Leading literacy researchers, Tinsley Galyean and Stephanie Gottwald from Curious Learning in the USA, recently visited a MRP Foundation supported school in KwaZulu-Natal to observe the exciting progress of their technology-based literacy programme in action.
With a heart to combat global illiteracy and reduce global poverty, Curious Learning partnered with MRP Foundation in 2014 to expose curious young South African learners from a low-income community to the cutting-edge technology that encourages reading. Their other global deployment sites include Peru, Ethiopia, Uganda and India.
Tablets preloaded with fun educational apps, expertly curated and developed by the US based NGO, encourage learners to follow their natural curiosity and explore the educational content themselves. By interacting with tablets the learners experience a broader growth in their vocabulary skills, which helps expand their knowledge and teaches them to read and ultimately to read to learn.
“Every child has the ability to read,” Stephanie Gottwald: Assistant Director of Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University in Boston explains. “Education provides the power to create great social change. If children aren’t learning, none of us will reach our goals. Our relationship with the MRP Foundation schools programme has allowed us to formulate our vision of a model which could be used across South Africa which allows children to become independent lifelong learners and readers.”
Her colleague, Tinsley Galyean: Executive Director, Curious Learning concurs. “One in seven people globally are illiterate. Research conducted by UNESCO suggests that if 170 million of the one billion people globally who are currently illiterate could become literate, then it would result in a 12% reduction in world poverty.”
Since technology-based education was first introduced into the schools as part of the holistic MRP Foundation Schools programme the project has created an inspiring and interactive learning environment that continues to build enthusiasm amongst partners, educators, learners and parents.
One Grade 3 teacher was pleasantly surprised to notice her class’ spelling drastically improve after just three weeks of ‘playing’ with the literacy apps on their tablets. Other highlights include a noted decrease in absenteeism across the schools and the introduction of isiZulu apps in 2016 which has helped to bridge the gap between the learners’ home language, isiZulu, and the language of instruction implemented from Grade 4, English.
It’s thanks to global partnerships like this one with the digital education pioneer, Curious Learning, that MRP Foundation can take another exciting step towards their vision of breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality in South Africa.