Bill Gates, How Can Online Classes Help Third World or Developing Countries?
Let’s be honest—technology has done a mountain of good for our world. Most articles you’re going to read in the news today about technology are going to discuss its negative features, how it’s ruined the rising generation and made them slow and stupid.
That might be true in some pockets of the world (and it’s a lot easier now for young people to display their naivety and inexperience in a public forum than it was twenty or even ten years ago), but especially in developing countries, technology is granting even the poorest and most underprivileged access to education. All across the world, young people in underdeveloped countries are taking advantage of online schooling. Right now, these classes are largely being given just to the each country’s exceptional students, but it begs the question: how can online classes help third world countries continue to develop?
The answer to this questions can be seen in how technology like smartphones, tablets, and laptops are being utilized right here in America. While there is something to be said about the danger of “screen time” in our own culture, utilized properly, many children can arrive on their first day of preschool already knowing their numbers, letters, and even how to read. There are apps and programs (far beyond the Jumpstart games of the late 90s and early 00s) that not only present this kind of essential information in an engaging format, but actually track a child’s progress, identify weak areas, and adjust their “curriculum” to help the young user sharpen their weak points and continue to build on the strong points.
This jumpstart (not the video game), allows the student to be much better prepared for the classroom environment. But it can also allow students around the world to connect with teachers and other learners, even if those teachers and learners are hundreds or thousands of miles away. An education is the first step to lifting oneself out of poverty, and online classes is the most logical way to provide a thorough education to individuals in third world countries.
Remote education isn’t exactly a new idea. Correspondence courses are just about as old as universities, but they pale in comparison to the format of massive open online courses (MOOCs), which allow an unlimited number of students access to lectures, quizzes, tests, projects—all the “stuff” that goes along with any classroom course—to utilize at the student’s own pace.
These MOOCs give students who otherwise would never be able to attend a class at a prestigious university or even find a school in their area that had any kind of class about technology, literature, agriculture, etc. to learn from some of the best teachers in the world. What makes a MOOC different from any other online class is its price—a massive open online course is totally free. Most classes do offer a certificate that the student can purchase at the end of the course, which can feed into a degree, but the knowledge itself is completely free.
For students in developing countries, online classes like these are essential, and they have the same effect as those apps and pieces of software that give young children a jumpstart—a MOOC gives a student momentum. The information that can be learned from an online class, for little to no monetary investment, can help pull not just an individual, but an entire family, village, or country out of poverty.
One notable example is Shareem Shehabuddin, who took online business classes, which allowed her to open a bakery, which now makes her and her family more than enough money to survive in their native Bangladesh. These are classes that she would have never had access to, if it meant she had to travel to America and pay to live and eat, as well as pay tuition to attend a business school.
What online classes do is cut out the prohibitive expense of education. It’s expensive to build a school and find qualified teachers in a third world country. It’s far less expensive to develop an online course, and it can have the exact same effect. The issue now is simply getting the right online classes into the hands of students who need it the most.