Google.org, Google’s philanthropy, has committed Rs 54 crore ($8.4 million) to three Indian education-based non-profits. The three India-based non-profits this year include, Pratham Education Foundation, Pratham Books StoryWeaver, and Million Sparks Foundation. Every year, Google.org commits Rs 640 crore ($100 million) to non-profits around the globe.
What do these non-profits do?
Pratham Books StoryWeaver bagged the largest grant worth Rs 23 crore ($3.6 million) and is an open-source platform for translating children’s books. Pratham Education, which gives children tablet-based, offline lessons outside the classroom, bagged Rs 19 crore ($3.1 million). Million Sparks Foundation received Rs 7 crores ($1.2 million) and brings teachers on an online platform to share knowledge, lesson plans, learning modules, and videos to aid classroom teaching
The funds committed by Google.org to these organizations will be released over the next two years to expand and grow their services.
Do tech-based education solutions work?
While there is a lot of hype around and investment in technology-aided education solutions, a number of evaluations and research papers around one of the first technology aided education solutions–the ambitious One Laptop Per Child program–seem to suggest that access to technology has no affect on a child’s reading or mathematical abilities. In fact, in Peru, where the programme was implemented in the largest scale, evaluators found zero effects on a child’s learning outcome despite the access to technology. The programme was supported by the likes of AMD, eBay, Google, Marvell Technology Group, News Corporation, Nortel. Chi Mei Corporation, Red Hat, and Quanta.
Despite near universal enrolment rates of children between 6-14 years of age in India, Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report-2016, suggests that nearly 52% rural students in Class V cannot read a Class II level textbook. Nearly 60% Class VIII students in rural India students cannot divide a three-digit number by a single-digit.
Technology-aided, creative learning solutions within classrooms help create curiosity among students but most claims by technologists and technocrats in the education sector fall short of the hype and empirical evidence. Technology itself doesn’t transform anything. The child’s circumstance and living condition play a bigger role in a child’s education than access to technology or books.
When learning itself is broken, giving children resources seldom helps educate them. Multiple research and analysis show that students who perform well in a technologically-aided environment are the ones who have in the past succeeded academically and were academically superior. Often, these programs are a means to generate PR, investment and business opportunities for the participating organizations. We have seen the same with the failure and dropout rates of Massive Online Open Courses offered by the likes of Stanford Open Classroom, MIT OpenCourseWare, edX, Coursera, etc.