Friday, 12 April 2013

A low-cost pay-as-you-attend educational model

As the West (or North, struggling to find the right description, but meaning the developed world) is looking for new ways to finance the shift that is taking place in education (MOOCs and Higher Education), it would feel logical to me that inclusive education will be born in developing regions, hopefully bringing along financial options that can help people in the developed regions that are increasingly fighting poverty and seclusion from educational resources. Low cost pay-as-you-attend courses paid via mobile banking are tested in African regions and those projects look promising (based on the article provided). The nice thing is that the model also takes into account accreditation across continents (tough job!) and is linked to regional or specific group infrastructures (e.g. mobile options).

The always inspiring Ol'daily from Stephen Downes got me on this most interesting African approach to tailored, affordable and possibly even all-including type of education based on the concept of 'taxi-brousse':
- you start when the car is full;
- you drive for as long as you need -- and can afford;
- if you don't like the ride, you can get out and find another taxi.

The current problem with the changes in Higher Education (and training) are that business models behind it. Everyone is looking for the goose with the golden eggs and ... probably it is just going to be some golden ideas spread about all the possible geese (all of us included). Nevertheless, this article from the worldbank on a new wave of educational efforts across Africa exploring the use of ICTs offers an interesting option that even fits existing durable trends (like the taxi-brousse or share taxi example. 

So what is the approach (in brief, simple terms):
Some of the World Bank staff teamed up with 2iE people to get an approach together that would allow low-cost tuition where the student/learner can hop in a module, and hop out again once either the money runs out (temporarily) or the content is not what they had hoped for, leaving them the option to go for a different training instead. Inevitably this leads to online courses, that have a pay-as-you-go/attend financial basis, including m-payment options as well as sms-based outreach programs. Of course the telecom companies were brought in to support via e-education based cost offerings and different pilots were launched to see which options worked best (feel free to read up on them in the article). 
This approach puts learning options into the hands of the learner, and does not put an immediate huge financial strain on the student. It offers economic planning based on knowledge needs (well, still I think education should be open to all, but any solution providing more access to education is very much welcomed).  

The nice thing about 2IE is that it is an international higher education and training institute which delivers courses and training that result in programs that are accredited in both the African continent as well as in Europe. Which is in itself already an endeavor. The 2iE offer courses in the areas of Water and Sanitation, Environment Energy and Electricity, Civil Engineering and Mining Industry and Management Sciences.