In Lilongwe; Malawi; a girl in Standard (Grade) 2 is completely focused as she learns to read.
Malawi, in southeastern Africa, is one of the world’s least-developed nations. Many of its children are among the roughly 250 million worldwide who are not in school of any kind. Countless others are among those who attend school but do not learn to read or write. A look inside schools in the capital city of Lilongwe shows why: they enroll between 4,000 and 5,000 students who attend classes of up to 200 at a time, with students sitting on the floor as a teacher holds up a single book.
These are daunting circumstances. Yet two Lilongwe schools are part of the most audacious experiment occurring in education. Rather than participate in sprawling, traditional teacher-led classes each day, a group of young students filters into a learning center in each school where, for 45 minutes, they learn math or reading through instructional software on tablets that are charged by solar power.
The question this and other experiments like it are asking is: can students learn to read, write, and do basic math through technology with little to no adult instruction?...
This state of affairs represents what Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen calls vast pockets of “non-consumption.” These groups of individuals have no access to something simply because it is too inconvenient or expensive—but would be delighted by an offering that fits their life realities. In this case, the non-consumers are children who have no access to a formal education. For some girls, for example, the distance to the closest school represents a safety hazard in the form of a treacherous two-kilometer walk that renders it a nonstarter.