Report: Nearly 260 Million Children Are Still Excluded from Education; Pandemic Exacerbates the Breach

Mikel Amigot, IBL News | New York

Over 258 million children worldwide still have no access to education, mostly due to economic poverty and discrimination.

A United Nations report released this Tuesday stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. During the outbreak, about 90% of the student population was affected by school closures.

However, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, one-in-five children and youngsters were excluded from schooling before the outbreak.

“Children from poorer communities as well as girls, the disabled, immigrants and ethnic minorities were at a distinct educational disadvantage in many countries,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The mentioned quarter-million getting no education represent 17% of all school-aged children. Most of them belong to South and Central Asia and Sub-Saharan African countries. In 20 Sub-Saharan African countries, hardly any rural girls complete secondary school. [See graphic below].

“Lessons from the past – such as with Ebola – have shown that health crises can leave many behind, in particular the poorest girls, many of whom may never return to school,” Audrey Azoulay, General Manager at UNESCO, wrote in a report.

UNESCO urged countries to focus on disadvantaged children when schools reopen after coronavirus lockdowns.

“To rise to the challenges of our time, a move towards more inclusive education is imperative,” Azoulay said. “Failure to act will hinder the progress of societies.” “It has never been more crucial to make education a universal right, and a reality for all”, he added.

The core recommendation of the UN report is to understand that inclusive education means equal access for all learners, notwithstanding identity, background, or ability.

“Inclusion is not just an economic but also a moral imperative,” notes UNESCO. 


The Global Pandemic Accelerates the Inequalities in Education; 1.1 Billion Children Still Out of School

IBL News | New York

The COVID-19 pandemic–with 9.2 million cases worldwide of infected individuals and over 450,000 deaths confirmed– continues to deepen the global crisis in education. Over 1.1 billion children are now out of school, and access to online learning is becoming increasingly unequal and divisive.

“Providing a range of learning tools and accelerating access to the internet for every school and every child is critical”, said this month Robert Jenkins, Chief of Education at UNICEF.

Disparities on digital technologies are aggravating the crisis. Three-quarters of countries are using online platforms to deliver online education, but in 71 countries less than half of the population has Internet access. Governments are also using TV networks to deliver distance education.

However, even broadcast television doesn’t work in many countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 1 in 100 homes in rural Chad has a television.

UNICEF reports show that countries have been transforming their educational systems to cope with the demand. For example, in West and Central Africa, government officials have pushed service providers to deliver education for primary and secondary school students.

Innovative experiences have also emerged. An interesting case study happened in Somalia, where offline pre-recorded lessons were uploaded to solar-powered tablets intended for children.

In addition, video lessons are often shared through Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media platforms.

The UN reported that measures have been taken in order to host educational content on connected tablets to vulnerable students.

MOOCs Were Dead, but Now They Are Booming, According to The New York Times

IBL News | New York

Five years ago, The New York Times, in an extensively quoted report among academics keynoting on higher-ed conferences, had determined that MOOCs were dead. Low completion rates being below 5%, no business model behind them, and no impact on skyrocketing tuitions were the main reasons. In other words, disruption never occurred, and education wasn’t democratized.

Yesterday, however, the Gray Lay of the journalism–the New York Times–certified a new reality. “Remember the MOOCs? After Near-Death, They’re Booming,” was the headline. The confinement at home and the online move due to the pandemic has mostly caused “a jolt that could signal a renaissance for big online learning networks that had struggled for years,” wrote the veteran reporter Steve Lohr.

After millions of adults have signed up for online classes in the last two months, Coursera added 10 million new users from mid-March to mid-May–that is seven times the pace of new sign-ups in the previous year, according to the Times. Enrollments at edX and Udacity have jumped by similar multiples.

“Crises lead to accelerations, and this is the best chance ever for online learning,” said Sebastian Thrun, Founder of Udacity.

“Active learning works, and social learning works,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX.


Over 10,000 Museums Across the World Won’t Open Due to the Global Health Crisis

Mikel Amigot, IBL News | New York

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit museums hard, and over 10,000 may never reopen.

On May 18, International Museum Day, new studies conducted by UNESCO and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) found that 13% of the more than 85,000 museums across the globe that have closed due to the virus will stay shut down.

As a result of the closures, the losses have skyrocketed. In the United States alone, art institutions are losing an estimated $33 million a day, according to the American Alliance of Museums.

In addition, the global health crisis has exposed the precarious position of cultural workers, with thousands of employees laid off or furloughed.

“The museum field cannot survive on its own without the support of the public and private sectors,” said Suay Aksoy, President at ICOM. “It is imperative to raise emergency relief funds and to put in place policies to protect professionals and self-employed workers on precarious contracts.”

Audrey Azoulay, General Manager at UNESCO, promised to aid museums since “they play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies.”

That assistance may materialize on the ResiliArt movement, launched by UNESCO in April.

The UN agency will host a series of debates, panels, and other events to generate discussion about how art and cultural institutions, organizations, and workers will need to adapt in order to survive.

According to UNESCO, social protection of museum staff, digitization and inventorying of collections, and online content development, are among the top priorities that need to be addressed – all of which require financial resources.

UNESCO also pointed out that since 2012, the global number of museums has increased by almost 60%, demonstrating how important they have become in national cultural policies over the last decade.

Museums play a fundamental role in education, culture, and in supporting the local and regional creative economy, according to UNESCO.


NY’s Governor Hires the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Reforming the School System

IBL News | New York

The New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the State will work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a plan to “reimagine and build back our education system better, as we prepare to reopen”. 

New York’s schools –which is the country’s school biggest system, with 1.1 million children– are closed for the year, and authorities are considering what should look like when they reopen.

Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years, but I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas,” said Cuomo, a Democrat.

The Governor did not outline the scope of the state’s work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a powerful player in the education space.

Some educators criticized Cuomo’s announcement, reminding the foundation’s failed initiatives. At least three organizations – New York State Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy – have already written to Cuomo and state education officials opposing the partnership.

New York State United Teachers President, Andy Pallott, said in a statement, “if we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state.”

How the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be compensated is unclear. So far, this non-profit has exercised a notable influence in pushing certain education policies, such as the so-called education reform movement, along with the Common Core and other academic standards and teacher evaluation.

Other philanthropies lobbying for education reform are the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Emerson Collective.

Harvard’s Credit-Bearing, Free Course on Mechanical Ventilators Has Attracted 170,000 Learners in Two Weeks

Mikel Amigot | IBL News, New York

The “Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19” explanatory course on has surpassed the 170,00 people enrolled, becoming a reference for licensed medical professionals worldwide.

Developed by Harvard University in conjunction with the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and released on April 6th, this free course now can grant up to three CME (Continuing Medical Education) credit hours to those who complete the course (2 to 5 hours) and pass a brief quiz.

Eligible learners can claim three AMA PRA Category 1 Credit (physicians), nursing CEU credits, or a certificate of attendance for allied health professionals and other learners.

The authors of the course, Dr. Susan Wilcox and Thomas Piraino, are continuously updating the course, given that the subject of mechanical ventilation and the offering of manufacturers are evolving.

In addition to high enrollment, participation in the discussion forum, with clinicians sharing knowledge and tools, has made the course a valuable tool to fight to the COVID-19 pandemic and treat patients developing pneumonia.

“The medical system will need clinicians that can assist in operating mechanical ventilators,” wrote the authors. “We encourage all non-ICU clinicians to consider completing this course, readying themselves to best help their colleagues and patients on the front lines of this virus.”

With 27 million learners, the learning platform –founded by MIT and Harvard University as a non-profit venture– hosts over 3,000 courses, from over 150 universities, corporations, and business organizations.

IBL News, April 7: An edX and Harvard Course to Train Clinicians on Mechanical Ventilators for Covid-19

Coursera Offers Free Certificates on 50+ Courses, While It Announces New Programs and Tools

IBL News | New York announced yesterday at its virtual Partner’s Conference, that it is offering 50+ free courses, which include access to lectures and quizzes, along with earning certificates at no cost.  The offer will be available through May 31, 2020.

The courses cover the following areas:


Also, yesterday, Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO at Coursera, announced the addition of two new degrees to its list of 19 programs, which are the Master of Science in Population and Health Sciences—from the University of Michigan—and Master of Data Analytics Intelligence from the Universidad de los Andes (Uniandes).

In addition, Maggioncalda unveiled eight MasterTrack Certificates (in topics such as Blockchain Applications, Cybersecurity, AI and Machine Learning, Social Work, Sustainability and Development), along with 100 guided projects to gain job-relevant skills in less than two hours, such as TensorFlowscikit-learn, and Plotly.


Regarding technology tools, the educational company issued new product features. These are some of the most relevant:

  • Goal Setting. These goals will be seamlessly synced with Google Calendar and other calendar apps, integrating learning into a daily routine.
  • Smart-Review Material. A machine learning tool that serves targeted review material recommendations based on the specific questions learners miss, providing learners with a structured path to succeed on the next quiz attempt, according to Coursera.
  • Skill Tracking, This data-driven tool tracks learner skill development, sharing updated competency scores as learners takes more assessments. Through a centralized dashboard, learners can monitor their progress toward career-specific skills and see how their competency scores compare to other professionals on the Coursera platform.
  • Live2Coursera. This feature, “scheduled later in 2020”, will enable instructors to integrate Zoom live lectures into a course. Zoom recordings will be added automatically to an instructor’s course as they teach, so they can build a library of content to reuse in future private or open courses.
  • Personalized Homepage. When logged in, learners can resume a course in one click, see personalized recommendations on courses to pursue next, and view the certificates they’ve earned so far.
  • Machine-Assisted Peer Review. This tool enables grading at scale. Learners struggling to get an assignment peer-graded can have their work automatically assessed by a machine learning model trained on previously peer-graded submissions from the course.


Google and Apple Will Release in Mid-May a Controversial Tool to Track Down Infected People

Mikel Amigot | IBL News, New York

Google and Apple teamed up to develop a system for tracking the spread of the COVID-19, which will encourage users to share data through Bluetooth and approved apps from public health organizations.

These apps would exchange anonymous identified data with other participating iPhone and Android phones.

If the user voluntarily reports having tested positive for the virus, the app then alerts those phones’ owners that they may have been exposed.

Experts explain that tracking is key to testing and self-quarantining yourself to avoid infecting others. But in the U.S. and the Western world, there isn’t a widely-used tracking tool, mostly due to privacy concerns. China, South Korea, and Singapore have used similar COVID-19 tracking apps, although way more privacy-invading. These apps have been key to their success in containing the disease within these two countries.

Apple’s and Google’s system was announced on Friday and was laid out in a series of documents and white papers.

To be successful, the system will need to be widely adopted. The user would need to give explicit consent. In addition, tests will need to be available for all potentially infected people –although today there is still a shortage.

Privacy and civil liberties activists have warned that the apps need to be designed so governments cannot abuse them to track their citizens.

President Donald Trump called the technology “very interesting,” but expressed concern that “a lot of people worry about it in terms of a person’s freedom. We’re going to take a look at that.”

Apple and Google said that user privacy and security are baked into the design of their plan.

This is how it works, according to Google:

The Verge’s perspectiveApple and Google are building a coronavirus tracking system into iOS and Android

LabXchange, Harvard’s Science Platform, Provides a Free Tool to Create Online Classes and Pathways

IBL News | New York, the Open edX-based platform created by Harvard University and Amgen Foundation, is providing a free tool for educators to create online and hybrid classes and pathways with science content.

The platform lets instructors select vetted content from Harvard, OpenStax, Khan Academy and other sources, remix it with private materials, build collaboration and share ideas with a small group of learners –with a maximum of 100 users.

“Due to economic and geographic limitations, millions of students worldwide lack opportunities to engage meaningfully in the scientific process, which has led to significant gaps in scientific literacy and in diversity across scientific fields,” explained Robert Lue, Director at the platform.

LabXchange is essentially designed to support educators in creating customized learning experiences. The content-type offered on the LabXchange library includes video, text, image, simulation, assignment, pathway, narrative, assessment, and cluster. Some animations allow learners to learn by doing in the digital space.

Subject areas include Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Science & Society, Physics, Health Science, Global Health, Prepare For Careers, Prepare For College, Scientific Process, Online Learning, Professional Development, and Prepare for Graduate School.

An interesting pathway content available at the LabXchange platform is “Coronavirus: From Bats to Humans to Pandemic”.

Soon, teachers will be able to track students’ progress and individually contact learners.

This video below explains the main features:


These two tutorials recently posted, shows how to create a class and a pathway at LabXchange.

More stories about LabXchange at IBL News

Princeton, Berkeley, and Rice Switch to Remote Classes to Head Off the Spread of the Virus

Mikel Amigot, IBL News | New York

Princeton, Berkeley, Rice, Fordham, Yeshiva, Hofstra, and Sacred Heart universities joined Columbia and Barnard College this Monday on the announcement that they were suspending in-person classes and teaching remotely, in order to head off the spread of the coronavirus.

The city of Scarsdale in New York also announced it was closing its public schools for the week after a teacher did test positive for the virus.

Last week, the universities of Washington, Seattle, and Stanford shifted entirely to virtual courses.

With New York under a declared state of emergency and with over 100 people testing positive, Yeshiva University in Manhattan and Hofstra University in Long Island communicated that classes were canceled for the week.

A student and two faculty members at Yeshiva tested positive for the virus last week, and Hofstra said that a student had started showing symptoms after attending a conference; that test result is pending. Columbia said a university community member was quarantined for exposure to the new coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Princeton University said in a statement that new policies would be in place through Sunday, April 5.

“While much remains unknown about COVID-19’s epidemiology and impact, our medical advisers tell us that we should proceed on the assumption that the virus will spread more broadly and eventually reach our campus,” wrote Chris Eisgruber, President of Princeton University.

In Houston, Rice University canceled in-person classes for the rest of the week after staff member tested positive for the virus. It also banned meetings of more than 100 people until May.

The University of California, Berkeley, became the fourth major U.S. university to suspend classes for an extended period of time due to concerns over COVID-19.

Chancellor Carol Christ said in a message that the school will move all lecture courses and seminars to Zoom and other online tools starting today Tuesday and through spring break, which ends March 29. Courses that have to meet in person—such as labs, performing arts and physical education classes—will continue to meet as scheduled.

Also yesterday, the American Council on Education called off its annual conference, originally scheduled for March 14 to 16 in San Diego, Calif0rnia.

The coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, Chine, has killed so far over 4,000 people and infected more than 114,000. At least 875 people have died outside mainland China. The United States has reported over 700 cases and 26 deaths: 22 in Washington state, two in Florida, and two in California.

The World Health Organization considers the outbreak an international public health emergency.

• Johns Hopkins University’s dashboard tracking the disease in real-time


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