The second World Innovation Summit for Education took place in Doha, Qatar on December 7-9, 2010. Nearly 1300 dignitaries, thought leaders, disruptive ICT practitioners, program planners and policy makers were provided with a more focused program with deeper debates, better internet access, WISE web TV and WISE Twitter feeds to push out up live updates.
This version included some interactive sessions with 2o Learner Voices of young men and women selected by WISE as leaders in development. Their voices were finally a more active part of the Summit, and should be expanded in as many sessions next year as possible, as they represented some of the most articulate, clear sources of feedback on the state of the art from the end-user perspective.
Throughout the proceedings, delegates were capably assisted by a thoroughly professional army of WISE Logistics team members and Sheraton hotel hospitality staff who gracefully performed their supporting roles & duties.
I particularly enjoyed meeting some friendly bomb-throwing "disruptive" educational anarchists representing emerging or established ICT entitities. In particular Donald Clark, John Davitt, and Tim Rylands provided persuasive perspectives (and ongoing sardonic, dry wit) of ways to achieve near-universal access through interactive online gaming, mobile boot camps and mobile phone applications which can/are being used to support assessment, increase access to alternative content, and build learning communities. Readers interested in ICT accessibility dynamics for persons with disabilities will be pleased to see many universal design characteristics embedded in the development and use of these digital tools.
A major objective of my visit and the source of this post was to see and meet other professionals & practitioners with disabilities, examine how accessible the facility and sessions were for delegates with sensory/motor/cognitive issues, and report back on best practices that could be networked, developed, and implemented in other parts of the world.
With respect to seeing and meeting other colleagues with disabilities during the Summit; I saw and greeted two wheelchair users, one person who was blind, and one delegate using canes to get around the venue. Taking into consideration that one in six people in the world have a disability, there should be greater emphasis on promoting participation from the disabled community to hear about the educational experiences of learners AND professional educators with disability.
All session rooms had elevated stages, multiple language translators, were well-lit and had good PA systems. The proceedings were fed through a live web TV link. There were no FM listening devices, closed captioning, support staff using sign language, or preferred seating in any of the sessions for persons with functional limitations. I am sure there were many other delegates with non-apparent conditions besides me that just did not disclose.
While not unexpected, it is hoped that Summit planners will take these observations into consideration in advance of the 2011 event. These accommodations are easy to implement sending a clear message of welcome and inclusion to professionals/practitioners of the existence of PwD while enabling them to contribute to the proceedings.
UNESCO has asserted that the vast majority of children with disabilities worldwide – perhaps more than 90 percent – do not attend school. The few, less than 10 percent, who do gain access to education services are confronted with inaccessible buildings, a lack of teaching materials, unqualified teachers, and a lack of transportation to and from the schools.
Although many countries have publicly committed to equal rights to education for all learners (including those with disabilities), the reality in practice is that education is not equally accessible to all, specifically students with disabilities. Just within the past 10 years, significant progress towards fulfilling the global commitment to equalization of opportunities and recognition of the rights for persons with disabilities is beginning.
Persons with disabilities belong to the poorest segment of every society and face daily exclusion and discrimination. Generally, people with disabilities confront significant barriers in accessing vocational training and employment, as well as in exercising their fundamental rights to education and employment, and the more developed regions of the US, Europe and Eurasia are no exceptions.
As a result, disability, poverty and poor education outcomes are often linked experiences that are just now being better documented globally. WISE 2010 did not tackle this global crisis as a direct issue, but there were some fabulous examples using social entrepreneurial approaches linking contextual learning & earning together that were exciting in their potential application as stand alone or bolt-on education/training programs for PwD.
As a global event dedicated to changing the what & how of education, WISE should remember to plan for and develop long-term initiatives to fully integrate persons with disabilities into open, inclusive, and appropriate educational settings. This means to the fullest extent possible/appropriate, the Qatar Foundation and WISE delegates should address the educational and employment barriers faced by learners with disability and strive to identify innovative approaches that will produce better results. Also, an emphasis on gender equity should receive special attention in view of the fact that women with disabilities often face multiple barriers related to poverty, disability, and gender, which results in increased social exclusion and discrimination—even more than what is faced by male counterparts.
Addressing the barriers that persons with disabilities confront and providing appropriate interventions will require initiatives on policy, fiscal, and human resource development, as well as practical applications, all of which will need to be monitored and evaluated. Next year and for future WISE events, it is critical that people with disabilities are included in such initiatives; that employers, representatives from the private sector, and possibly trade unions are engaged not only as technical experts but also as facilitators of work-based training options; and that experienced and novice skills development trainers provide input into the process as well.
WISE presentations of adaptable models for programs serving PwD
Center for Digital Inclusion's (CDI) Mission is to transform lives and strengthen low-income communities by empowering people with information and communication technology. CDI uses technology as a medium to fight poverty, stimulate entrepreneurship and create a new generation of changemakers. They have had great success working with people who have disabilities, specically identified as a core student constituency.
Each CDI Community Center is a partnership with an existing leading grassroots organization. The community-based organizations provide the infrastructure and CDI provides free computers and software, implements educational methods, trains instructors and monitors the schools. CDI programs deliver education to individuals, provide an expanded portfolio of technology services to communities, develop real skills for work in the modern labor market, increase community development and provoke active citizenship, community mobilization, autonomy, ownership and entrepreneurial behaviors.
In addition to traditional course offerings such as competency in basic office programs, computer maintenance and networking, we have formalized and introduced 11 new courses (including video and audio editing, blogging, website development), and business plans for 30 services such as internet access (with or without assistance), resume building, e-gov, graphic design & services, scholarly research, e-health, e-learning, and job hunting. Through the implementation of these services, CDI Community Centers are on a clear path to becoming completely self-sustaining micro-enterprises.
Rodrigo Baggio, Founder of CDI, made clear his belief that employment is a means by which young people and low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities develop into active citizens, engaged in transforming their own realities. By providing professional training and mentorship, as well as guidance in navigating the labor market, students are equipped to become agents of change in their own lives. Additionally, CDI works with private sector businesses to offer pro-bono consulting services to micorentrepreneurs to strengthen their enterprises, and by extension, their surrounding communities.
Barefoot college known as the Social Work and Research Centre is an Non-governmental organization founded by Bunker Roy in 1972. It is a solar-powered school that teaches illiterate women from impoverished villages to become doctors, solar engineers, architects, and other such professions. They have trained numerous PwD in these occupations, and have conducted several studies related to the education/employment needs of physically challenged people.
The organization was established to solve grave problems like drinking water quality, female education, health and sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power, as well as social awareness and the conservation of ecological systems in rural India. One program of the Barefoot College brings women from villages in rural Africa that run without electricity to the Barefoot College. They are then trained by local Indian women at the Barefoot College. At the end of their training, they return to Africa with new skills that allow them to install solar electricity in their villages.
The policy of the Barefoot College is to take women from the poorest of villages and teach them to become professionals without requiring them to read or write. In extreme cases, there are students without verbal fluency in the languages of their teachers. It is the only school with such a policy, as well as the only school in India that is entirely solar-powered. Since so many nations and communities around the world lack the financial resources to provide inclusion in education or employment, Barefoot College shows the way to provide a proven alternative to poverty and unemployment for PwD.
Martin Burt is founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, a 25-year old NGO devoted to the promotion of entrepreneurship among the world’s poor. He is a pioneer in applying microfinance, microfranchise, youth entrepreneurship, and financial literacy methodologies to address chronic poverty in Paraguay. He has also developed one of the world’s first financially self-sufficient agricultural schools for the rural poor and an outspoken advocate for employing ability finding that PwD achieve success at comparable levels of their non-disabled peers.
Paraguay is one of the poorer countries in Latin America, with a per capita income of US$ 1,670 and a third of the population living on less than US$ 2 per day. The population is also young and in need of greater educational opportunities. Around 30% of young people aged 15-24 are neither obtaining marketable skills in school, nor using such skills in productive work, an indication that a valuable economic resource – human capital – is being wasted.
In 1995, the foundation pioneered financial literacy and entrepreneurial education programmes in Paraguay, adapting junior achievement methodologies to underprivileged youths. In 2002, it took over a bankrupt boys’ agricultural school and set out to turn it into a financially self-sufficient, co-ed school. Five years later, this goal was achieved, and since then the school’s 17 on-campus educational enterprises have been generating enough income (US$ 300,000 per year) to cover all of the school’s operating costs. At the same time, the practical, market-oriented education allows the students, immediately upon graduation, to find jobs in the modern agricultural sector, create their own small enterprises, and/or enter university.
Drawing on this experience, Fundación Paraguaya has become a pioneer in a new kind of sustainable agricultural education, a model which provides 100% employability to poor rural youth through a market-based curriculum in free, high quality, 100% financially self-sufficient schools.
In 2007, Fundación Paraguaya made a commitment called “education-that-pays-for-itself” under the Clinton Global Initiative to replicate its model in 50 schools around the world in 10 years. To date, there are more than 50 partner organizations in 27 countries working on replicating the model. In addition, the foundation is disseminating this model through its London-based partner, TeachAManToFish, which has developed a network of 1,400 institutions in over 110 countries. The concept and application of social leadership models for PwD through these initiatives can be a community game changer in areas of the world it is appropriate for.
Notes for WISE 2011 planners: What this delegate would like to see
1. Address accessibility issues for delegates with disabilities- planning for and providing reasonable adjustments that facilitate access to venues, improve communication and demonstrate an understanding for delegates with disabilities is a low cost option that says "You are welcome and belong here."
2. Greater panel representation of learners in the system- a good start was made at WISE 2010 to have a small group of young adults act as "WISE listeners." Consideration should be given to having younger/older learners currently in the system share the stage and be given the same respect as professionals/practitioners. It would be welcome to see sessions run by learners at various levels of the K20 system speak to what trends and practices they feel are helpful/hurtful.
3. Increase the optional small group breakout session- consider an interactive and sector-specific strand (special education, vocational education, mobile Elearning tools) led by and for practitioners. The ICT session led by Tim Unwin was a blessing in that we were able to actively participate in the discussion, debate, and prioritizing of monitoring/evaluating ICT effectiveness. Much more of this would be welcomed, as it would leverage better program to program collaborations that allow us to take back real tools & resources that can make an immediate difference for those we serve.
4. Get the WISE web portal up ASAP- a useful starting point would be to develop/publish compendiums of no cost/low cost tools & resources appropriate across a variety of educational settings and student populations. Lot of great ideas, but without something tangible to go with it, just generates a lot of hot air.
5. Expand the offerings on what constitutes authentic assessment- we appreciated hearing about the latest PISA results and other efforts attempting to benchmark 21st Century Skills (shuddering as I write this overused expression!), but these large scale assessments are as noteworthy of their design flaws, exclusions of certain groups, or appropriateness to educational setting. How about sessions or shared plenaries that really dig into developing/using qualitative assessments that measure effectiveness and have meaning to the stakeholders of that particular education community?
6. Bring more speakers/programs that specialize in non-Higher Education alternatives- Postsecondary education and training is an important part of the overall global education system. We did not hear any presentations that are programs that take place in the corrections system, adult education system, workforce development, or mental health systems. Many millions of learners take part in these programs each day and billions of dollars are spent by business to educate through training/development their labor force. How can we truly say we are dedicated to transforming the educational status quo when we exclude these schools, learners, and professionals?
7. Invite local Qatar/GCC educational programs that work with special populations- Qatar is home to a number of well-run & funded programs of whom virtually none of the staff working at these schools knew about WISE. The quest to be a globally recognized innovator in sustainable education should be inclusive of these programs so that they can listen, participate and respond as the new world order is created.
Bottom line: In order for WISE and other educational systems ensure the rights of persons with disabilities, more efforts are needed to continue towards the global/local development of model programs & best practices paving the way for PwD to have opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to transition successfully into gainful employment and to become productive & contributing members of their respective communities. To be able to live up to the claim of global education reform, such efforts need to focus not only at events like WISE, but also at the State systematic and community levels, enhancing NGO & DPO capacity building to design the right kind of programs/services that will drive true change.