The New Frontier of Education

Microsoft’s Pan-African Innovative Education Forum 2010

I just returned from Mombasa, Kenya where I had the pleasure of participating at Microsoft’s Pan-African Innovative Education Forum (http://www.microsoft.com/emea/presscentre/pressreleases/PanAfricanInnovativeEducationForum_20100827.mspx). The Forum was part of Microsoft’s “Partners in Learning” education initiative (http://us.partnersinlearningnetwork.com/Pages/default.aspx), which has already impacted more than 193.5 million students and teachers in 114 countries. The event brought together some of the most passionate and innovative teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, and it was truly inspiring to be amongst them and to see the ways in which they are integrating information and communication technology (ICT) into classroom learning and school administration.

The most exciting thing about the Forum was the changing nature of education (especially its delivery) in the 21st century, and the impact that it can have on the African continent. Rote learning and dusty textbooks (not that there is anything wrong with textbooks!) are being shown the door in favor of a new version of education – Education 2.0 – that embraces technology and new methods of learning. Education 2.0 especially caters to different learning styles; engages students in new materials; and helps ensure that this generation of students is equipped to compete in the global marketplace.

Education 2.0 holds great promise for students in sub-Saharan Africa, where education access and lagging standards have left African students at a disadvantage. As infrastructure improves, integrating ICT into classroom learning and school administration will open a world of learning to even the most remote villages across the continent and go a long way toward improving education access for the world’s most disadvantaged students.

The private sector has come to play an increasing role in the development and implementation of Education 2.0, as well as other social services. They recognize that such efforts are more than mere investments in the socio-economic development of future markets and strengthening of human capital – it’s the fulfillment of a commitment to basic right to education, healthcare and other social services. Microsoft in particular has helped take the lead on many private sector initiatives in the developing world, especially education.

The Pan-African Innovative Education Forum represents one facet of Microsoft’s Partners in Learning initiative, a nearly $500 million investment in the education of the world’s students that develops curricula, tools and resources based around a new generation of education and learning. The Forum brought together teachers from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa and Uganda who truly love teaching, and they were committed to wanting to change the lives of their students by equipping them with the skills and tools they will need to effect change in their personal, family and community lives.

One of the highlights of the Forum is its emphasis on developing a network of educators who can learn from one another about innovative activities and lessons from around the world. They share best practices from their own classrooms and schools with one another, and it’s these efforts which help strengthen education networks, that allow educators to draw upon the extraordinary reserves of energy, innovation and talent of the African continent.

I’m proud to say that Leadership Africa USA is at the forefront of the Education 2.0 revolution. In a few months, we will launch our existing leadership course curriculum for middle school students in an online learning management system (LMS). The goals of the LMS are to present a creative way of delivering leadership development training to an age cohort who are already very aware (they may not necessarily have access) of the new technologies around (the cell phone, the Smartphone, the internet, the social networks, etc); and to provide a cost effective way of delivering this training to middle school students on a larger scale using information and communication technology (ICT).

It is always encouraging to be part of a solution to a problem when that solution is developed by those directly affected by the problem. In this case, it is the African educators and the private sector who have decided it is in their interest to tackle the problem of the education quality and access themselves. Leadership Africa USA salutes the innovators of the Pan African Education Innovative Forum.

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