Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

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Does Your Math Teaching Have SMARTS?

Launch PadTeaching is never easy but it can definitely be fun! When you’re having fun in the classroom, kids will have fun too and learn something in the process! So ditch your worksheets and give your math teaching SMARTS!

SMARTS is an easy acronym to help identify fun ways to engage kids with math!

Songs–Who doesn’t like a good tune? Songs can help students remember the steps of long division or learn to count by 10s. Songs shouldn’t be complicated or difficult to remember and are often set to familiar tunes. Try skip counting by 4s to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and you’ll see what I mean!

There are tons of free resources on the web but I love Songs for Teaching and TeacherTube. Other teachers are a great resource when trying to identify fun songs that work (and those that don’t) so turn to colleagues or online communities for teachers like Edutopia or Classroom 2.0. The key is to ditch boring drills and make learning catchy and fun! Research has shown that movement boosts academic performance so get your kids up and moving during songs to optimize fun and learning.

Manipulatives–Use whatever you have around you to make math meaningful! Count pencils to build one to one correspondence, cut sandwiches in quarters to demonstrate fractions and build various sized towers with blocks to teach measurement. Manipulatives help children “see” math and build meaning. Don’t fret if you don’t have access to fancy manipulatives from a learning store–pebbles work just as well as counting bears and you can create fraction tiles from sheets of paper.

Many teachers are afraid to introduce manipulatives because they fear children will fidget and lose focus. You can avoid this problem by establishing clear rules and expectations for Math Investigation and adhering to pre-established behavior plans. Most teachers are surprised to see that the children spend more time on task once manipulatives are introduced because they are engaged!

Art–Are you sensing a pattern of interdisciplinary connections here? Whenever possible, incorporate art projects into your math lessons. Have children create self portraits when studying symmetry, create beaded bracelets to reinforce patterns and draw pictures to illustrate word problems. My students only truly grasped the concept of area after creating pictures from paper mosaic “tiles”. We are trying to turn our children into budding mathematicians and encouraging them to create something always helps!

Recreation–We’re talking about games here! After you introduce a concept, give the children time to practice by playing games as an alternative to workbook practice. Students will have a blast while also getting the practice that they need! A card game of WAR can reinforce greater than/less than, Around the World with flash cards can reinforce math facts and a simple game of dice can reinforce probability. Try to incorporate games into your classroom whenever possible to increase engagement and promote learning!

Technology–Technology is a great tool to increase student engagement regardless of where your classroom is or what it looks like. For some, this may mean interactive white boards while for others this means access to a disposable camera. As more and more students are gaining access to technology in their classrooms, it is important for teachers to use these resources strategically, whether it be one tablet for an entire class or a classroom set of laptops.

Virtual manipulatives can be used to demonstrate place value, spreadsheets can be used to organize and display data and cameras can be used to photograph angles in the community. Incorporating technology helps prepare our students for success outside the classroom and opens the door to a growing library of open education resources available online.

Stories— Make math relatable for your students by placing problems in context through word problems, real life applications or picture books. Become a storyteller and encourage your students to tell stories about math through writing or illustration. Math read alouds can help introduce a math topic, math journals can be used to reflect on learning, and imaginative play can reinforce math in our everyday lives. Set up a grocery store in your classroom and watch math learning come to life!

The goal of teaching SMARTS is to keep math instruction captivating, lively and relevant in your classroom. What tricks do you use to keep math engaging and fun for your students?

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China’s Premier Advocates Equal Education for Rural Areas

Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang speaks on urbanisation at a high-level conference co-organised by Friends of EuropeChina’s Premier Li Keqiang urges educational equality for China’s rural areas and declares education reforms as a top priority for the country’s development. The statement followed Li’s visit to high school students from Xinjiang Uyger, a remote western China autonomous region, who study in Dalian, Liaoning province, an eastern developed city.

Li visited Dalian No 20 Senior High School, a school that was the first to accept students from the Xinjiang autonomous region. During Li’s visit, teachers shared their arrangement reports and teaching experiences while students shared achievements and personal stories.

After learning that many Xinjiang students were born into poor families, Li said “we should strive to realize education equality and ensure all children receive an education.” Li also encouraged eastern regions rich with educational resources to provide additional support to underdeveloped central and western regions of China.

Li suggested that financial allocations should subsidize the country’s underdeveloped rural regions, well-trained teachers should be encouraged to teach in the underdeveloped areas, and teachers from the remote regions should receive further training from institutions in more developed areas.

According to Lin, educational equality is fundamental in narrowing gaps between urban and rural areas. The recommended efforts will advance China’s educational equality and will improve poverty stricken areas.

Li encouraged the Dalian students saying “Xinjiang is a good place, and its future will be brighter. Knowledge is a kind of super-energy. You should be confident to learn well and lift your hometown out of poverty with your knowledge.”

According to China Daily, the total number of Xinjiang students studying in Dalian No 20 Senior High School has reached 1,663 since Xinjiang and Dalian began their arrangement in 2000. Dalian No 20 supplements students’ educational needs by providing Mandarin and English lessons and exchange activities to support adjustment. 

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Malawi’s “Happy Classrooms” Project Paint Educational Classrooms

Mkunda VillageMalawi based NGO confirmed success of the The Happy Classrooms project; a group that paints child-friendly and curriculum related paintings on classroom walls. Happy Classrooms is supported by boNGO Worldwide (based on Need-driven Grassroots Ownership), a non-profit organization aimed at supporting Malawi education and community development efforts.

The project was originally created to improve learning conditions and provide powerful teaching tools to public primary education classrooms. Tereza Mirovicova, Managing Director for Happy Classrooms, said the project brought great success for both teachers and students; a wider variety of teaching methods began to be used, student concentration improved, students were able to remember and understand the material, and schools became a more inspiring learning environment.

A teacher from the Masuku primary school in Madziabango said “it is encouraging to see the children learning by themselves, just by spending time in the classroom. We have observed that they start writing and reading easier, being in the environment that inspires them.”

Unicef census reports that out of 6.8 million Malawi children, over 10 percent of school aged children do not attend school while only 26 percent complete the entire primary school cycle. Primary school classrooms are bare and dark with over 150 students taught by a single teacher and limited materials, ultimately contributing to low student retention.

Since the projects’ beginning in 2011, boNGO has painting over 800 Happy Classrooms with an average of 150 pupils per classroom, totaling to over one million children benefitting from the program. 40 Malawi-based companies, private donators, and Concern Universal have agreed to support funding for the project. boNGO is currently seeking additional benefactors to multiply the number of painters and boost the program’s progression. 

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Tuition Hike in Armenia Leads to Student Protests

At the College

The recent tuition hike in many of Armenia’s schools of higher education has led to student protesting from August 13th onwards. In response, the Armenian Minister of Education justifies the tuition hikes as being beneficial for universities. However, he claims that he is open to discussing different proposals.

Plans to raise tuition fees in Armenia by thirty percent have caused students to protest in the capital city of Yereva. Students have been gathering in front of the Education and Science Ministry since August 13th. This hike in tuition, according to protestors, could have devastating effects on those seeking university education.

Additionally, protestors are suspicious of the current use of tuition; they do not believe an increase is necessary to contend with administrative and professor salaries, technical upgrading, and social issues. They are hoping for investigations by the Finance Ministry Control Inspectorate into the use of such funds.

Students all over Europe have become increasingly concerned with these developments and are supporting the struggle of the Armenian National Student’s Association (ANSA) through petitions, letters, and appeals.

In response to student protests, Armenia’s Minister of Education, Armen Ashotyan, has claimed that current budgets for universities do not cover future developments and technologies that are needed to provide better quality education. Ashotyan also believes that tuition hikes at specific universities will attract foreign professors and experts to Armenian universities. He has claimed that he is looking into possibilities to strengthen state funding to those that need help covering tuition. He also claims to be open to meeting with students to review proposals and has promised to hold public hearings.

Armenia’s student revolution joins a growing body of international protests led by youth–many of them, including the Chilean student movement, have seen success in recent months.

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Indonesian Embassy Implements “One Dirham A Day” Program for Indonesian Students

The Indonesian Embassy of the United Arab Emirates created an initiative to support struggling Indonesian children and families in need of educational resources. The program is called One Dirham A Day and is implemented by placing small tin canisters in strategic locations throughout Abu Dhabi to collect coins that may otherwise be forgotten. Lalan Purnama, deputy head of the project, began the initiative when realizing that while a single dirham (equivalent to .27 USD and .20 EUR) may seem like a small amount, it also has the power to greatly affect the livelihood of a child.

Coins Each tin can hold Dh 3,600 and is returned to Indonesia once filled. The money collected is used to provide basic living and educational support for children, their families, and orphanages. The project will also help rebuild damaged wooden bridges in remote areas to help children reach schools in otherwise difficult locations.

40 additional tins have been purchased and will be placed in Western Regions of UAE, Dubai, and Northern Emirates. Indonesian ambassador, Salman Al Farisi, said “If it’s collected bit by bit, it becomes a significant amount, which can address significant problems. Small steps can do significant things for children who face varied problems back home.”

57 million children attend schools in Indonesia, yet only a third are able to complete basic schooling because of minimal resources, poor teaching, and an outdated curriculum that results in many early drop outs. Approximately 100,000 Indonesians (as of 2012) currently reside in the United Arab Emirates and 65 percent are domestic workers, many of whom are women struggling for their own livelihood. A current increase in expatriates from Indonesia to UAE further exemplifies the importance of bringing access to education to the home country.

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Ghana’s Female Educators Encouraged To Serve As Role Models

Quality nutrition for students

During a conference titled “Education for Development- The Role of Female Teachers,” retired educator Mrs. Agnes Atagabe attributed the fall in Ghana’s standards of education to poor teaching and learning materials, weak infrastructure and the inability of administrators to effectively monitor and supervise teaching in schools.

Mrs. Atagabe believes that the only way to bring the standards of education back up is for the government, the Ghana Education Service and their stakeholders to commit to providing the necessary support. In the meantime, Mrs. Atagabe also stressed the importance of female teachers who are seen as role models by their students.

She urged female teachers to use every available methodology to ensure each student has a deep understanding of the curriculum. This also means including ICT in the classroom and seeing it as an integral part of the students’ academic growth. Additionally, she encouraged the female teachers to continue in their own studies in order to be knowledgeable in all subjects.

The conference was the second Quadrennial Regional Women’s Round Table Conference. It was organized by the Ghana National Association of Teachers Ladies Society (GNAT-LAS).

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Singapore: Enhancing Kindergarten Education

The Singapore Ministry of Education has announced several program initiatives geared towards enhancing social mobility by reaching out to weaker students and decreasing economic disparities in access to education.

WaterplayEducators and parents have expressed concerns that the education system ultimately favors children whose parents can afford tuition. Others worry that the over-emphasis on exams and grades contribute to a high stress environment that inhibits creativity and undermines non-academic needs and talents.

The MoE addresses these issues, proposing to help every student succeed by:

  • Building up a foundation in literacy and numeracy, from kindergarten to secondary levels. The Learning Support Programme for Primary 1 -2 students will extend to include all six years of primary education.
  • Providing professional development opportunities for teachers to learn research-based methods and various learning platforms for working with “low-progress learners.”
  • Piloting 15 kindergartens in working class areas over the next three years to help raise support and improve oversight of the pre-school sector.
  • Enhancing support for students with special needs by arranging post-diagnosis services for parents, simplifying the application and enrollment processes for special education schools, and increasing funding for low-income students.

At times, it’s necessary to get back to basics in order to make long-term improvements. We applaud Singapore for taking the time to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their economic background or pace of development.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat notes, “If a good life is simply about getting ahead of others, and achieving the 5Cs … Then no amount of changes in the education system can alter the reality of each of us chasing after material and positional goods … In many respects, the education system reflects societal norms and expectations.”

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Engage Your Students with Science – Tip Five: Teach Them What They Want to Know.


Children are inquisitive by nature. They are constantly trying to make sense of the world around them and are eager to understand how natural processes occur. Science teachers should make use of that inquisitiveness in order to engage students with the subjects being explored.

Research suggests that students are more likely to get interested in a subject or engage in an activity if they consider what they are learning to be interesting or relevant. Thus, you must to learn what interest your students and explore these interests in class.

Finding these interests may seem more difficult then it actually is. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask for your students’ opinions, giving them the impression that what they are curious about matters. When choosing an activity for the class, you should avoid simply imposing an exercise you have selected. You can have your students come up with questions they want to know the answer to, or prepare two or three activities/subjects to explore in class and allow your students to pick the one they find most interesting. You might even let them plan and conduct an investigation on a subject the class has been studying.

Allowing students to choose what they want to learn will help keep them focused and enthusiastic throughout the entire task.

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Engage Your Students with Science – Tip Four: Connect with Their Everyday Lives

How many times have you heard one of your students say “I’m never going to need to use this knowledge?” Many, many times, I am sure.
Science Saturday Celebrates International Year of Chemistry

Students often feel that the subjects approached in science classes are disconnected from real life and have no interest outside the walls of the laboratory. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Science has an increasingly preponderant part in today’s society. From our industries to our hospitals and to our houses, the products of science are everywhere and affect every aspect of our lives.

Showing your students the connections between science and society and making them understand how much we depend on science can be a very effective way to increase their interest for it. By realizing how science affects their daily routines, students become aware of the importance of understanding science and are more likely to get engaged in science activities. Furthermore, finding out the science behind the objects they use daily can make children feel more connected to the subject.

When explaining a scientific concept or conducting a science investigation, try to connect it with an everyday event. Encourage your students to think about the uses of science in their lives. Ask them practical questions: what are cellphones made of? What’s in your toothpaste? By trying to figure out the answers to these questions, students will understand how much science affects human lives.

Then, ask them more profound questions: how would our lives be without scientists? How important is science for us? These questions will get your students thinking about the importance of scientists and scientific literacy.

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