The socioeconomic transformation that Latin America underwent in the past decade has been deep and remarkable. The expanding middle class and increased purchasing power in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia is generating a growing demand for more and better education. The region is increasingly competing with the rest of the world, and the next stages of development will demand more competitiveness, productivity, and innovation. But the current offering seems to be ineffective at improving results.
The world and the global economy have changed with the region, and today we are living through a period in which the economic structure of our societies is accommodating to new technologies. This new economy has brought about a paradigmatic shift that puts innovation and knowledge creation in the heart of the growth engine. This shift has had profound effects for education systems that find themselves unprepared to produce graduates with the necessary technological skills and the creative mentalities that the new economy demands. It is in this context that education reformers have looked to increase the presence of what is known as information and communications technologies (ICT) into classrooms and curricula.
Policymakers are more and more attracted to the promise of ICT reforms motivated by the fact that the positive spillover effects of connecting students with these technologies go to the heart of social inequality and exclusion, since connecting students often means connecting families and entire communities that had previously been isolated and marginalized. The economic breach in education is significant in Latin America today: According to ECLAC, only one of every five kids of the poorest quintile finishes high school, while four out of five do it in the richest quintiles. There is also the promise of increased prosperity that comes with a “knowledge society,” since better trained workers and higher skill employment lead to higher value-added industries which attract the type of private sector and foreign investment that powers sustainable development.
Students’ learning is also positively impacted, even today, by the access to technologies. According to the last PISA assessments, there is a significant breach in the learning outcomes of students that have and those that don’t have a computer at home.
Bringing ICT into the education system can mean many different things: expanding teacher access to students in remote areas via video links, training teachers to use online resources to upgrade their lesson plans, or providing students with their own low-cost computers. Whichever the case, based on the experiences of countries such as Uruguay, Chile, Jordan, and Singapore that all have committed in various degrees to reform, there seem to be three central pillars for successful ICT reform.
The first and most obvious pillar is access to equipment and infrastructure — the technology itself, its software, and technical support for individual schools, as well as broader infrastructure requirements such as a counting with national broadband networks. A second, and often overlooked, pillar is the need to increase teacher capacity along with technological capacity. Existing teachers must be trained, new teachers hired, and all teachers must be given a motivation to embrace a cultural change in the way they teach and structure their lessons. And finally, there must be effective monitoring and evaluation systems capable of assessing the outcomes of ICT reforms.
My company Kuepa was born in this context and is embracing the challenge of contributing with a broad understanding of ICTs in education — and also a provision of high-quality services for teachers and students in the Americas. Kuepa is the first blended-learning company in Latin America. We embraced this innovative approach to learning with the goal of bringing it to the region, trusting it is a first-class innovation that can change the face of education in a region in which a lot has been done but where a lot still needs to be done.
Kuepa’s blended-learning solution tries to fill the enormous educational dissatisfaction that is perceived throughout Latin American countries and governments with an innovative and high-quality solution toward the future of education. It can make education be less expensive and have a higher and more standardized quality, as well as make it accessible to a great number of students because of its online component. By combining traditional teaching methods with self-delivered digital content, it also allows for a more personalized education, paced at each student’s progress.
Kuepa also provides a learning management system, which helps schools to incorporate technology into the classrooms in order to have a better track of student´s performance, as well as the teacher´s, creating a better communication between all stakeholders in education.
It will be difficult to jump to the next step of development if we don’t improve education in the Latin American region. As the regional economies continue to evolve, the global economy continues to demand specific skills, and a young professional from Panama is already competing for a job with peers from Finland, Singapore, Chile, or the U.S., addressing the technology challenge in the classrooms and schools is more important than ever.
Kuepa offers blended learning solutions for the Latin American market. Kuepa brings new technologies into classrooms in the region, offering a fully online platform of curricular content and also advanced solutions for school management and personalized follow-up of student learning outcomes. Kuepa bets on improving the quality of education in Latin America combining the best of technology and personalized education. Kuepa is the first blended-education company with a Latin American focus, bringing blended learning, an innovation itself, into a market where it doesn’t exist. In a critical economic context, we are entrepreneurs moved by the dream of creating a sustainable company with a much needed sustainable social impact.
- For related information, access recordings by this and other featured organizations from the 2012 Global Education Conference strand on Tech-driven Innovation.