How Many People People In Poverty Use Online Learning Resources

About half of children in the United States don’t graduate from high school, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

How Many People People In Poverty Use Online Learning Resources

The World Bank and a cross-section of international experts and NGOs have long been writing about the need to combine knowledge and technology to move the needle on poverty worldwide. But innovation can only do so much.

“A training program alone may not deliver the desired results,” Bernadette Floros, World Bank vice president for social development, told me in an interview at the organization’s Washington office. “It’s all about insights that lead to sustained interventions.”

Technology has certainly played a part in improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Facebook has distributed computers with mobile internet to many poor communities, including some in South Africa and India. Pew Research Center found that half of the world’s 2.5 billion internet users live in Asia and Africa.

But online learning has proven less successful than other modes of good old-fashioned education. In its 2018 “State of World’s Education Report,” UNESCO, the United Nations agency for culture and education, discovered that among learners in developing countries, the use of online learning resources was far more limited than in older more developed areas. “As such, online learning does not in itself contribute significantly to improving learning outcomes and student engagement,” according to the report.

In contrast, the amount of money spent on human resources for education in developing countries far outpaces the amount dedicated to innovation.

To capture how much progress is being made on the issue, I worked with Audrey Wang, the director of Facing Tomorrow, a U.S.-based nonprofit created in 1997 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others. Using its annual report as a guide, I checked up on its research every two years, first using a calculator to calculate the number of youth worldwide without access to education. (We started the research at the end of the 1990s.) Then I considered its total spending on scholarships and other programs, with a focus on those in developing countries. In 2018, the organization provided college scholarships to more than 440,000 students in 170 countries and gave away more than 1.6 million books, tools and other teaching materials, including 60,000 full or partial college scholarships.

We then used a similar calculator to find out how many people each country needed to provide accessible education. In 2017, we found that close to 5 billion people — about 43 percent of the global population — were in “unaffordable or impossible to obtain” education. For 2018, that number was about 47 percent. That said, we found that the need for more access to education has been steadily falling. In 2006, it was 52 percent.

Or if you want to go to the U.S., the amount of money being spent on online learning might surprise you. In the 2015-2016 academic year, says the World Bank, the public school system spent about $10 billion on technology: $1 billion on test preparation, $3 billion on classroom resources, $6 billion on textbook costs and $5 billion on teachers’ salaries.

As Technology and Diversity Ministries, we see parents, educators and others working for digital inclusion in communities across the country. In California, our organization has partnered with Walgreens and Starbucks to provide computers to preschoolers and younger students. In Texas, we provide low-cost computers to low-income students for homework help and enrichment through the Texas Computer Scholarship Program.

Learning does not have to be digital, however.

Okey Ndibe is the director of technology, diversity and inclusion ministries for Facing Tomorrow Inc., a nonprofit that uses technology to increase access to education for underserved populations worldwide.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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