Launched in 2014 with support from the Merkin Family, Dick & Betsy DeVos Family, and Tony Robbins foundations, Elon Musk, and other funders, the Global Learning XPRIZE challenged innovators to develop scalable solutions that enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing, and math skills within fifteen months. Each of the five finalists received $1 million to field test their solutions in Tanzania, where three thousand children learned on tablets donated by Google that were preloaded with one of the five solutions. The two winning organizations will share the $10 million grand prize for enabling the greatest proficiency gains in reading, writing, and math.
According to XPRIZE, two hundred million children globally cannot read or write, while one in five school-age children are not in school. Based in Seoul, South Korea, and Berkeley, California, KitKit School developed a program featuring a game-based core and flexible learning architecture designed to help children learn independently, irrespective of their knowledge, skill, or environment. London- and Nairobi-based onebillion's software solution merged numeracy content with literacy material to offer directed learning and creative activities alongside continuous monitoring that enables the software to respond to children's individual needs.
Selected from among nearly two hundred teams from forty countries, the other three finalists were CCI (United States), Chimple (India), and RoboTutor (U.S.). All five finalists' solutions are open source and available in both Swahili and English on GitHub. XPRIZE will work to deliver tablets preloaded with localized versions of the finalists' software.
According to the foundation, 74 percent of the children participating in the field test had never attended school, 80 percent had never been read to at home, and more than 90 percent could not read a single word in Swahili. After fifteen months of field testing, the final figure was cut in half, while all five solutions proved to be effective in terms of teaching math skills to girls and boys.
"Education is a fundamental human right, and we are so proud of all the teams and their dedication and hard work to ensure every single child has the opportunity to take learning into their own hands," said XPRIZE chief executive Anousheh Ansari. "Learning how to read, write, and demonstrate basic math are essential building blocks for those who want to live free from poverty and its limitations, and we believe that this competition clearly demonstrated the accelerated learning made possible through the educational applications developed by our teams, and ultimately hope that this movement spurs a revolution in education, worldwide."