The 2nd Education Innovation Africa Conference was held on the
6th and 7th of June 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya. The conference was an
excellent opportunity for tech entrepreneurs, school owners and
operators, investors and public sector officials to discuss the
most pressing themes in education sector on the African
Discussions around new and innovative solutions to educate
Africa's booming young population was especially relevant
against a backdrop of increased pressure on state revenues from
falling commodity prices and weakened local currencies.
A central discussion point was a debate around the private
sector's role in the education sector. Some voiced concerns
that private sector involvement would exacerbate inequality by
providing quality education only to those are able to pay for
it. That said, it was widely acknowledged that roles for the
private sector in the African education sector should include
provision of information and data to improve learning outcomes,
driving research and development; increasing much needed capacity
at all levels; and ensuring sustainable solutions at scale.
The role of Public Private Partnerships, whereby private sector
operators manage public sector schools is a nascent and
controversial idea that is being explored by the Government of
Liberia in partnership with Bridge International Academy.
Proponents of the model argued that better learning outcomes are
being delivered at no higher cost to the tax payer. Critics decried
an abdication of government responsibility for a key public good.
The conference also addressed the challenge in finding
quality teachers in Africa. It was acknowledged that the education
sector was losing the talent battle to other sectors. The
capacity gap was said to be exacerbated by challenges with unions
and a lack of private-public cohesion, however it was recognised
that the private sector had a role to play in luring talent into
the education space.
From the perspective of investors, it was noted that many
schools in Africa were relatively small with fewer than 500 pupils.
These are by and large unprepared for external investment due
to accounting and governance deficiencies. Investment
opportunities did however become interesting where existing schools
were pooled and benefits of scale realised, although such models
were challenging to execute. Investors also sought solutions
for the different investment profiles of the land and operational
aspects of African education. High land values result in
unstable structures where the land ownership is split from the
operational aspects of the school. Alternative funding models to
such as Social Impact Bonds and crowdfunding models using the power
of the diaspora were discussed.
The role of technology in meeting quality, scale and capacity
challenges within the education sector was widely debated. It
was noted that credentials fraud is a major issue and problem for
the regulators of education in Africa and that digital solutions
are required. The general consensus was that the use of technology
would increase in African schools, but that technology needed to be
integrated in such a way that was meaningful, contextually relevant
and fit with teaching methodologies. While the use of mobile
phone based education was discussed, it was recognised that the
market was still small for any solution that requires smart phones,
only around 70 million subscribers continent-wide. Eneza
Education is an example of a technology company that used basic
mobile phones to deliver curriculum content to close to 1,000,000
students around the continent.
On Monday 15 February 2016 the European Commission will launch their new platform for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). Rather than resolve disputes, the new platform has been designed to channel disputes to the appropriate alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme in a relevant country.
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