Vocational Education in Developing Countries02 Mar


Vocational Education in Developing Countries

On a previous GCG conversation, GCG discussed the implementation and implications of the OLPC program (low cost computers) in developing countries. In the information technology age, it is natural to view the topic of “education” from a tech-savvy vantage point.

Does a sophisticated medium like a computer help address the immediate issues that many developing worlds face (food shortage, clean water, and rustic infrastructure)? Is it possible that vocational education (apprenticeship) complimented by modern day methodologies and resources is a more effective way to raise developing nations from extreme poverty?

“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

One innovative example of vocational educational in third world countries resides in aquaculture development. Aquaculture is an initiative designed to bring protein rich Tilapia to economically weak and rural parts of Africa. NGOs will donate the necessary resources, and spend several weeks training “farmers” in those methods needed to sustain the facility. 0Ideally, the fish provide the community with both a sustainable food source, as well as an economic currency with which to barter.

GCG guiding questions included, does technology address the most serious issues facing the most impoverished countries and is vocational education a more effective substitute; does vocational education demand too much up-front capital (volunteer’s onsite presence and time); and can we identify other educational vehicles besides technology and vocational education?

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Catalyst Conversation: Financial Literacy – A Public Good?30 Jan


Financial Literacy – A Public Good?

Financial literacy has always been considered a private, rather than a public good, and hence, the theory has always been that the ignorant will only harm themselves. As we now know, financial ignorance hurts everyone. Our latest financial crisis was caused in part by the dangerous convergence of unscrupulous sellers and ignorant buyers. Going forward, most agree that on the seller side, the irresponsible middlemen all need to have more skin in the game, and last month we have discussed ideas to ensure this.

Inversely, we should consider whether responsibility also falls on the buyer. If so, then the financial illiteracy of the American consumer is of grave concern for all of us.

Public institutions have agreed that things like literacy, critical thinking and personal heath are not just private goods, but public goods that should be taught. Marcus Howard and Alex Johnston lead GCG in a debate around Financial Literacy and if we fight financial ignorance at the public level and if so, what are the best avenues to do so? With this subject, do we see an opportunity for new tools such social media, open source hardware/software, and crowdsourcing? If you were part of the incoming administration, how would you go about educating the next generation of financially literate consumers?

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Catalyst Conversation: Open Source Learning and Education04 Jan


Open Source Learning and Education

GCG focuses on innovation in education, a more theoretical discussion of Long Tail theory with a practical discussion of text book publishing. GCG also hones the conversation on the open source model’s applicability to education, varying approaches to education, relevant technology, and what the future holds for the education system. GCG analyzes the key success factors, risks, and the how the technology can take off: does the inception need to come before there is a major push for open source or if a push for open source will inspire new technology and the necessary financing?

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Economy, Education, Tech

Educational Development in Developing Countries09 Aug

Picture 19

Can introducing a laptop to every child foster educational as well as economic growth in developing nations?

Prepared by Marcus Howard and Srujan Linga

There is no doubt that there is a large education gap between the established and developing nations of the world. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) attempts to begin closing this gap by introducing technology to students in rural nations through the implementation of a $100 laptop to every student. Started by Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Laboratory at MIT, their mission is to empower the child of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. Started in 2005, OLPC has provided just over 500,000 laptops to children in Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe.

While ambitious in their mission; their initiative has not been without setbacks. OLPC has been fraught with several financial, political, and structural pitfalls. First, widely marketed $100 price point for the laptop costs them just under $190 to produce. Second, while the technology may be present in many of the OLPC classrooms, there are few teachers trained sufficiently enough to utilize the technologies and/or to help students troubleshoot. Third, many object that OLPC’s approach to education does not take into account the varying cultural and political norms and attempts a “one size fits all” approach to education and technology. Finally, OLPC is facing an increase in competition by companies like Intel due to demands by consumers in developed nations for a cheaper laptop.

Education is quickly growing to be a priority not only in developing nations but in the United States as well. Given the vast availability of free technology that spans every area of education, providing a free laptop to children in developing countries can potentially provide great value to everyone involved. Is OLPC a viable solution to this very pertinent problem?

Video 1:

Video 2:

Finding a solution:

Education in developing countries should be a priority. While OLPC has served as an ambitious foundation to tackling the problem there is still more work to be done.

During our conversation, the Global Catalyst Group discussed:

  • How can we further utilize open source software and technology to enrich the educational experience of students in developing countries?
  • What are some ideas to combat the “One size fits all” approach that serves as one of the major objections to the OLPC model?
  • Is there real “value added” in providing laptops to children in developing nations when the teachers haven’t the training or educational experience to masterfully navigate through the technology?
  • Is technology truly the answer to the growing educational gap between developing and established nations?

Below are some additional resources to help with learning about the project, it’s progress, and some of its setbacks.

The OLPC website:

Keynote by Nicholas Negroponte on OLPC


Education – What Makes a Great Teacher?09 Aug


What are great teachers and programs doing to engage students?

Prepared by Don Ball and Justin Tsang

Framing the problem of Education:

“Education is the most important thing to get right.”
-Bill Gates

Watch: (starting at 7minutes 59 seconds to end of video):

Key takeaways:

The top 20% of students have gotten a good education in the United States. These are the best educations in world and these students have gone on to create the revolutions to keep the US in forefront. Those top 20% are starting to fad and the balance of education is getting worse. Furthermore, the economy is only providing opportunities to for those with advanced educations.

Over 30% of children never finish high school. For minorities this percentage is over 50%. If you graduate from HS and you also come from a low income family you have less than a 25% chance of completing a college degree, and a higher percentage to go to jail then get a four year degree.

Key takeaways: Students must begin using engaging technologies in collaborative, inquiry-based learning environments, with teachers who are willing and able to use technology’s power to assist them in transforming knowledge and skills into products, skills, and new information.

The next generation wants to:

  • Create
  • Consume
  • Remix
  • And share information with each other

Building a solution to the problem: Looking forward

  • Who are the teachers that you have that are great? What makes them different?
  • What is the best way to reward great teachers?
  • How would you retain great teachers if you were an administrator?
  • What could be done to replicate great teachers?

Watch: Clip from 60 Minutes:

“KIPP is not just a school, but a way of life…”

“Today, more than 80% of KIPP students are going to college.”

KIPP Schedule: Monday through Friday 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Saturdays, and even school in the summer…KIPP students spend 70% more time in school than other students.

  • What is KIPP’s education model?
  • What is KIPP doing differently?
  • How does KIPP instill accountability in students, teachers, and parents?
  • Do you know similar models whether domestic or international that have similar success to KIPP?

Optional: Redefining the Possible:

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The Global Catalyst Group seeks to gather persons of unique potential into a community dedicated to thought leadership, shared resources, and mutual improvement. Through deliberate collaboration, collective mentorship and continuous dialogue we believe that we can support and stretch one another with meaningful insight and thoughtful guidance. We encourage our membership and partners to exercise, together, their ambition, creativity, and both their professional and social networks to pursue a greater purpose than oneself. We challenge them to leave a legacy and we support one another towards this end.

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