By Djam Bakhshandegi, Corporate Citizenship and Partners in Learning West East Central Africa & Indian Ocean Islands
On the 10th of September 2013, Microsoft’s flagship education programme, Partners in Learning (PiL), celebrated its 10 year anniversary. We celebrated 10 years of helping educators and students connect, collaborate, create and share. 10 years of bringing tools and technology that teach critical 21st century skills. And 10 years of providing educators with the resources that help them do what they do best – growing young minds.
PiL in Africa
Although PiL is a global initiative, it has held a particularly relevant – and special – place in Africa. African countries have recognised the need to prepare their youth for the 21st century. ICT skills, research, innovation and problem-solving are increasingly seen as vital to the continent’s sustainable social and economic success.
African countries have also recognised the potential of their youth. Microsoft sees this potential and has created engaging youth focused initiatives, including Imagine Cup, AppFactory and Innovate4Good. This dynamic capacity, coupled with the necessary skills, has proven that this continent can indeed be a global competitor in the field of innovation. However, for many African schools, access to devices and the ever-changing technology landscape still remain a challenge.
Through PiL, we have worked with African governments, school leaders and teachers to keep up-to-date with technology. We have integrated technology into the classroom in a meaningful way – by introducing not just devices, but mentorship, time and support. Together, we have worked to make technology an educational and empowering tool. A device strategy in education without the content and professional development to complement it is bound to fail, and we at Microsoft are very aware of this. Our engagement with African governments is to provide them with a holistic, relevant, and value-based educational experience, ripe for the 21st century.
I’m proud to say that African classrooms are now using technology to provide group and individualised learning experiences; that tablets and smartphones, among other devices,are teaching critical 21st century skills; that teachers are working with their colleagues at school and around the world to share best practices and find inspiration; and that education leaders are becoming change agents. Technology is making the educational world smaller – and students are all the better for it.
10 is not the only milestone
But a decade of empowering students and teachers is not the only number to celebrate. In the last 10 years, PiL has:
- Reached 12 million educators in 134 countries – 20 of which are in Sub Saharan Africa
- Worked directly with over 20,000 schools around the world to bring technology, resources and more into the classroom
- Reached over 207 million students – 20% of the world’s population
Looking back to 2003
10 years ago, the goal of PiL was to help educators prepare their students for the jobs of tomorrow. Today, 10 years later, our vision remains unchanged. The vision of PiL is forever relevant. As long as technology is constantly transforming – and there’s no doubt it will – there will be a need to constantly prepare students for the changing global workforce.
Going forward, Microsoft will continue to invest in PiL. We have, in fact, just announced a 5-year extension to our programme, bringing it to a total of $750 million in 15 years. We look forward to celebrating the next big milestone – and making our youth of today the leaders of tomorrow.