As protests for racial justice echoed around the world last year, Silicon Valley's biggest players vowed to increase the disturbingly low number of people of color in tech. In January, Apple took action, joining forces with energy company Southern Co. to build the Propel Center. Funded with US$25 million from each company, the project will deliver a first-of-its-kind 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) campus in the historic Atlanta University Center district as well as a digital learning platform for students and faculty at more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States.
26th Most Influential Project of 2021
Ethiopia had no system for keeping or sharing education performance records. And that made it all but impossible for students to prove their academic credentials to potential employers or higher-learning institutions—which often severely limited their prospects. Looking to change that, the Ministry of Education in April announced Atala Prism, a national digital database developed by Hong Kong’s IOHK, the company behind Cardano cryptocurrency. The new system will provide secure digital identities to 5 million students.
14th Most Influential Project of 2021
The pandemic brought an astounding digital transformation in the education sector. Yet more than 30 percent of children around the world are unable to access remote learning platforms, according to UNICEF. The lesson? The world needs more classrooms. To close the gap, Thinking Huts is proposing a new vision, unveiling plans earlier this year to create one of the world’s first 3D-printed schools. Created in partnership with Hyperion Robotics and architecture firm Studio Mortazavi, the school—complete with all foundational, electrical and plumbing essentials—will be built in less than a week and with limited skilled labor.
48th Most Influential Project of 2021
In the heart of Rajasthan’s arid desert landscape in India lies Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School. A school, yes, but also a powerful statement of female empowerment. Though Rajasthan is the third-largest Indian state, it ranks the lowest in female literacy at 53 percent. So nonprofit Citta Foundation teamed up with Diana Kellogg Architects in New York City to create the school. Open to area girls below the poverty line, the facility includes classrooms, a library, a computer center and a bus facility to transport girls from neighboring villages. Built by local craftsmen—often the fathers of the girls—of locally sourced sandstone, the oval-shaped building echoes the curvilinear shapes of local forts and is a nod to universal symbols of female strength.
With children spending 15,000 hours of their lives in school, educators have a responsibility to promote the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of students, says the World Health Organization. Looking to make that case, it teamed up with UNESCO to tap researchers at Australia’s Centre for Adolescent Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to run a two-year investigation of “health-promoting school” policies, strategies and guidelines from 91 countries. The goal: create the first set of global standards that embed health and wellbeing into the education system.
As hospitals are overflooded with COVID patients, doctors and nurses alike are left to figure out how to respond safely but quickly to the deadly threat. Virti has tried to bridge that gap with immersive virtual reality training on critical tasks like using a ventilator or putting on and removing personal protective equipment safely. The “virtual patient” has already been used by U.K.’s National Health Service and U.S. hospitals in Texas and California to assist in COVID-related remote training. And after raising US$10 million by June—and partnering with AI and data science acceleration platform NVIDIA Inception in September—the U.K. startup has set its sights on making its experiential education affordable and accessible to everyone.
With the pandemic highlighting an urgent need for more digital teaching and learning materials, Siemens Stiftung—the German manufacturing giant’s nonprofit arm—launched a solution to help bridge the gap: the STEM Education for Innovation. The mission of the one-year pilot program? Develop blended learning opportunities to help STEM educators in Latin America evolve their lessons for a new digital landscape. The foundation collaborated with 14 project partners in seven countries to adapt analog teaching materials and methods for digital lessons, focusing on topics including science, technology, sustainability and climate change. When complete, the program will offer 250 free digital and analog teaching materials and 100 certification and advanced training opportunities for teachers. Siemens Stiftung expects the pilot program to impact up to 20,000 teachers and 450,000 students.
While internet access in Pakistan stands at just 35 percent, nearly every household has access to television. So when the pandemic shuttered classrooms for more than 30 million of the nation’s children—and impacted 19 million other children already out of school—the government asked kids to tune into their TVs instead, rolling out its own national educational programming for distance learning. To broadcast one hour of curriculum per day for each grade, 1-12, Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training sourced educational video materials from private partners, and used public school teachers, subject matter experts and other specialists to develop TV lessons and scripts.
The president of Arizona State University calls it “a medical school for the Earth.” The school’s new incubator lab is built specifically to take on the existential threats facing the planet and global society. Launched in September 2020 at the university’s campus in Tempe, Arizona, USA, the center includes a new college as well as a state-of-the-art research institute and a practice arm devoted to solutions “enhanced by and integrated with” global partnerships. Later this year, the lab is slated to get new US$200 million facility that will act a hub for the 550 faculty members and 1,300 students already enrolled the new college.
There are some 1,500 Jewish schools around the world—and an ambitious two-year project by Herzog College aims to connect them all. The need for the Global Jewish Education Network was first recognized during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many communities in the diaspora struggled with school closures, the transition to virtual learning and a shortage of teachers versed in Jewish studies. Funded with ILS38 million from the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, the global cohort of experts and educators will collaborate to build connections between Jewish students worldwide, coordinate discussions on curricula development, and establish virtual platforms for sharing ideas across countries and continents.