A network of affordable, tailor-made educational programmes

Just about 1 year ago, the number of Venezuelans living in the country was stated to be at 40,000 and of these it was understood that as many as 3,000 Venezuelan children may not have been receiving a formal education in schools. At that point, some had estimated that those figures may very well triple within the year. As often happens, the margin of error for figures on socio-political matters tends to be on the higher side of the spectrum. In any case, our purpose here is not that of numerical precision, but rather of addressing the issue of the education of migrant children within our borders as they grow. The education of each child is paramount, not only for the child’s future but for that of the society as a whole, … and the education of migrant children has an enormous part to play in ensuring the future stability and development of our society.

In the absence of a public sector solution to this challenge, private sector response has been generous thus far with initiatives to afford migrants and their children some form of schooling. However, the challenges involved in educating these children are not trivial. Some of these students were, at the beginning of last school year, 2 to 3 years behind children of similar age with respect to curricula content. Others suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from the reigning conditions in their country of origin. There has also been the language barrier to contend with, together with difficulties in their feelings of acceptance within the society. Some of these children have managed to integrate into normal classroom settings, … and to excel at that. However, it seems that the majority of these children may require tailor-made educational programmes, even if only for a brief period before being introduced into more mainstream educational systems, to bridge the aforementioned gaps and get them up to speed sooner rather than later.

Herein lies the problem !!! In general, education is expensive, so naturally educational solutions involving individualized attention run the risk of being prohibitive for members of less affluent families. Nevertheless, such solutions may become feasible should the tailor-made curricula designs be prepared online and managed together with teacher contact hours and in-class exercises, thus enabling each child to advance at his or her rate. Once feasibility can be achieved, a network of affordable educational programmes to suit individual needs may become available to successfully address the pressing issue of mass education for migrant students.

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One Response to A network of affordable, tailor-made educational programmes

  1. Question: You raise a difficult but certainly not insurmountable issue. Online classes seem to make scalability of solutions more feasible. What more can individuals do to help?

    Answer: The first request would be for individuals to open even more their minds, to view things from the vantage point of a non-traditional education model, as the solution I’m angling at would require a paradigm shift.

    The prevalent education model caters to individuals whose learning ability together with uninterrupted instruction do not deviate too far from the mean of the normal distribution. Students who lie within the upper tail-end of the distribution would not be particularly challenged with this model. Those on the lower tail-end would tend to be overwhelmed with remedial work and the threat of having to repeat the year.

    This scenario is analogous to the mass production manufacturing style and, as such, can be termed the ‘Mass Production’ model. The characteristic to be highlighted here is the limited to non-existent differentiation in the product or service together with high defect rate and wastage of resources. Henry Ford, on referring to his Model T production line mandated that: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” By Ford’s own admission, this model was not designed to satisfy the requirements of those outside of the norm. I am suggesting a form of Differentiated Instruction to better address the needs of those on the lower tail-end of the norm.

    The term Differentiated Instruction has been used in different contexts to mean different things. It has appeared in the discussion in favour of boys and girls being educated separately as opposed to mixed schools. More recently, it is being used to suggest that teachers should deliver the same course content to students during the same class through content delivery across the preferred learning modalities of the relevant students. However, Differentiated Instruction, in the context I am suggesting, is meant to refer to tailor-made work plans, designed based on curricula and identified gaps, where progress is managed through software databases. We can term this approach the ‘Lean Production’ model after the Toyota Production System. Lean Principles have been around for a while and, over the years, many may have been motivated to apply them to the field of Education. It is more a philosophy than a methodology and as such there is no singular implementation of it.

    The goal is not, to aim to directly reduce the overall cost of the education system through enhanced economies of scale that can be afforded by online scalability. Rather the goal of overall cost reduction is to be addressed indirectly by striving to reduce the unit cost of education per child, through focussing up-front on remedial aspects together with computer-assisted monitoring of the student’s progress. By resolving the education bottleneck in this way, we may have a singular opportunity to improve quality and increase throughput in one fell swoop, thus contributing to a reduction in unit cost.

    The remaining requests for help from interested individuals would be:
    1. Join in the debate to encourage government to explore this education model for the benefit of the growing numbers of children requiring individualized attention; and
    2. To support private initiatives who are pioneering this field, through scholarships for students or otherwise, so as to facilitate the establishment of sustainable networks of affordable, tailor-made educational programmes for the benefit of our nation’s children.