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A Leapfrog in Education

By Claudia Aparicio

Leapfrogging or frog jumping is a concept used in business and technology. The main idea behind it is that small and incremental innovations are only useful for organizations, companies or institutions that are already leaders and want to remain dominant.

However, the question is: how does a system that has significant delays; could you catch up? Leapfrogging gives us an encouraging response and demonstrates through concrete cases that, thanks to the power of technology, radical innovations can be made that allow skipping the stages of the path that other actors have already traveled, in order to achieve competitiveness and close further gaps. quickly.

To bring an example of reference, I would like to quote a phrase from Henry Ford, inventor of the automobile who, referring to his creation, said… “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked me for a faster horse.”

Well, if we ask experts in the sector what to do to improve education, it is possible that some advise us to invest in the training and updating of our teachers or to build educational infrastructures. The problem with these approaches is that they are solutions that are expensive and take a long time to mature.

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On the contrary, frog leaps are the fundamental principle on which technology-based solutions are based and which has given rise to EdTech. These organizations are characterized by the high scalability of their solutions, that is, their ability to quickly reach millions of people in various geographies.

To cite a concrete application example, I would like to refer to the Chinese case. Despite being a great power, this government had a problem similar to ours: the quality of rural education compared to urban education was substantially lower.

One of the factors with the highest incidence was due to the fact that this country promoted the migration of the active population to urban production centers, generating a phenomenon called “the child left behind”. This, added to poverty in rural areas and a lower quality of supply, generated large educational gaps.

Well, faced with this great challenge, said government implemented a computer-assisted learning program or CAL (Computes Assisted Learning) for one hundred million students that was based on an ambitious idea: if we use technology to connect rural students from China with the best teachers in the country, we can improve their school performance and their future employment opportunities.

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How they did it? They understood that the biggest challenge was not in computers or connectivity, the biggest challenge was to generate discipline and self-learning in students, so that they could learn without the need for the mediation of the face-to-face teacher as the central axis of learning.

To design the solution they took three key steps:

1- They created digital material of the highest quality designed by the best teachers in the country, making evident the advantage of using this new system.

2- All the improvements were inserted in the traditional curriculum, facilitating the transition of the educational model.

3- Teachers from rural schools did not disappear, on the contrary they were trained in the use of the tool and in supporting students in resolving doubts presented in virtual classes, substantially changing their role.

What did they achieve with their frog leap proposal?

The school completion rate increased by 9%, with a significant impact on math and Chinese skills.

In general, the implementation of this policy can explain an 18% reduction in the urban-rural educational quality gap and a 38% reduction in the pre-existing wage gap.

Students who were exposed to the program increased their odds of getting a job based on cognitive skills, rather than manual skills. This implied a 22% increase in their income compared to people who live in the same region, but who were not exposed to the new educational technology.

Faced with the return on investment in infrastructure, there was evidence of an increase in the use of the Internet and the computer by 15%, even several years after the completion of high school. A cost-benefit analysis indicates that these benefits significantly outweigh the costs of installing, managing, and maintaining new equipment.

Although we would like it to be so, not everything was ideal, there is evidence that suggests that the program had a slight negative impact on mental health that could be mitigated with proper treatment, but that does not mean that it is no longer a great challenge for digital education.

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I bring this case for reflection because recently the impact of Edtech was not proven, however, the publication of recent research, in a publication as recognized as Development Economics, is a milestone to recognize.

I intentionally left out at the beginning of the text that China’s computer-assisted learning experience began in 2004; that is, almost 20 years ago. Today the opportunities are endless, in just our country the Edtech guild brings together more than 100 members. It is definitely time to think about doing things differently and we have what.

The publication by ICFES of the study “Evaluate to advance” is a great starting point; We have data that analyzes the gaps of millions of students and this could be the basis for Minister Alejandro Gaviria to promote a reform of Law 30 based on evidence.

For some years now, a figure called the sandbox has been making a career in our country. These consist of opening a regulatory window to experiment and test solutions, before making public policy changes.

How nice it would be to launch the most important challenges of our system based on the findings of the study, create large experimentation scenarios with multiple actors and then yes, create a new Law 30.

I invite you to dream and act. If you can’t imagine it, you can’t do it. If education does not drive the impossible, then who?

Images: Photo from Pixabay

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