Education, education, education…
The importance of education and its ongoing improvement is hard to disagree with, and for that, formal education needs radical change. Students and educators are still bound by rigid curriculums focusing on theoretical examination, and in many parts of the world adequate learning tools are simply unavailable. That being said, a concerted effort is being made to change this. As the talent gap widens and competition intensifies, encouraging positive disruption in education has become a universal priority. Which companies are working towards this aim, and how?
Polish 3D printing company Skriware has developed a bundle of e-learning resources for use in schools. Founded in 2015, the startup offers technology fuelled, educational solutions to encourage student participation and practical learning. Their platform includes robots, an e-learning portal, 3D printers, a 3D modelling tool, and a 3D model library. After building and programming a ‘Skribot’ robot using 3D printing, groups of students guide the bot through a series of digital tasks. The company has also created an online community where teams can share their developments. Skriware’s mission is to prepare the next generation for the evolving job market.
2) Third Space
London based EdTech startup Third Space was founded in 2013 in response to the shortage of UK teachers. Using alternative global talent pools and machine learning techniques developed alongside University College London (UCL), Third Space provides STEM subject tutoring to thousands of children in schools across the country. Mathematics is seen as particularly important, described by CEO Tom Hooper as a ‘critical subject area’ and ‘global language’. So far, more than 1,200 schools and 50,000 teachers have worked with the startup. The ultimate aim is to create a global network of qualified, online tutors.
3) PA Consulting Group
Established companies are also developing their own initiatives to positively impact education. For the past six years, PA Consulting Group has run an annual Raspberry Pi competition that challenges students to come up with innovative solutions to real world problems. Entrants are provided with a pocket sized computer called the Raspberry Pi, using it to answer challenges surrounding a specific theme. This year’s topic was sustainability, with winning teams producing an interactive rubbish bin, street light system and a renewable energy charger.
All corporations are feeling the impact of the technological talent gap. The prominence of white middle aged men has also led to debate surrounding diversity. Through educational initiatives, companies can not only encourage more people to pursue careers in tech, but foster demographic variety. Digital grocery giants Ocado have set up a non profit platform called Code for Life that provides free, open source games for primary school teachers. Using software developed by Ocado Technologies, Code for Life aims to teach children the basics of coding to prepare them for the digital world.
Educational improvements largely involve schools, colleges, and universities, but what about those outside of the formal learning system? Coursera was set up in 2012 by Profs. Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, both of Stanford University’s Computer Science department, to provide Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Along with Stanford, Coursera has partnered with 149 universities to offer accredited, expert led courses. There are currently over 2,000 courses to choose from, and four degree programmes. Courses are taught using online videos, quizzes and projects, and are assessed by autograding and peer review. Enrolment is available to anyone, anywhere. Courses cost between $29 and $99 with degrees priced at $15,000 – $25,000. This is cheaper than traditional universities, without extra travel and accommodation costs. Sites like Coursera are encouraging the expansion of digital learning, making educational resources widely available.
It’s no coincidence that technological innovation has advanced alongside education. Educational facilities have come a long way, but technological, economic and social advancement is held back by legacy infrastructures. While organisations have recognised that it is time to rethink the curriculum, only in recent years has this led to tangible change. In 2014, coding was added to the UK curriculum, as well as a GCSE in computer science. But, as shown by the above examples, remedying education involves far more than pushing STEM skills. Luckily, governing bodies have the support of major corporations as well as promising startups. If these organisations can work together, we could be on the cusp of an educational revolution.
To read more about the transformation of global education, sign up for our free newsletter here.