Designing the future of education

Five global teams receive $1M each to design the best open source learning software of the future

A program co-funded by Elon Musk and aimed at tackling global illiteracy is about to start field-testing innovative learning solutions in Tanzania.

Run by the XPRIZE Foundation, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE judges selected earlier in September five finalists which will start implementing their learning platforms in Tanzania in November.

XPRIZE Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered at NASA and backed by the likes of Google, Delloitte, IBM and Elon Musk, devoted to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems through future technologies.

Almost 200 global teams have taken part in the global learning competition to develop and open source cutting-edge scalable learning software “solutions that will enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 15 months”.

According to UNESCO, the world will need over 3 million more teachers by 2030, while it is estimated that as many as 250 million children around the world cannot read or write today. At the same time literacy is defined as one of the most important factors for improving the wellbeing and the health conditions in numerous socially deprived areas in third world countries. Basic reading skills have the power to life 171 million people out of poverty, UNESCO data shows.

The five selected teams, hailing from U.S., India and the UK, won $1 million each to test the software they had developed for the competition.

The finalists will install their software on Pixel C tablets donated by Google to be used over 15 months by approximately 4,000 children in 150 villages cross Tanzania’s eastern region of Tanga.

At the end of the trial, the judges will select the team “whose solution enables the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic”, XPRIZE said in a statement. The team will receive the grand prize of $10 million which is set to be announced in April 2019.

The current five finalists will be required to open source their code and content which will be made available for anyone to build on for free. The open sourcing move is intended to “proliferate solutions worldwide at the intersection of technology and learning”, the organization explained.

The competition concept is predicated on a series of researches which found out that when provided with the right tools, children can teach themselves to read and write without the help of a tutor.

Among the rest of XPRIZE competitions are the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, the $1.75M Water Abundance XPRIZE and the $1M Anu and Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE.

Here are the five finalists:

CCI (New York, United States) is developing structured and sequential instructional programs, in addition to a platform seeking to enable non-coders to develop engaging learning content in any language or subject area.

Chimple (Bangalore, India) is developing a learning platform aimed at enabling children to learn reading, writing and mathematics on a tablet through more than 60 explorative games and 70 different stories.

Kitkit School (Berkeley, United States) is developing a learning program with a game-based core and flexible learning architecture aimed at helping children independently learn, irrespective of their knowledge, skill, and environment.

onebillion (UK/Malawi/Tanzania) is merging numeracy content with new literacy material to offer directed learning and creative activities alongside continuous monitoring to respond to different children’s needs.

RoboTutor (Pittsburgh, United States) is leveraging Carnegie Mellon’s research in reading and math tutors, speech recognition and synthesis, machine learning, educational data mining, cognitive psychology, and human-computer interaction.

Learn More About Global Learning XPRIZE