by Lindsay Randall
The past couple of days in Monrovia, Liberia, where More Than Me (MTM) runs the tuition-free More Than Me Academy (MTMA) for over 150 girls from the West Point slum and central Monrovia were characteristically warm for the coastal West African city in January. But 3,000 miles and a continent away, Davos, Switzerland found itself showered with snow.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) wrapped up its Annual Meeting in Davos – a mountain resort in the Swiss Alps – on Saturday, January 23. Founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab as a nonprofit organization intended to bring together European and American business for collaboration, the WEF quickly expanded its focus from management to the pressing economic and social issues facing the global population and is seen as a neutral space where global challenges could be addressed like Apartheid and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The meeting in Davos includes some 2,500 attendees, including the CEOs of the world’s top 1,000 companies who fund the forum. This year’s theme was “Mastering the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
The 4 Industrial Revolutions
If you’re like me, you may have read this and been perplexed: what do you mean fourth? Davos splits the most famous schoolbook Industrial Revolution – the only one I was aware of – into two unique revolutions, but generally deliniates the four revolutions by the advancement of distinct methods of production:
- The advancement of steam, water, and mechanical production equipment
- The advancement of division of labor, electricity, and mass production
- The advancement of electronics, IT, and automated production and finally,
- Cyber-physical systems
What are cyber-physical systems?
The simplest way to describe what the WEF means by cyber-physical systems is to look around you. Chances are, wherever you are, you have a cell phone. You’re reading this from a computer. That computer has access to the internet, and the internet connects all of us. Using that internet, you can learn a bit about the other cyber-physical systems such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing, nanotechnology and beyond with your unprecedented and unlimited access to knowledge. All of these technological advances are expanding and evolving at an exponential pace, affecting not only international economies and labor markets but politics, health care, and – of course! – education.
How does this relate to girls education?
It’s easy to see that the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution – like these technological advances – is shifting our world. It’s also easy to wonder how our lives might change for better or for worse as a result of these new technologies.
But what’s clear is that these systems have a profound potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people. More importantly, these advances must be available to both men and women. With the current estimate, gender parity won’t be reached until 2133, and with Liberia’s ranking at a disappointing 112 out of 145 countries on the gender gap index, it’s even more critical that our girls are set up for success. After all, as the UK Development Secretary Justine Greening said at Davos this year, “no country can truly develop if half of its population is left behind.”
Ensuring our girls have a solid footing in the 4th revolution
MTM is committed not only to providing our girls with an education, but also to providing them with the resources and auxiliary services they need to break down every barrier they face to education. 100% of our students in 4th through 6th grades receive a computer education, whereas 95% of comparison students have never used a computer. Our MTM Academy library affords our girls computer access and internet connectivity whereas only one comparison school offers computer access.
In 2015, we launched a blended learning curriculum using a grant from a generous donor. Working with experts from Intel Education to develop a pilot education technology program, we’ve started integrating technology into our Academy through servers and IT training. We also brought on Edmodo as a partner and an online resource for our teachers who now have access to lesson plans and teaching supplements for their tablet based learning and assessments that are curated and uploaded by 59 million educators and administrators worldwide.
This is just the beginning of an enduring fidelity that More Than Me has to guaranteeing our students at the MTM Academy are ready – not just for what Liberia might hold for them, but for what the world holds for them. This increases both their chance and their country’s chance of success.
To do this, a standard education simply isn’t enough; technology is key. We’re dedicated to making sure our girls are prepared for the world at large – the same world that thousands of delegates at Davos spoke about last week – and we’re just getting started.