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09 May 13 08:20

The New York Times reports on two diametrically opposed approaches to providing education to the world's poorest children. The scope of these projects is huge - one provides teaching to 1.25 million children while the other serves more than 50,000 after just four years in operation. Technology, like e-readers and the Internet, make it possible to offer a fairly high level of education at a relatively low cost, which means we may finally be on the brink of activating the full potential of the billion or so people living in extreme poverty.

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Gavin Montgomery - 29 Jul 2013, 2:31 p.m.

In a follow-up article, Tina Rosenberg looks at another model for providing cost-effective private education to the rural poor:

Bridge International uses standardized lessons prepared by master teachers and delivered via e-readers to classrooms across Kenya for as little as USD5 per student per month. It doesn't sound perfect but it is clearly a vast improvement on the systems currently available to the rural poor and it will hopefully set a minimum standard of education.

Nor is this kind of systematized education limited to poor countries. As Scientific American reports, universities in developed countries are increasingly using adaptive education technologies to bring down costs:

One of the advantages of these systems is, ironically, that the material can be delivered more personally because the system gathers extremely granular information about each student. Your hours of study and progress are constantly assessed, strengths and weakness can be identified and the course work adjusted accordingly. We are still at a very early stage in the development of digital learning but we are already seeing that it can be extremely powerful in providing cheaper learning and empowering students. As the systems become more sophisticated it seems likely that access to education will be increasingly democratized and the provision of content and qualifications will be further privatized.

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