The Inter-American Dialogue magazine recently asked me (and others) this question:
Earlier this year, the Carlos Slim Foundation and online education company Coursera announced they have entered a partnership aimed at increasing access to online educational content in Spanish and focused on job skills and employability. Is this a good model for developing human capital? How is access to online programs and tools changing the discussion about education reforms in the region?
The short answers are available in the May 22, 2014 edition of the magazine (the copyrighted material was uploaded here with permission).
This is a good question to ask as since foundations are keen to invest on the translation of educational resources to languages that are less represented online (a recent example is Lemann Foundation’s work in portuguese, with Khan Academy). The target group has a name of its own — nem-nem, or ni-nis — which references those of school age which are neither in school nor working. How to provide job-related and “employability” skills to this target group has been the subject of a recent report by McKinsey which is used by many organizations to frame projects that aim to fill the gap. How can we educate this group of youth who, at least in theory, are not being supported by the schooling system? Are online portals, resources, and communities possible contributors to the learning ecosystem of these youngsters; and could they, ultimately help them land a job? While this line of questioning does not address the goals of such projects (what job, and what curriculum we are talking about, for example), it does help us frame these large investments in “human capital”, how they articulate with larger concerns in emerging learning environments, and the limitations of such structures in answering the “ills” of the formal educational system.