Awardees share key insights on role of technology to address education challenges related to access, equity and inclusion
All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) today released its report responding to research questions posed in UNESCO’s 2023 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report concept note, which will focus on technology and Education, specifically examining education challenges to which appropriate use of technology can offer solutions.
The report summarizes the key insights garnered from an ACR GCD-hosted virtual 2023 GEM Report Consultation, held on May 19, 2022 with more than 30 current and former ACR GCD awardees and GEM Report researchers. The consultation, and followup interviews, enabled awardees to contribute their feedback, expertise and evidence for the proposed lines of research of the 2023 GEM Report concept note.
The consultation focused on the concept note’s Research Question #1: What do we know about the role of technology in addressing each of the education challenges identified with respect to access, equity and inclusion? Contributions from participants focused on access for disadvantaged groups and access to content.
Access for disadvantaged groups: How can we provide education to all hard to reach learners?
When considering Access for Disadvantaged Groups, ACR GCD focuses on the 584 million children globally who do not have basic reading skills. ACR GCD’s summative report of awardee EdTech project evaluations in 2017 highlighted important findings, including that EdTech-based literacy solutions can offer beneficial individualized learning experiences to students and that technology has the capacity to capture individual user experiences. During the consultation, awardees additionally highlighted that for children with disabilities, technology features such as ebooks with video, audio and highlighted text, large text, ebraille, customizable speed, and font size help learners with print disabilities overcome barriers to reading. For remote populations or children in emergency contexts, technology can be a connector or a bridge to the formal school system, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and refugee and migration crises globally. ACR GCD also found that EdTech can support access to literacy for girls who are frequently marginalized in education and that inclusive assessments are essential to ensure learning assessments measure learning outcomes of children with disabilities more validly and reliably.
Access to content: How can more knowledge reach more learners in more attractive and cheaper formats?
When considering Access to Content, ACR GCD’s work focuses on children with disabilities, for whom books, if available at all, often are not in accessible formats like braille, audio and sign language. Insights within the ACR GCD consultation report shows that, key to cost-effective and scalable EdTech solutions is content created under an open license that permits no-cost free access, use, resharing, adaptation and redistribution by anyone with no or limited restrictions. Secondly, producing accessible books from the onset (a production concept referred to as “born accessible”) is the most cost-effective way to produce high-quality accessible books.
The report provides examples and practices, supported by evidence, that strengthen access, equity and inclusion for disadvantaged groups (including education for hard to reach learners such as disadvantaged groups, children with disabilities, girls, remote populations and education in emergencies contexts) and access to content. Overall, the report outlines that evidence-based EdTech solutions can improve reading outcomes for marginalized populations at lower costs and in less time as compared to traditional approaches. ACR GCD awardees who participated in the consultation showcased many useful examples of ways that technology can help address challenges related to access, equity, inclusion and others, as well as ways technology can contribute to digital divides. Through implementation and testing, our awardees learned what works and does not work, including thinking beyond the EdTech solution itself to include the appropriate training, needs assessment, screening, infrastructure, devices, coaching/monitoring support, and advocacy and ecosystem engagement necessary to ensure effective use at scale.
ACR GCD, a partnership between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), World Vision, and the Australian Government, advances EdTech innovation and research to improve reading outcomes for marginalized children in low-resource contexts. Since 2011, ACR GCD has sourced thousands of innovative proposals and funded and tested 60+ promising applications of EdTech to support language and literacy for children in low resource contexts.