ProjectEd: Tech-enabled delivery of educational content at scale
We are currently working in a partnership-driven intervention together with the Malawi Ministry of Education, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), and Ubongo to increase numeracy and literacy in primary schools in Malawi by delivering educational content at scale. The intervention utilizes solar-powered projectors to deliver the content of the proven onebillion app and increase access to Ubongo’s video programming more cost-effectively to multiple students simultaneously.
In 2013, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) initiated the Unlocking Talent project with the Malawi Ministry of Education to improve numeracy and literacy among early primary students in Malawi. The project uses the onebillion app – proven pedagogical software made up of engaging activities, games, and stories in local languages.
Initially, the program was delivered through tablets targeting one student at a time. Students who used the onebillion app made an additional three months progress in math compared to the control group. However, the delivery model was too expensive to scale, which led JBJ Foundation and VSO to consider how to deliver the high-impact educational content more cost-effectively.
Solar-powered projectors in classrooms could increase both scale and cost-effectiveness, since they could reach whole classrooms of students simultaneously. In addition to using onebillion, video content from Ubongo, Africa’s leading source of edutainment, has been translated to the local language Chichewa and will be projected in classrooms. The project began in 2021 and we are now working with the University of Nottingham to test the impact of this approach.
Since 1994 and the successful introduction of free primary education, Malawi’s education system has faced growing challenges to meet the increased demand for quality education. The challenges have included overcrowding in classrooms, lack of learning materials, and shortage of trained teachers with pupil to teacher ratios as high as 1:80 or more.
Only around 17% of the children aged 3-5 are on track for literacy and numeracy. Over 80% of Malawian 2nd graders cannot read while also representing the lowest math scores in Africa. Less than 30% of children complete primary school, with around 8 students sharing the same textbook.
JBJ Foundation engaged meaningfully in the entire process by being extremely engaged and asking the right questions that allowed for a deepened discussion of what was possible. The result was an approach revolving around partnership and collaboration that enabled a successful trial of the project, always with the expectations that we could scale it. I see JBJ Foundation as a long-term partner in this journey.
Dario Gentili, Country Manager of VSO, Malawi
ABOUT THE PARTNERS
Malawi Ministry of Education endorses and ensures that the project is well embedded and adopted at all levels of the Malawian education system.
onebillion is an app that delivers reading, writing, and numeracy in the child’s own language. It works for children at home and in school and is designed to take a child from zero to numerate and reading with comprehension.
Ubongo is a Tanzania-based social enterprise that leverages the power of entertainment, the reach of mass media, and the connectivity of mobile devices, to deliver effective, localized learning to African families at a low cost and massive scale.
University of Nottingham supports the project with Dr. Nicola Pitchford’s research expertise in developmental psychology and education to explore the use of innovative mobile technology to support the acquisition of basic skills by primary school children in Malawi, the UK, and several other countries
VSO is one of the world's leading international development organizations that works through volunteers to fight poverty. They bring about change not by sending aid, but by working through people and partners to empower communities in some of the world’s poorest regions..