As a Pan-Asian membership network spanning a broad range of sectors and beneficiaries, AVPN has an unique window into the latest innovations and trends in the social sector. As a Senior Associate at AVPN, I have been developing the Deal Share Platform which helps to raise funding support for social purpose organisations while encouraging collaboration across the AVPN community in identifying projects suitable for their strategic pipelines.
Since the platform’s launch in June, I have seen many implementations of technology in the education sector, where educators and governing bodies alike are behind the initiative of using digital content and tools to deliver information. Another trend is thinking beyond the classroom with programs designed to improve life skills, promote employability, and even support educators. I have also identified three recurring areas of focus for education support: early childhood education, secondary learning, and teacher training. In this post, I have chosen to highlight three organisations that bring to life these pillars in the education sector:
Agastya International Foundation, a recent winner of the Google Impact Challenge, aims to create an educational model that can disseminate “quality education cost-effectively, to a large number of vulnerable, disadvantaged and at-risk children and teachers around the world.” Its innovative science centres and mobile labs encourage hands-on learning to help young children retain important concepts in a fun and unique way. The Science Centres function as a “hub” where interactive exhibits and installations in the subjects of biology, chemistry, and physics are available for students visiting from nearby schools. This helps to bring the idea of many scientific concepts, theories, and laws into life. In contrast, the Mobile Lab is “science on wheels,” where vans transform into a portable laboratory that can reach students and teachers in more remote areas.
Agastya is currently looking for funding in building a new structure to house a full-time Life Sciences Discovery Center that will be opened to visitors and children to enhance their classroom learning experiences. It will include at least five interactive exhibits depicting the inner-workings of our sensory organs, muscle movements and skeletal system, and the theory of evolution, as well as a laboratory that highlights day to day encounters with science.
An organisation that is extremely active in secondary learning is Child’s Dream, working primarily in Myanmar to address secondary learning issues with vocational training and scholarship programmes. According to Child’s Dream’s co-founders, Marc Jenni and Daniel Siegfried, “Higher Education (HE) creates opportunities for employment and income generation, knowledge and skills transfer, as well as community capacity building.” They focus primarily in Myanmar’s refugee and migrant worker population, and invest in school buildings, university scholarships, and offer vocational training and employment consulting to these beneficiaries.
The organisation’s University Scholarship Programme in Myanmar provides a four year scholarship for Burmese student to attend an international university in Thailand, allowing those with underprivileged backgrounds to attain employment and stability later in life. There are currently 150 students studying in Thailand and Laos and over 100 have graduated with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
I met with Marc Jenni in late July and he shared with me some of his personal findings of the scholarship programme – “A high percentage of scholars return and join Child’s Dream as a full time staff, helping out with initiatives in the higher education space.” Child’s Dream is also expanding the programme in Laos and Cambodia. New initiatives in Myanmar include curriculum development and teacher training, interfaith training, and sustainable agriculture training programmes. AVPN members who are interested in supporting higher education in the sub-Mekong region can reach out to Marc Jenni for more information.
We have seen apps and tools created for early childhood learning and online BlackBoard learning centres for young students to familiarize themselves with different media and resources. But education technology for teachers in the education space is neither as frequently seen nor developed. Teach For India and Central Square Foundation came together and founded Firki, an online teacher training portal that provides a blended learning programme for teachers across India. The blended program includes online learning, in-person training, 1-1 coaching, and classroom observations. Firki is being used by teachers K-12, community learning programs, NGOs, and international foundations as a professional development tool. The courses cover key pedagogical best practices that are useful for improving day-to-day instruction for educators across all subject and grade levels. The platform combines a sharp focus on skills such as planning, curriculum design, and even self-assessments on identifying key strengths as an educator.
It is for school leaders as well – Firki conducts an in-depth assessment with an organisation and its teachers to determine the right set of courses and the sequence. A school board can become more involved with its teachers performance, read their reflections, and find the right areas to give feedback to improve teaching practices. Members interested in this educational technology may contribute by supporting Firki in developing a more robust portal for educators in India.
These are just a few initiatives that are re-inventing how we view traditional impact in the education sector by leveraging technology and expanding education beyond the classroom. By focusing on accessible solutions, these three innovative projects are breaking ground in the Asian education landscape.
AVPN’s Deal Share Platform currently has 36 projects in the education sector that are endorsed by AVPN members, spanning across development in infrastructure, literacy programs, and teaching technology and tools. For more deals, please visit our Deal Share page and join the AVPN community to support projects that align with your strategic and mission’s interests. If you have projects that you wish to list, feel free to email [email protected] to learn about next steps.