Education is the stimulus that fans embers of innovation and progress. It's a toolset of ideas passed through generations of mankind, from fathers to their children, between nations and cultures. It's the engine that drives global prosperity. I must say that old ways of education have miserably failed many nations. At a moment in time, when everyone is rapidly being connected to the internet, AI technologies are being democratized, access to experts readily available, does the use of this power not permit us to devise radical ways to educate millions of children and provide world-class personalized education on every nook on earth?
It's no brainer that two decades into 21st century and we find the very fabric of our societal system being driven by critical knowledge - our economy, industry, environment, agriculture, energy, food, military power, and communications. If one's to step into the territory of dictatorial and corrupt nations, one sees millions of people subjected to diseases, hunger, catastrophes, terrorism, and war - and to such evils, there's only one cure: research and knowledge disseminated at scale, out of the hands of governments, and maintained by privately autonomous corporations.
"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." (Aristotle)
All statesmen believe this. Do they? Had they known, it would have reflected in their action and decision. Implementing curriculums that recede nations is a folly being repeated in Pakistan, and woe to me that I call that man a statesman! He seems so aloof of the world and the rapidity of course it has taken, and yet he's left it all for us to remedy! This sea of people is yearning for progress, it's screaming out to us for rescue from the abject ideologies they've been sunken into! These men have not seen progressive enlightenment and globalization for centuries. Their eyes were bandaged, and without doubt are bandaged to this day, driven by false ideals and smokescreens of dictators! Colonialists! Time is high that this part of the world too sees the light of day, not fruitless dreams that end in absolute torpor and talk shops, but in true action that stands the test of time.
Western and American development of technology and their work on ideas of progress is deeply threatened by creating a vacuum of ineptitude in Middle-East and South-Asia. These are places, where due to structural issues of governance, the presence of clogged bureaucracies, clashing selfish self-interests, and draining old-world ideologues are massive roadblocks to creating mechanisms to proliferate education. Besides governance, people don't speak and don't understand the English language, which bars their access to useful content on the internet. These are places where expert teachers are in short supply, and even if we manage that, we still have a problem with teachers' personalized engagement with students to really help them understand critical topics on a diverse set of technical subjects.
To this date, I've learned. I've seen people learn, and learning that happens through the buzz of distant learning works largely on paper! It's far from daily reality in the majority of the world's schools, and considering the shift, the pandemic has created, I must say such learning is of little value. AI-powered personalized tutors and teachers will fill the gap! Means are nascent and the market is open to exploit! Time is high that we begin work on a technology that solves this big problem, and do we not have the access to the right set of tools to bring it to life? I'll tell you, we do.
Previous Ways of Teaching
In the past, there have been countless attempts at creating systems to disseminate education, knowledge, and research at a massive scale, and they've been successful in revolutionizing the way we learn and access information. Resources like Masterclass, Udemy, Coursera, MOOCs, Khan Academy, YouTube, Google, Jstor, Libgen.is, Github, private blogs, and the list doesn't end. The whole world has been laid bare for the child sitting in the remoteness of Nepal with access to the internet and mobile phone. He can learn whatever he desires without a penny in his pocket.
Khan Academy, for example, does a brilliant job at explaining most of the topics a student in a set school curriculum requires to learn, but it's all in English. A child who sits in the suburbs of Karachi doesn't know English. There's little conducive environment for him to take grasp of that language and access these books and products. Will we sit and pray for the government to teach those millions of kids so they can finally go on to use the internet? And it boggles me that that man has already started to encourage Urdu and Arabic! What a bonehead at the helm of such precious people?
Secondly, if one's to look at Chegg as a resource for finding answers to exam questions, a general student at university finds it a brilliant thing to work with, and even the subscription makes it worth the penny, but what for those millions of children around the world, who can't pay without their parent's permit? What of those who don't have means to afford such facility? Till the age of 18, I could barely pay online, and it's still the case that one finds a better-pirated resource than pay for something.
Then we have these countless sites for one-on-one tutoring across the world. Go look at those sites, and subscription price tags are outrageous. Yes we have to pay teachers, and that's exactly the problem. Maybe for those living in UK can afford it, and it works for them, but they fall in the fraction of the global population. A child sitting in Afghanistan, with a phone won't be able to even think of such a thing. At least for the next 40 years, this will not be the case. There are organizations like "Learn to Be" but how robust of a man-power you can accumulate on a free platform, and quickly on-board students who don't speak your language and don't fit in with your culture. To develop this social graph on such a tutoring platform is a big challenge, something that's not been done well at all.
States desiring to uplift themselves have one big hurdle and that's the training of teachers and making that unique workforce available at every nook of the country. China has done that very well by enforcing a culture of educated people serving as teachers in schools in remote parts of the country. This strategy comes down to us, by our ancenstor, statesmens who've done it well and it works, but its slow progress that nations wish for centuries until someone does it, and if that one person does it, it's always in a vein of an ideology that's deeply moving but contributes little to progress of ideas and innovation. Especially when it comes to Africa, Middle-East, and South-Asia.
Can there be a new way that takes this mechanistic, national project out of the hands of governments and employ a much more sophisticated approach to educating the masses?
An idea for piecing together something that can have an indelible consequence
The work and resources mentioned above are brilliant to this day, but yet I've seen that it's not for everyone to have that ability to dig down resources, find materials free of cost, and have a degree of proficiency in English language. The barrier to acquiring information should be extremely thin, and to make that thinner, we need to find a way to curate the best of all resources for every right question that can be asked, in the form of a photorealistic, animated, intelligent avatar that lives in your phone. This is the idea that gamifies the whole process, auto-fetches all free content in one place through an interface, recommending the student everything through a curation from the right set of resources: from books, blog posts, YouTube videos, MOOCs. Imagine an extremely intelligent, bespoke avatar, that looks like your teacher Hania at school, speaks your language, and she's available to your 24/7: "Talking Tom" made more real, more intelligent, and tailored just for your needs.
All this might sound like a dream, but it's 2022 and we're all sitting at a point of inflection. Technologies and research are available to take this on as a startup problem, which is a very hard problem, with no end to its perfection, but definitely, something no one's attempted, but ripe for the attempt.
Bringing such progress without unnecessarily disrupting systems to no avail, we can create mechanisms to be used and provide the perfect groundwork for uplifting nations out of knowledge poverty and accelerating the growth and contribution of people to global progress. It's a dire need of our time that we get rid of old-world ideologues and put art, science, and engineering at the pedestal as our guiding virtues.