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Prizes, literacy and innovations in education

Michael Trucano's picture
an innovation supporting a revolution?
an innovation supporting a revolution?

"Innovation!"

The buzz around this buzzword in education (the need for it, the celebrations of it, the challenges in catalyzing it) continues to get louder and louder, and the word itself seems to get invoked with increasing (almost de facto) frequency as part of discussions about the need for change.

Indeed:

How are we to meet and overcome many of the pressing, endemic, and sometimes seemingly intractable challenges facing learners, educators, education policymakers and education systems around the world if we aren't being innovative in how we define (and redefine) our problems -- and in how we propose to go about solving them?

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There are many groups, events and activities that seek to document, share knowledge about, analyze and assess various 'innovations in education' around the world. The annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Qatar, for example, focuses explicitly on this theme. R4D's Center for Education Innovations does as well, in partnership with many international groups, including UNICEF (which has a special initiative on 'innovations in education' and whose much-lauded Innovations unit is for many of us a model for excellence within the international donor and aid community). The OECD's widely-read report last year on Measuring Innovations in Education seeks to offer "new perspectives to address th[e] need for measurement in educational innovation through a comparison of innovation in education to innovation in other sectors, identification of specific innovations across educational systems, and construction of metrics to examine the relationship between educational innovation and changes in educational outcomes."

Some observers may feel that this explicit focus on 'innovation in education' is overblown. We don't fund a lot of things sufficiently that we already know work, why don't we first concentrate on that stuff? Others may note that some 'innovations' in education promoted today have actually been around for decades, and thus perhaps no longer really qualify as 'innovations'. Sometimes the only 'innovation' in a particular 'new' approach is to utilize some new technology to do pretty much exactly what was done before, but now 'digitally', and in a way requiring a power cable or batteries. (I am not too sure that much of these thigns are really all that 'innovative', but many people who keep sending me related proposals seem to be convinced that they are.) Still others detect in many discussions around the need for 'innovation in education' the guiding hand of 'corporate education reformers' and/or of technology vendors with products to sell, and, as a result of past experiences, ideological leanings, an inherent tendency towards skepticism or a satisfaction with the status quo, and/or political calculus, reflexively push back (if not indeed recoil).

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'Innovations in education' are about much more than just technology use, of course -- but there is also no denying that new information and communications technologies (ICTs) of various sorts continue to enable and catalyze many of the innovations that are being explored in the sector, whether they relate to e.g. teacher training; assessment; data collection and management; payment mechanisms; stakeholder engagement and transparency; or changes in the teaching and learning processes themselves; and whether they originate in the public, non-profit or corporate sectors (or even, as for example is the case of distributed communities of people working together to help build new software or educational content in ways that are 'free' or 'open', out of no traditional or easily definable 'sector' at all).

Sometimes the ICTs are hard to miss (as is the case with Uruguay’s pioneering Plan Ceibal), and sometimes they are behind the scenes (innovative low cost private schooling schemes like those pioneered by groups like Bridge Academies, for example, depend heavily on the use of ICTs to promote efficiency and cut costs), but increasingly they are there. Many traditional groups active in advocating for funding efforts to help end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity (the twin goals of the World Bank) are increasingly challenged to identify, make sense of and support the diffusion of 'innovations in education' in ways that are useful and efficient and cost-effective – and potentially, from time to time, even transformative.

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Campaign Art: Reimagining the Future for #EVERYchild

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Twenty-five years have passed since the General Assembly of the United Nations ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  To honor this anniversary, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a campaign to highlight the creative work of innovators who have already begun shaping the future in support of children and to call for more fresh ideas to address ongoing problems affecting disadvantaged children. 
 
VIDEO: Reimagining the future for EVERY child | UNICEF

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
 
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
Devex
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof.  We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham.  But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Facebook Reaches a Landmark 100-Million Users in Africa Through Mobile
AllAfrica
Thanks to mobile connectivity, half of Africa's 200-million internet users were accessing Facebook on a monthly basis in June 2014, indicating that the social media giant's efforts at penetrating emerging market are paying off. There's explosive growth and incredible momentum across Africa. "We now have 100-million people coming to Facebook every month across the African continent with more than 80% using mobile devices," says Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

UNICEF's Hidden in Plain Sight report details child homicides, domestic violence in 190 countries
Radio Australia
One in five homicide victims worldwide are children, a report by UN children's agency UNICEF has revealed. The Hidden in Plain Sight report analyses data from 190 countries and lists alarming statistics on child homicides, domestic violence and rape. The report found violence against children was most common in the home and with caregivers.  UNICEF spokesman for Eastern and Southern Africa, James Elder, said the report may not even capture the full extent of the problem.   "Violence is a very difficult thing often to detect, it goes grossly unreported, so one of the terrifying things from this report is knowing that in fact the numbers would be lower than the reality," he said.

Learning from Data-Driven Delivery

Aleem Walji's picture

Given confusion around the phrase “science of delivery,” it’s important to state that delivery science is not a “one-size-fits-all” prescription based on the premise that what works somewhere can work anywhere. And it does not profess that research and evidence ensure a certain outcome.
 
A few weeks ago, the World Bank and the Korea Development Institute convened a global conference on the science of delivery. Several development institutions assembled including the Gates Foundation, the Grameen Foundation, UNICEF, the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, and the mHealth Alliance. We discussed development opportunities and challenges when focusing on the extremely poor, including experiments in health care, how technology is reducing costs and increasing effectiveness, and the difficulty of moving from successful pilots to delivery at scale.
 
The consensus in Seoul was that a science of delivery underscores the importance of a data-driven and rigorous process to understand what works, under what conditions, why, and how. Too often in international development, we jump to conclusions without understanding counterfactuals and assume we can replicate success without understanding its constituent elements.

Humility and the Power of Working Together

Jim Yong Kim's picture

Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player

On Tuesday I traveled to the United Nations to talk to UNICEF's Executive Board and also to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on moving forward with the important work that we do together. These meetings are key to delivering results because our UN colleagues and we are committed to working closely together. Making that happen requires many things, including a big dose of humility. Please watch the video for more on this.

Quote of the Week: Anthony Lake

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“All those who work in the international community on development tend to overstate the impact of what we’re doing. What’s far more important is the performance of governments.”

Anthony Lake, Executive Director, Unicef. As quoted in the Financial Times, May 19, 2012. How aid got smarter, by Simon Kuper.

#9: The Role of Social Norms in Achieving Behaviour Change

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on July 28, 2011

Recently I attended a course on social norms and social change organized by UNICEF at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Understanding how social norms affect change in practices and behaviours is becoming an increasingly ‘hot topic’ in development discourse, and rightly so I would add. In some of my previous blogs I’ve discussed how in many cases the failure to achieve expected results should be ascribed to technocratic solutions, which are not always understood and agreed upon with local communities. The lack of a clear understanding of the role and mechanisms of behaviour change has been responsible for many development failures. However, developing strict behaviour change strategies might also be not enough to promote change.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mobile Active
uReport: Citizen Feedback via SMS in Uganda

“For aid organizations, knowing what local communities and beneficiaries want and need is the key to running successful, sustainable programs. In Uganda, UNICEF is using mobile phones and broadcast media to get direct feedback from Ugandans on everything from medication access to water sanitation. The project, called uReport, allows users to sign up via a toll-free shortcode for regular SMS-based polls and messages. Citizen responses are used both in weekly radio talk shows to create discussion on community issues, and shared among UNICEF and other aid organizations to provide a better picture of how services work across Uganda.

Sean Blaschke, a Technology for Development specialist at UNICEF Uganda, explains that uReport gathers information from participants and informs citizens of their rights and available services. Recent polls have included questions about school dropouts, water point availability, mosquito net usage, and youth employment, all collected via SMS polls.” READ MORE


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