- technology dissemination fellowship program
- visiting practioners program
- yunus challenges
2007 – 2013:
innovation in education
value from waste
clean hands for health and prosperity
affordable small-scale energy storage solutions
indoor air quality pollution
tuberculosis drug adherence
2013 muhammad yunus innovation challenge
Innovations in Education
The Muhammad Yunus Innovation Challenge
The Yunus Challenge is a special award in the annual MIT IDEAS Global Challenge. Teams can submit their ideas to receive feedback and mentoring and for the opportunity to win up to $10,000 to move forward with implementation. Teams are required to submit an initial scope statement by Jan 29 2013 or Feb 27 2013. Teams with compelling ideas will be invited to submit a final proposal by Apr 5 2013.
Education: Solutions for Learning
Education is a vital tool for low-income countries to improve quality of life for its citizens. Good education systems have been shown to foster economic growth, improve health, increase agricultural productivity and yield many other important benefits. The challenge is not simply to put students in the classroom, but to make sure that students learn the skills that they need to succeed after they finish school. The 2013 Yunus Innovation Challenge calls for innovative and scalable education initiatives that produce a specific learning outcome focused on the youth in low-income countries. The solutions should complement the constraints of the local education system and involve both students and teachers in those communities.
Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Indeed, 192 countries have ratified a convention guaranteeing the right of children to education and promoting “international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods.” Skilled graduates add value to the labor market; they may increase their salary by 10% for each additional year of schooling that they complete, although that is dependent on the quality of education. Health improves as educated people are better able to avoid diseases through improved hygiene and educated mothers are more likely to vaccinate their children . Farmers with just four years of schooling have been shown to produce 8.7% more each year than their counterparts who never attended school.
However, the World Bank highlights the challenges of this approach (emphasis added):
“The challenge in education is ensuring equitable access to schooling that results in not only diplomas but learning, and that ultimately helps children develop labor market-relevant skills. Yet learning levels in many countries are alarmingly low, especially among disadvantaged populations. More schooling has not resulted in more learning. Even when children complete school, they often do so without acquiring basic skills, which is particularly detrimental when unemployment is high and labor markets are demanding more skilled and agile workforces than ever before. Youth are leaving school and entering the workforce without competitive competencies, and there is a wide gulf in test scores among students from different income levels.”
MIT's motto, Mens et manus (mind and hand), highlights the importance of both creative thinking and hands-on activities in a well-rounded education. It drives students to place equal priority on the theoretical and practical components of their subjects. There is a great opportunity to share this philosophy with low-income communities and build capacity to deliver on local educational objectives. For example, teams can look at skills that will make the students more attractive on the job market, that will improve their knowledge of health, that promote environmental stewardship or that foster cultural awareness.
The 2013 Yunus challenge strongly encourages teams to pursue an intervention that addresses one or more of the following areas:
Improving the efficacy of teaching strategies
There is considerable scope for teams to develop effective teaching strategies for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in a particular context. That can involve localizing materials to make them more relevant to the community, finding ways to make better use of the teachers' time, developing resources to reach students who have different learning styles and removing other barriers that currently impede learning. Some of these barriers include scarcity of education resources, class size, language, limited experience with alternate world-views and the non-existent assessment structure.
One example of this is described here
New opportunities for learning
Schools are an important place for creating new opportunities for the community as a whole. After-school programs and other non-academic parts of the day can also be used to promote skills such as entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, health awareness, technology design and other locally relevant needs. The programs should connect with the existing curriculum and supplement the teachers' efforts.
One example of this is described here
Education systems in low-income communities provide poorly aligned incentives which lead to undesired outcomes such as: subsidized tertiary education reaching only the richest and widening the gap between rich and poor families; teachers continuing to advance failing pupils because they do not want a failing student to blight their record; and students dropping out of school because they need to work to provide income for their family. Well-designed incentive structures can be an incredibly cost-effective method for improving educational outcomes. The most important feature of an incentive structure is that it must have benefits for everyone, if it contains negative consequences for a particular stakeholder, the whole system may fall apart.
One example of this is described here
The examples provided are just one possibility for what a venture pursuing this might look like. Teams are reminded that they will be evaluated based on how innovative their solution is, so it is important not to repeat what is already being done.
Projects will need to have a clear and well-thought out implementation plan:
- Projects must demonstrate a specific learning outcome and the support of students, teachers, school administrators and relevant local stakeholders.
- Projects should be focused on education challenges in low- or middle-income countries (education projects that target low-income communities in high-income countries are encouraged to apply to the IDEAS Global Challenge, but will not be considered for the Yunus Challenge).
- Teams should think creatively about how to improve the learning experience inside or outside of the classroom, however, they should pay close attention to national guidelines so as not to interfere with what is required for standardized exams.
- Projects must be supported by students, teachers, school administrators and relevant local stakeholders. It will be essential to engage these groups and understand their perspectives-which may sometimes be at odds with one another.
- Education projects are notoriously challenging to successfully implement because they are fundamentally about behavior change and new attitudes. Collaboration with other organizations in the same geographic area or on related challenges often increases the likelihood of success.
Key Considerations and Judging Criteria
Solutions should be designed for implementation in communities living at or below the poverty level, where infrastructure is limited. Innovation, feasibility and impact will be important criteria in judging. Proposed solutions should be new, focus on measurable change, and aim for a price point that makes intervention accessible to the poorest populations and allows for dissemination on a large scale. Specific aspects to address include, but should not necessarily be limited to:
- Consider what the proposed intervention is replacing and be sure to identify any desirable aspects of the current system to make sure that those benefits are not lost.
- Plan for how the project can continue at program sites after the team has left and how it can reach additional communities.
- Teams should develop a plan for measuring their solution's impact as well as monitoring and evaluating their solution to identify places for improvement.
- Teams must include a significant MIT presence including at least 1 full-time MIT student who has made a significant contribution to the innovation.
- Teams are encouraged to recruit stakeholders from the communities where they will be working to gain greater understanding of local constraints. Understanding the local context is essential.
Credit will be given for supporting rationale regarding how the solution will directly address the issues faced. The needs of the poor are wide and varied and teams are not expected to address all issues surrounding quality of education; proposed solutions should address a particular need and fill it well. Participants are encouraged to work on solutions with a specific community or region in mind, as this can be helpful in identifying constraints and providing context.
These resources are materials that we found useful in framing the challenge and may help teams to think about some of these challenges. They are only intended to introduce a few topics, however, and should only be a first stop for teams collecting background for their projects. Some articles may only be available to people at universities.
Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab Africa. Evidence-Based Education: Policy Making & Reform in Africa. Accra, Ghana. May 2012. Also visit the website for links to the presentations during the panel sessions.
Banerjee, A., Cole, S., Duflo, E. & Linden, L. 2005. “Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomised Experiments in India.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(3) pp.1235-1264.
Duflo, E., Dupas, P. & Kremer, M. 2011. “Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of
Tracking: Evidence from a Randomised Evaluation.” American Economic Review, 101(5), pp.1739-1774.
Lassibille et. al., 2010. “Managing for Results in Primary Education in Madagascar: Evaluating the Impact of Selected Workflow Interventions.” World Bank Economic Review, 24(2), pp.303-329.
Sugata Mitra. “The Child Driven Education.” TED Talks. July 2010.
Thornton, R., Kremer, M. & Miguel, E., 2009. “Incentives to Learn.” The Review of Economics and Statistics, 91(3), pp. 437-456.
Devarajan, S., Monga, C. & Zongo T. 2011. “Making Higher Education Finance Work for Africa.” The Journal of African Economies, Vol. 20, AERC Supplement 3, pp iii133-iii154.
For more information on the 2013 Yunus Innovation Challenge, please contact Daniel Mokrauer-Madden.