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Qysas, a mobile technology platform aimed at strengthening Arabic literacy skills among early grade children, provides a levelled library of regionally-sourced books to children and schools in low resource settings. Qysas was included in a project funded by a partnership between two bi-lateral organizations and one non-governmental organization and implemented in 20 schools. The results attracted the interest of the Jordanian Ministry of Education and donors. As a result, this team of a Jordanian woman-owned technology company and a Jordanian research firm, won a grant to work directly with the Ministry of Education to scale Qysas to 100 public schools in Jordan, as its first step in scaling.
The scalability assessment (School-to-School International, 2017) was helpful in shaping our approach to new programming, while we also looked at ways to address remaining challenges. Challenges to scalability and ways in which they are being addressed within the UNICEF MultiMedia and Materials Technical Assistance Project are as follows:
Technology Environment: As the team began planning for scale within the UNICEF project and public school context, the technology environment was scarce therefore the solution needed to include hardware, software, and charging stations. In our current project, the hardware elements are included. However, budget will limit the reach of additional scaling, even if tablets are circulated among classrooms.
Ministry Endorsement: For EdTech solutions aiming to be integrated or endorsed within formal education, another potential hurdle is integration within the national curricula. To that end, we are working with the Ministry of Education Curriculum and ICT teams to negotiate and approve both the content and structure of program delivery. The program’s content is focused on delivering stories focused on personal well-being and social cohesion through books and classroom-based activities from Kindergarten – Grade 3. The content for each grade is differentiated. Having adaptable content and delivery modality is critical to securing ownership by the Ministry, ensuring endorsement and adoption.
Adaptation to the Classroom: Integration into classrooms requires teachers be trained in EdTech instruction and that they are motivated to use the solution. Working with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, we are developing lesson plans and teacher training manuals as a guideline for teachers integrate EdTech while allowing for differentiation in application and activities. These will be tested, and teacher will give feedback before the launch from the full cohort of 100 schools. Finding “space” to integrate EdTech solutions into daily curriculum delivery is also an area of experimentation under the UNICEF project: teachers have options to use the EdTech solution in their regular classes, within supplemental literacy classes, or during extra-curricular class time. Each modality will be tested and examined.
While already on a path to scale, working within government improves sustainability especially if programming remains relatively experimental and iterative. Simultaneously, limitations presented by hardware costs mean that scalability will remain expensive, and hence require donor support. The team will look for ways to make Qysas more sustainable improving children’s Arabic literacy throughout the region now and in the future.
School to School International. 2017. Project Evaluation: Qysas, an Arabic levelled Digital Library for Every Classroom. Retrieved from: https://allchildrenreading.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Little-Thinking-Minds-End-of-Project-Report.pdf.