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21 June, 2019 - 11:35 By Kate Sweeney

University of Cambridge helps power world’s biggest EdTech research project

 Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

Cambridge University, The World Bank and UK technology companies have partnered with the Department for International Development (DFID) to improve education technology in developing countries through a new EdTech hub.

The partners are battling the scandalous statistic that, as things stand, more than 380 million children worldwide will finish primary school without being able to read or do basic maths.

One of the major challenges for education technology in parts of Africa and Asia is that while governments and schools buy hardware such as laptops and tablets, there are not many opportunities for teachers to learn how to use the technology to support children’s learning, the technology is not in the right language or schools can’t maintain or replace the equipment.

The new UK aid supported Education Technology (EdTech) hub has brought together British universities, research companies and education experts to help children, teachers and governments in developing countries get up to speed with the new technology in their classrooms.

DFID is working with the World Bank on the EdTech hub, which aims to create the largest global body of research that looks at how education technology is being used and how this can be improved. UK aid for the project is worth £20 million. 

The EdTech hub, which will run for eight years, comprises the University of Cambridge, the Overseas Development Institute, Results for Development, Brink, Jigsaw, Open Development and Education, INJINI, Afrilabs, e-Learning Africa and BRAC.

Expertise from the University of Cambridge will oversee a stream of rigorous research while British technology company Brink will scale promising technology ideas with governments and educators.

Dr Sara Hennessy, from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge said: “This huge investment and sustained commitment by DFID and partners to improving the educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in key low income regions is extremely welcome.

“The University of Cambridge is very pleased to be involved in this pivotally important research programme. Technology use has to be adapted to the cultural context; one-size-fits-all solutions simply don’t work.”

UK aid is already being used to find innovative ways to address the global learning crisis through EdTech.

A maths app developed as part of a programme by tech company onebillion and funded by UK aid, is being used in schools in Malawi and the UK to help provide a better education for children. Research has shown attainment of children who used the app was 45 per cent higher for maths and 100 per cent higher for reading.

The new EdTech hub will look at how innovations like onebillion and others can be evaluated, scaled-up and used across developing countries.

The EdTech hub will also:-

  • Provide evidence and research to help develop new technologies and digital tools for children to use, such as bespoke learning software that has the relevant language for the student
  • Provide a global platform for sharing ideas and effective practice for technology companies, investors and decision makers
  • Bring innovation to communities, classrooms and ministries with a team that will work directly with users to test and tailor technology
  • Offer technical assistance to help international governments keen to build their knowledge and expertise on how to integrate digital education tools in their countries.

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