Escuela+ is a program that uses satellite technology and solar-powered infrastructure on the ground combined with innovative educational programming to connect rural schools in Latin America that do not have any Internet access to high quality educational content. The program, active since 2007, has reached over 1 million students, 65,000 teachers, and 6,800 schools in eight countries in Latin America including Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. It is supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including AT&T, DirecTV, National Geographic, Discovery and Fundacion Torneos.
Keywords: satellite-based broadband streaming, education, rural, Latin America
In rural areas, the educational system in most countries in Latin America suffers from pockets of limited coverage with incomplete access to quality education. This led to high repetition and dropout rates. Moreover, because they were in areas with low population, rural schools tended to be low priority in terms of the allocation of resources. This is particularly true in countries like Colombia, Peru and Brazil, where millions of rural schools suffer from a lack of resources.
|Population (UN, 2015)||49,529,208||Fixed broadband subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||11.79|
|Population density (people per sq. km) (UN, 2015)||43.49||Mobile cellular subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||117|
|Median household income (Gallup, 2006-2012)||US$ 6,544||Individuals using the Internet (%) (ITU, 2016)||58.10|
|Education (Mean years of schooling) (UNDP, 2013)||Male: 7.1 Female: 7.0||Individuals using the Internet by gender (%) (ITU, 2016)||Male: 58.1 Female: 58.2|
|Population (UN, 2015)||31,161,167||Fixed broadband subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||6.72|
|Population density (people per sq. km) (UN, 2015)||24.25||Mobile cellular subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||117.06|
|Median household income (Gallup, 2006-2012)||N/A||Individuals using the Internet (%) (ITU, 2016)||45.50|
|Education (Mean years of schooling) (UNDP, 2013)||Male: 9.6 Female: 8.5||Individuals using the Internet by gender (%) (ITU, 2016)||Male: 48.3 Female: 42.6|
|Population (UN, 2015)||203,657,210||Fixed broadband subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||12.97|
|Population density (people per sq.km) (UN, 2015)||23.92||Mobile cellular subscriptions (%) (ITU, 2016)||118.92|
|Median household income (Gallup, 2006-2012)||US$ 7,522||Individuals using the Internet (%) (ITU, 2016)||59.70|
|Education (Mean years of schooling) (UNDP, 2013)||Male: 7.2 Female: 7.3||Individuals using the Internet by Gender (%) (ITU, 2016)||Male: 59.2 Female: 57.6|
ESCUELA+ uses last mile satellite connectivity to provide educational content from high quality sources such as the Discovery channel and National Geographic, as well as the National Television Council’s educational content, to students in rural schools. The satellite connectivity provides access to this programming in any school with TV and electrical power. Where such electrical power was not easily accessible, solar-powered alternatives are being deployed to make streamed educational content easily available to school-going children in rural areas, as part of ESCUELA+ Solar initiative. DirecTV’s DVR recording facility allows teachers to manage content and record over 100 hours of programming, and use this content as part of a pedagogy that integrates interactive and integrated learning supplemented by online information.
Teachers are trained in the use of ESCUELA+ audio/visual technology, as well as the Discovery en la ESCUELA pedagogy. Using media, technology and digital satellite television, learning processes are tailored to incorporate an innovative teaching methodology in these schools.
|Technology||Satellite broadband streaming||Training||Teacher training via separate channel|
|Year program started||2007||Cost to users||Free|
|Geography||Rural areas||Total cost of program||Undisclosed|
|User profile||1 million school children in 8 Latin American countries||Associated organizations||DirecTV, National Geographic, Discovery Channel|
Progress and Results
Since 2007, ESCUELA+ has reached over 16 million alum in Argentina, along with 2 million students, 65,000 teachers, and 8500 schools in eight countries. Over 80% of ESCUELA+ schools are in underserved areas. Independent evaluation studies conducted by the University of Chile Department of Education and by the Faculty of Social Sciences in two waves concluded that students receiving education supplemented by ESCUELA+ methodology performed consistently better than a control group. ESCUELA+ students registered higher performance scores analyzed by year-on-year performance, grade level and subject matter. Further, in 2016, ESCUELA+ launched a channel to support teacher training content and collaborative content from ministries of partner countries.
Geographical barriers to connecting remote areas— In most rural areas in Latin America, it is geographically unviable to connect rural schools to adequate infrastructure via fiber. A lot of the schools also lack consistent access to power and other allied infrastructure.
Unavailability of local language educational content: Local language educational content is comparatively scarce and difficult to access for schools in rural areas. ESCUELA+ is scaling this challenge by collaborating with education ministries in partner countries to create tailor-made content that can be streamed to target schools
ESCUELA+'s Suggestions for Future Projects
Educational videos and streamed content through satellite links can address educational inclusion goals in rural areas, improving educational outcomes among the population— ESCUELA+ leverages the power of satellite connectivity and original content to provide access to highly relevant and educational materials to otherwise marginalized populations. Combining innovative technological deployment with adequate demand-side drivers such as local content, provides a viable model for improving take-up.
Collaboration with public and private partners can help create relevant educational content— ESCUELA+ collaborates with partners in participating ministries of education – Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, to create content not only for students but also for teacher training purposes. This partnership model is highly influential in creating the right content that is context-specific, and can aid in learning of target students.
Project website: https://escuelaplus.com/