By Mark Chaban, Area Senior Education Director MEA HQ Public Sector
A recent survey conducted by Microsoft and BETT Middle East found that 97% of educators in the Middle East and North Africa feel that technology plays an important role in transforming education systems. However, only 32% are implementing STEM education and digital literacy as part of their curriculum.
This is a challenge for education across the region, mainly due to lack of budget and training. In fact 61% of respondents from the survey cited a lack of budget as a major challenge, and a further 52% said that they lacked adequate training to optimise technology effectively in their classrooms.
Our partner ITWORX Education recognised a number of other, more basic, challenges in the education of children in underserved regions. They saw that limited school capacities, transportation difficulties, curriculum and language differences, and inadequacy of teacher development programmes were all stumbling blocks.
Their work to overcome these hurdles using their social, e-learning platform, WinjiGo, saw ITWORX Education named as a Finalist in the 2016 Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards, in the “Public Sector: CityNext” category. These awards recognise top Microsoft partners that demonstrate excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.
WinjiGo capitalises on the power of simple and movable technology. It is designed to provide extended access to self-learning opportunities that curtail typically hefty public and private investments into the traditional infrastructure of formal education – such as school buildings. WinjiGo is at the centre of the ITWORX Education solution and enables an unlimited learning experience, connecting displaced children to sustainable educational opportunities.
ITWORX Education has mapped out a course of action to create virtual schools built around extensive digital content tied into curriculums, e-learning through WinjiGo, and smart technology-powered learning centres whereby education would be accessible both offline and online. They kicked off the pilot in September 2015 at the Saad Nayel School in Lebanon’s Zahle District. The solution allowed them to create an e-learning, “school without borders” experience for an underserved community at a low cost, turning the community’s challenges into a sustainable advantage.
Commenting on being named a Finalist in this year’s Microsoft Partner of the Year Awards, Hatem Sallam, CEO of ITWORX Education, says: “This is recognition not only of our e-learning platform’s contribution to underserved communities, but also its ability to empower governments and communities to effectively address their challenges.” He continues, “Leveraging Microsoft technologies has helped us to roll out our solution quickly and cost-effectively, and as a result our goal now is to scale this project to reach more children.”
ITWORX Education is addressing a real challenge and empowering a community to do more with less. Their solution has the potential to assist any children in underserved regions, or who are in distress as a result of wars or natural disasters.
It’s an example of the great innovation coming out of the Middle East and Africa. It also taps into our findings from the BETT survey that 70% of educators believe creating virtual classrooms and implementing e-learning solutions will further expand access and improve education offerings.
We are excited to continue partnering with companies like ITWORX Education and to invest in solutions that bring technology into education and create immersive, inclusive experiences for more students.
To find out more about the solution, watch ITWorx Education’s video here.