The title was intriguing enough on the article to get me to open it. (That’s the point of titles I guess). But I was very pleased when I ended up on Fast Company’s website (one of my favorite magazines) and that the focus of the article wasn’t just the future of education, but Africa. Lots of ideas being discussed in the article:
The article has some interesting observations, some facts, and some excitement about some of the things happening in Africa in higher education. Here’s some highlights that jumped out to me (but go read the whole thing, too!).
But if there’s anywhere in the world where free and low-cost online education has the chance to make a transformative impact, it’s in Africa, where the demand is huge. Here, a growing network of social entrepreneurs, some African, some foreign, are appropriating free resources produced overseas into a new context: packaging them into a low-cost bundle with moderated discussions, mentorship, and practical experience, sometimes to create complete degree programs, other times on an informal, as-needed basis. It’s a unique recipe with a chance to “leapfrog” traditional, complex university infrastructure and succeed, not just in Africa, but around the globe.
In the plans we’re looking at for African Christian College’s future, I’m suggesting the same things: online courses and content moderated by African on-site facilitators who help contextual content while also finding ways for the content to be put into practice. And, if you know me, you hear me often talk about Africa’s ability to “leapfrog” all types of traditional methods for doing things. The question I keep asking over the past 2 years: In what ways will we see (or can we lead) Africa in leapfrogging into higher education’s future?
Africa has the world’s largest unmet demand for higher education. There are 200 million people aged 15 to 24, the youngest population in the world. This youth population is on track to double by 2045. But higher education enrollment of this population in sub-Saharan Africa is just 5%, the lowest in the world. Around 35,000 people every year manage to study abroad. The remaining 190 million are out of luck.
There’s more to this challenge as well. We get about 50-75 applications each year for enrollment, but usually enroll less than 20 students. Why? The education they received leading up to college did not prepare them for the minimum entrance qualifications that are set by accrediting bodies and governments that must be met by our admission policies.
Over the past few decades, both governments on the continent and international aid organizations have focused on basic, K-12 education at the expense of the university level. The share of the World Bank’s education spending that went to higher ed dropped from 17% in the 1980s to 7% in the ’90s. Combine that reality with a decade of austerity (Nigerian public universities, for example, just ended a five-month-long strike), and the result in many countries in Africa has been increasingly expensive and scarce spots in both public and private universities that aren’t producing much in the way of world-class research, plus even lower-quality for-profits like the bogus one Maawy attended, rushing to serve the enormous demand.
We see the same in Swaziland. They have just begun trying to put together concrete plans for a higher education infrastructure, policies, and standards. And the government university seems plagued with strikes and boycotts centered around money and learning takes a backseat.
The next quote gives another reason to support Christian, higher education in Africa:
Research has underscored that in an ever-more-complex global economy, university education is important to economic growth. In fact, raising the average education level by just one year would raise African GDP per capita by 12.2% over the long run, a Harvard paper found.
Back to the idea of the African “translators” serving as moderators or facilitators for courses with our sister universities around the world…
At night, on their own time, they watch video lectures from MOOC courses created by professors at colleges like Stanford on topics like economics, statistics, and psychology. It’s a so-called “flipped classroom” model–they spend much of their class time in small group work and discussions. “We want to maximize active engagement. In this first year, they are learning how to learn, how to interact with material more critically,” says Hodari.”When our professor says, ‘What do you think about this?’ that’s literally the first time they’ve ever been asked that.”
The personal interaction is key, she says, especially for translating American references, like Walmart. “The moderators don’t come as teachers who give you everything, but they come for us to discuss, learn, share–and that is very important. We learn something really useful and important and credible in a short time.
A final quote:
The economic imperative is driving new African education ventures hard in the direction of technology and entrepreneurship–courses of study with paths to immediate employment. What doesn’t, largely, get funded in this scenario are the next generation of African designers, historians, poets, artists, or political scientists, or the pure research leading to the world’s next big ideas. Research output at African universities is low, but research output at University of the People, Kepler, or iHub is zero.
Though we offer a degree in theology we are focusing on critical thinking, and the such like. But ACC also has zero output into research and the world’s next big ideas. Like what’s being written here, though, the needs of our graduates to feed their families and earn a living throughout their life (so they can serve God in that work AND in other ways) takes our top attention and priority.
Again, read Anya Kamenetz’s article on Fast Company for the whole story.