Education For All — How Corporations Can Add Value To The Efforts
By Debra Ruh
Education can help move people out of poverty and give all of us, especially children, the chance for a better life. Education can also change the lives of adults that did not have access to education earlier in their lives or need to retrain for a new career.
Another wonderful benefit of education is the power to break down barriers. Education can help people that have traditionally been disenfranchised due to real and artificial barriers. It can help with gender equality by empowering girls and women. Education helps us learn about the world around us and can give students a different perspective. It is critical that no child be left behind around the world. These efforts must include the more vulnerable parts of our society, including children with disabilities.
Sadly, children with disabilities and children that are poor or living in developing countries, especially rural areas, are more likely to be left behind. According to The Global Partnership for Education, over 260 million children are still not in school. “Children with disabilities are less likely to start school and if they do, they are unlikely to transition to secondary school. Their access to school is often limited by a lack of understanding about their needs, and a lack of trained teachers, classroom support, learning resources and facilities. Denying children with disabilities their right to education has a lifelong impact on learning, achievement and employment opportunities, hence hindering their potential economic, social and human development.” Source:https://www.globalpartnership.org/what-we-do/inclusive-education
No one should be denied education and we need to look at innovative and creative ways to educate people around the world including distance education, e-Learning, utilizing machine learning, accessible learning apps, artificial intelligence (AI), digital inclusion, and accessible education.
How can Corporations Help Ensure Education For All
How can corporate brands help assure education for all, assure that our internet, technology and communications (ICT) are fully accessible, and reduce the digital divide? I believe corporations must be part of the solution to successfully achieve our global goals of Education For All.
I had the honor to learn more about Huawei’s efforts to support Education for All. They are focused on TECH4ALL, TECH4GOOD, Digital Inclusion and support of the United Nations (UN), the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to support the widening digital-divide, and assuring that all children can get a good education.
We need to ensure that this wave of innovation is for all people. The time for access to education must be measured in days, weeks, and months, not years. It is now that we must call upon the power and scale of our global communities and our corporate leaders to ensure that we are an active player in how these educational programs and technologies can create inclusion and educational opportunities for disenfranchised parts of our local, national and global communities.
Efforts to Support SDGs Targeting Education For All
Corporations are starting to understand the value of supporting the world with social good. One way they can help is by supporting the United Nations with the implementation of all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially Education for All #SDG4.
In my book, Inclusion Branding — I explained that the world is changing, and many people feel it is time for a call to action. Corporate Brands that want to be taken seriously need to understand that society want to do business, work for and support companies that are adding value to their families and lives, as opposed to ignoring or leaving their needs to be fulfilled by others.
Corporate Brands that are part of the ICT industry have a critical role to play in assuring ‘Education for All’ and ‘Digital Inclusion’. If people do not have access to technology and communications the digital divide continues to widen. Some ICT have really stepped up to support Education for All. Google, Huawei, and Microsoft are a few global ICT leaders making a difference.
Google is committed to expanding learning for all students by working to support education and educators through their products, programs, and philanthropic efforts. According to Google’s Education website, they are committed to using technology to create a richer learning environment that will help improve learning outcomes for all students. They are focused on Computer Science (CS) to help students learn and become empowered users and creators of technology. Google and Gallup did research that revealed critical inequities with students trying to access CS learning. Findings included: “Black students are less likely than White students to have CS classes at their school (47% vs. 58%, respectively).
Google is helping address these issues by giving grants and volunteers to help address these gaps. These efforts help close the gaps for these students, providing them the tools and skills they need but at the same time empower the students by helping them leverage technology in school but also in their lives.
They found that Students in disadvantaged communities are continuing to fall behind their peers and sadly if that pace continues it would take these communities over 100 years to catch up. In 2017, Google “committed $50 million, along with volunteer support from across Google, to organizations that are tackling this challenge in three ways: getting students the right learning materials, giving teachers the latest skills and techniques, and making learning possible outside the classroom.”
Google is also committed to helping the United Nations implement the SDGs. They recently accounted a partnership with the UN to help implement the UN SDGs. Google, UN partnership aims to ‘turn on the tap’ to SDG data
Huawei started by focusing on the 4th goal of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as #SDG4 — “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
There is a critical need to address SDG4 and reduce the digital divide and digital gap:
- Many people think that providing ICT access will be enough to solve the digital gaps in education. We have found that the efforts have not done enough to help disenfranchised people including children in poverty, refugees, and people with disabilities, especially in developing countries.
- It is time for innovative ideas and creative ways to use newer technologies, like AI, to create more accessible applications for different groups of people and implement more digital training programs to empower all students.
- ICT technology can bring solutions to help solve the digital education gaps and assure that everyone has access to education and accessible technology.
AI will continue to advance the way we are able to provide resources and help with the problems that the education system continues to face today. Huawei continues to lead in this discussion, especially around the efforts to push for programs like the Beijing Consensus — The world’s first guidance on Push 2030 Education Agenda with AI. Understanding how ICT technologies can function, especially AI, can shape the way modern schools will teach — from deschooling to more advanced accessible online learning centers
Microsoft has been supporting education for all for many years. They are committed to supporting ‘Education for All’ by transforming the classroom and helping educators help students success in life and learning. Here are a few ways they are supporting Education.
“Every educator wants to see their students succeed in learning and in life. Microsoft provides technology to create inclusive, student-centered classrooms and learning opportunities for all learners.”
“Inclusive, student-centered classrooms increase overall learner success and improve learning outcomes. Create learning environments that empower students to be independent and creative learners, build reading, language and STEM skills, and prepare them for their futures.”
“Research shows that inclusive, student-centered classrooms lead to overall learner success, and technology can help. With powerful Microsoft technology like Office 365 Education Learning Tools, FlipGrid, and Teams, educators can give every student equitably.”
“Encourage curiosity and confidence, connect in-class experiences to real-world concepts, and prepare today’s students for a promising future with Microsoft Education products. Free training, resources, programs, and partnerships will help launch your class.”
Supporting the Global Challenges
These ICT leaders are committed to supporting the world with Education for All in many ways but here are a few of the innovative programs they are offering. There are so many ways that global leaders like Google, Huawei and Microsoft are supporting the world to assure ‘Education for All’. Here are a few examples:
Google believes that AI can improve people’s lives in meaningful ways. One of the biggest impacts is assuring everyone has access. Google.Org is supporting organizations that are using the power of AI to address major social and environmental issues.
Google is working with organizations from all over the world addressing problems from health, environmental and equity challenged. They created a $25 Million grant pool that provides credit and consulting from Google Cloud and other Google experts.
Here are a three ways Huawei is supporting the global challenges:
- Efficient Learning Environment
- Teachers and Educators
Huawei wanted to help after learning that over 0.265 billion children are out of school, 22% of which are primary school age children. Primary education in developing countries enrollment rate reached 91 % but, there are still 57 million children out of school.
Huawei found that basic education was the biggest challenge, especially for out-of-school children in Africa. More than half of the children not enrolled in school live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that 50% of out-of-school children of primary school age live in conflict-affected areas. They also found that there are 0.617 billion adolescents that do not have basic math and literacy skills worldwide.
Microsoft is committed to connecting educators from around the world to assuring students are prepared for the future. Here are a few of their programs to assure ‘Education for All’.
“Meet inspiring educators, find proven training and curriculum and learn how to reach students in entirely new ways with technology, and earn certificates on a community built for educators just like you.”
“Inspire students to be creative problem solvers and critical thinkers with hands on STEM tools and experiences like Minecraft: Education Edition, Paint 3D, and Skype in the Classroom.”
“Save time on everything from lesson planning to assessing students. Prepare, teach, assess, track, and analyze, even more efficiently, freeing up time to focus on students with Teams, OneNote, and more.”
Supporting Education for All through TECH4ALL, TECH4GOOD, and Accessible ICT
Using ICT to power accessible education is critical for assuring Education for All. ICT plays a vital role in providing personalized learning and it supports creating flexible curriculum that assists all students in education. Accessible ICT allows educators to provide inclusive education and personalized learning in the class room. These efforts also support digital education like distance learning, eLearning, and virtual training.
Bottomline, when ICT is accessible all students benefit. However, students with disabilities not only benefit from the efforts but, can more fully participate in the learning environment. We can reduce the stigma of learning challenges, provide tools that students with disabilities need to fully engage, and learn in powerful new ways.
“StoryWeaver is an online platform that connects readers, authors, illustrators, and translators to create free stories for children around the world. Through StoryWeaver’s open source technology, openly licensed stories can be translated, remixed, or newly authored to expand the diversity of storybooks available to children, especially in native languages.
In a little over a year, Storyweaver has expanded to offer books in over 60 languages. Teachers, literacy organizations, and parents can easily find resources that fit their students’ reading ability as well as their language preferences. All of StoryWeaver’s content is free to access and can be easily downloaded, accessed on multiple devices, or printed.”
Here are a few ways that Huawei is helping to advance ICT applications and access for all through education:
Improve learning efficiency — Help people with disabilities to learn and live better through AI Cloud capabilities. Ensuring equal living conditions and employment opportunities. One example is their educational app, StorySign, for children that are deaf or have severe hearing loss.
Universal access to education — Provide educational opportunities for adolescents and underprivileged groups, such as remote areas. DigiTruck, that helps improve educational efficiency and enrich educational resources through digital technology.
Cultivating ICT talent — Oriented towards University and ICT Practitioners. It actively builds a benign talent ecology, annually training more than 50 thousand students, training more than 1500 instructors, owning more than 900 Cooperative institutions. ICT Accreditation reaches more than 260 thousand times.
Microsoft has created learning modules for middle school students to help educators created project-based activities to learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Math also known as STEM Curriculum.
“Build affordable inquiry and project-based activities to visualize data across science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. Middle school standards-based lesson plans written by teachers for teachers.”
Be the Change
The ICT Leaders mentioned above are leading ‘Education For All’ efforts. Other ICT corporate brands must join these leaders to assure every child gets a good education. I applaud Google, Huawei and Microsfot for these efforts and partnerships. Bottom-line corporations should be focused on the Return on Investment (ROI) not just risk and compliance. Disability inclusion is an opportunity to “change the world”. It is also a fantastic opportunity for businesses to increase brand equity, drive business growth, and create an untapped new source of customers and employees.
This is an exciting time, with emerging new technologies and mobile computing devices enabling people of all ages and all levels of education to communicate, access information, and manage their environment. They can accomplish this through the use of Internet of Things (IoT) with alternate modes of communications such as speech recognition, biometrics, or text to speech embedded in most smartphones and tablets.
These developments open opportunities for persons with disabilities to join the workforce and help create innovative processes and solutions for their employers. Designing and delivering ICT to be fully accessible ensures that all individuals can enjoy the benefits and advantages of technology and add greater value to the workforce.
Adopting an inclusive, accessible, and universal design approach to technology is a smart strategy for both public and private organizations wishing to proactively adjust to the future needs of this growing population. By recognizing the importance of the protection and promotion of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, through innovative assistive technologies and accessible ICTs, corporations can better ensure the full inclusion of individuals in the workforce.
Brands should think about what they can do to better meet the needs of people with disabilities and the aging market and find creative ways to make it happen through accessible technology. They should move beyond general steps to protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities, ensuring that accessibility is addressed in all policies and programs, promoting training on the human rights of persons with disabilities, stop any practice that breaches the rights of people with disabilities, and involve people with disabilities in the development of legislation and policies.
Please share corporate best practices with me. I want to know about ICT corporations that are working hard to assure Education for All, Social Impact, Social Good, TECH4ALL, TECH4GOOD and Digital Inclusion. We are stronger together. Stay Safe.
Debra Ruh is the CEO of Ruh Global IMPACT. The UN President’s office invited Debra to address the United Nations General Assembly at the Conference of State Parties 9th session on May 13, 2016. Selected as the North American representative for UN ILO Global Business and Disability Network (GBDN). US State Department global speaker and ambassador since 2018. Nominated as Global Goodwill Ambassador in 2018. Author of three books, Inclusion Branding (available in English, Spanish, Arabic, and Voice via Audible), Tapping into Hidden Human Capital, and Finding Your Voice using Social Media. Learn more at www.RuhGlobal.com or https://tiny.cc/DebraRuh.