK aid funds educational technology research project

Posted on 20th June 2019 at 12:54pm

UK aid is joining forces with British universities, researchers and education experts from around the world to create the largest ever education technology research and innovation project. The aim is to help overcome some of the major challenges for education technology in parts of Africa and Asia.

The partnership has established a new education technology (EdTech) hub, which will help children, teachers and governments in developing countries get up to speed with the new technology in their classrooms.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with the World Bank on the EdTech hub, which aims to create a global body of research that looks at how education technology is being used and how this can be improved.

Minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin expands on the idea behind the project: “Educational technology can transform how children learn, but in many developing countries it is often only available in the wrong language, or schools do not have the right tools to keep their software in working order. That’s why UK aid is supporting the creation of the EdTech hub to help millions more children receive the quality education they deserve and reach their full potential.

“For the first time there will be a substantial amount of practical research available to help teachers and governments around the world choose the right technology for their classrooms,” she continues.

It is estimated that over 380 million children worldwide will finish primary school without the ability to read or do basic maths. Senior Director for Education at the World Bank, Jaime Saavedra, outlines the importance of the project and the rationale behind it: “Today, over half of children in the world are not learning. How can we separate the hope from the hype in harnessing the disruptive power of new technologies to tackle this global learning crisis? That is the question that the EdTech hub seeks to answer.”

The EdTech hub will run for eight years, helping schools to update, replace and use technology in order to further literacy and numeracy skills. Image: Rich Townsend|123rf

Expertise from the University of Cambridge will oversee a stream of rigorous research, while British technology company – Brink – will scale promising technology ideas with governments and educators. The project will run for eight years and involves several international partners.

Dr Sara Hennessy, from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge noted: “This huge investment and sustained commitment by DFID and partners to improving the educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in key low income regions is extremely welcome. The University of Cambridge is very pleased to be involved in this pivotally important research programme. Technology use has to be adapted to the cultural context and one-size-fits-all solutions simply don’t work. Rather than hoping for the best, we have to carefully review and iterate, generating insights from rigorous research and applying them in practice.”

Positive results are already being seen in Malawi, according to Dr Hennessy. “A maths app developed as part of a programme by tech company onebillion and funded by UK aid, is being used in schools in Malawi and the UK to help provide a better education for children,” she says. Research has shown that attainment of children who used the app was 45 per cent higher for maths and 100 per cent higher for reading.

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