Digital Education in South Africa

I would like to salute South Africa for taking bold steps in investing in the future.

Got to this link to download information on:-

  • The shocking number of South African students being failed by their schools
  • Where these students are falling short and how they can improve
  • The part that will be played by computers, eBooks, iPads and apps
  • How technology is going to revolutionise education in South Africa

Leveling the Playing Field in Education – taking it another notch

Some years ago, I was on a plane to Bangkok, with my best friend, who has since passed away. He was in the real property development business. He commented that schools are probably one of the most under-utilized category real estate.

Many rich people desire to build schools, particularly in the rural areas to reach out to the less privileged corners of society. But all too often, after a few years, such schools are dilapidated and abandoned. Maintenance is costly, and will not be sufficiently funded from school fees. On top of that, getting good teachers to the far flung provinces is a challenge.

We then brainstormed about fitting out old shipping containers with PC workstations. Then collaborate with local telcos to provide not only internet connection, but also access to cellular signal. Consider also the possibility of having solar panels on the roof, so that this “container internet center” can operate without being connected to the grid.

Look for a village that is receptive, and plonk this down there. Children from the village and surrounding areas can come to these “container internet centers” and access the internet for world class online education, and have world class educators connecting with them.

When not used for this purpose, this can be used as any internet center for recreation, for communication, or for doing work online. The fees earned from this, and for selling cell phones, load and accessories, will hopefully be able to maintain this facility.

If for any reason, it does not work out, this can be pulled out and plonked down somewhere else. Probably is not as simply as it sounds, but I hope one day to find out.

Innovation is not just about Technology

Whilst I keep preaching that with technology and the internet, we can reach most parts of the world, there are areas which are still not yet quite there.

This example of an innovative solution for children who do not even have a desk in the classroom is one which I wish I had thought of (click here).

Innovation is indeed a mindset, and not just about technology. We have to keep thinking of better ways to do things, and to solve problems.

Leveling the Playing Field in Education

In one of my earlier blogs about the state of funding for universities, and how online education is changing the game, I promised to write more on my excitement with how technology and the internet will trigger the revolution and evolution wherein the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities.

Traditionally, the best schools recruited the best students. The parents of these students probably also studied in these best schools, befriended other privileged kids who supported each other in their privileged careers, and have privileged children who then go to these privileged schools.

These privileged schools would always be in privileged neighborhoods. The best educators would hence be attracted to these privileged schools.

I think that technology and the internet has a real chance to level the playing field, and enable the best education to reach under-privileged communities. There is already much online content available open source, like the Khan Academy, Coursera, MIT etc. I have personally believed for some time that you can probably find on the internet, all knowledge which you need to complete most academic qualifications.

However, a one-way delivery can probably not give a complete education experience. There is a role to play for educators. The Coursera programs, and probably others, do have instructors online interacting with the students and guiding them in an asynchronous manner.

But look at this video about the “Granny Cloud”, showing retired teachers in England teach live online to rural schools in India. I think that a mix of asynchronous instruction and live teaching online, with the best educators in the world can level the playing field for most marginalized communities.

I wish that like the legal profession, the teaching profession will also (if they do not already do so) mandate teachers to spend a minimum number of hours for pro-bono teaching. That way, the privileged teachers in the privileged schools can teach marginalized students without the fear, risk and inconvenience of commuting to the rather challenging neighborhoods to teach in schools with under-privileged children. They can do so online.

In my next article, I will take this discussion another “notch”.

Endorsement from Trainer of Trainers in Singapore Airlines

One of my neighbours in Melbourne is Tommy Soh. He and his wife Marina dropped by for lunch yesterday, and we chatted about many things. He asked a lot of questions about Genashtim, in particular our EPiC Online program. What he had to say about how we run our business is so profound that I asked him to write it down for me, which is attached herewith. Click Here.

With 43 years in Singapore Airlines, Tommy Soh has trained and mentored a large number of pilots and captains. As a trainer for trainers in a prestigious organization like Singapore Airlines, he is at the pinnacle of his game. He was also among the first pilots in the world to captain the A380. He has read about 200 books on training, and is in the process of writing one himself.

It is so heart-warming to be assured by someone like him for what we are doing.

UP Open University’s online systems disrupted due to Glenda (Rammasun)

Such natural disasters are very tragic and disruptive. This article (click here) talks about a typhoon taking down a prominent online learning system.

It is tempting to say that online learning is vulnerable and unreliable. But a bad storm could wipe a physical education institution, or even a whole town, which could take years to recover.

Nevertheless, that is why in Genashtim, we have chosen an entirely cloud-based platform to operate from. We are hosted on 3 separate domains, and additionally have our data and programs backed-up in 3 different locations in 3 countries. Our operations are entirely distributed, making disruptions easy to avoid at very short notice. In spite of having quite a significant proportion of our resources in the Philippines, not one single session of EPiC Online or Mandarin eSpeak, or any of our other services was affected during this recent typhoon Glenda (Rammasun), and even not with super typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Singapore Minister for Manpower talks about Genashtim and EPiC Online

Opening Address by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower at the Adult Learning Symposium 2014 “Transforming CET: Innovation in Workplace Practice and Learning”, 10 July 2014, 9:15 AM, Raffles City Convention Centre.

Item 9.
Genashtim Innovative Learning is a Singapore company that decided to develop and launch its own brand of online learning programmes. One such programme, the EPiC Online, allows live one-on-one, face-to-face English language coaching service. EPiC Online can be further customised with role play and actual problem scenarios to help e-learners to practise English in their work situations. This e-learning programme has been adopted by multinational companies such as McDonalds and Holiday Inn Singapore to train their staff.

Click here for full speech

Job seekers with A in SPM English but can’t speak a word of it…

This rather interesting article on 26th June 2014 (The Malaysian Insider) has 3 key points:-
1. Graduates with distinction in English, cannot speak the language
2. The sorrows of the education system in Malaysia
3. The attitude of the Generation Y

I think much has been said about the sorrows of the education system in Malaysia, and I don’t feel qualified to add anything new. The attitude of the Generation Y is an entire topic on its own which is perhaps best dealt with in a different forum. But I did write an article about this in a People Management magazine some years ago click here.

As for graduates with distinction in English, not being able to speak the language, we should not be surprised. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to Malaysia. In 2009, the Ministry of Education in Japan declared that English has to be taught in English in schools from 2013 - click here

Today in 2014, there is no more talk about this. The reality is that most teachers who teach English in Japan cannot actually speak English. And this is probably similar in many countries.

I wanted to hire an English teacher in China in 2010. Henry had a degree in English from a Chinese university, and had written an English book of poetry. He had taught English to thousands of Chinese students over 18 years. He was even the author of the “learn English” section of a local newspaper. But he could not be interviewed in English!

Hence any language education has to include an appropriate level of practice of usage of the language in conversation. Confidence in using the language and conversational proficiency can best be achieved by speaking with different people in different situations. That is why our language coaching programs EPiC Online and Mandarin eSpeak are designed the way they are – with rotating coaches, not selected by the students.

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For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.

The Future of Universities – The Digital Degree

This recent article in The Economist explains the status of an industry which has failed to evolve for too long. It is really quite mind boggling that today, education is largely delivered in the same way as it was in the industrial revolution. In fact the article says that is has barely changed for centuries.

open online course

It is hence not surprising that even in the most developed economies, there is a funding crisis, particularly in higher education. According to Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, “Fifteen years from now, more than half of the universities in America will be in bankruptcy”.

Online education is only just starting to explode. Apart from taking a lot of cost out of an archaic system of learning, it will level the playing field for a game, which was been designed for the rich, powerful and famous. With technology and the internet, the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities. This, to me, is the most significant aspect of this evolution and revolution. I will write more about this later.

The article also examines some of the issues with online education. I will also write later about how I see some of these issues could evolve. I can imagine wonderful and exciting prospects when we embrace and leverage technology and social media in the field of education. Not least of which would be the impact on global warming.

The third point that this article made is about continuing education and adult learning. In the past, a college education can pretty much see us through our working life. Today, we have many first year students in a 4 year education program who will graduate into jobs that have not been invented yet. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, reckon that perhaps 47% of occupations could be automated in the next few decades. The article suggests that traditional education models will not be able to compete with digital/online delivery in cost, speed, scale, accessibility and relevance.


 For information about our online learning services, visit www.genashtim.com.