M-Shule is a small startup founded by Claire Mongeau in 2016 and based out of Nairobi, Kenya. M-Shule, which means "mobile school" in Swahili, is designed to improve the performance of primary school students through an adaptive, mobile learning platform available by SMS.
Mongeau, whose mother was a special education teacher for primary schools, says she came up with the idea for M-Shule after seeing how personalized lessons improved student learning outcomes.
She wanted to recreate this individualized approach and expand it to include children who didn’t have access to the same resources or quality of education as others. M-Shule is specifically aimed at low-income populations that lack resources.
M-Shule works by employing teachers, who are experts in their fields to study the local curriculum and come up with small lessons. The lessons are aimed at improving students’ English and mathematics skills through personalized learning tools, which match students to the appropriate lessons based on their level of understanding.
This novel way of providing personalized education not only plans to bring lessons to life for students in the convenience of their own homes but to mobilize the learning community around improving the skills of primary school students.
M-Shule analyzes and tracks the success of students in reports, which are then shared with the school, teacher(s) and parents. The feedback generated thanks to the insight offered in these reports allows learning programs to be changed in order to best meet the needs of the student.
Parents and teachers can easily check the progress of students by SMS or through web apps. Though schools can register with M-Shule directly, even if the school is not a participating member, parents can sign their child up for M-Shule as an independent learner by SMS.
The information required to sign up helps create a personalized profile for the student and includes his/her: name, age, gender, class, most recent examination marks and school code (if their school is registered).
M-Shule utilizes clever artificial intelligence, in the form of a responsive chatbot in order to assist students. Similar to programs like Duolingo, the chatbot moves on to progressively more challenging lessons as students better their skills.
Rather than outsourcing teaching roles or replacing them, the program acts like a virtual assistant for teachers to better ensure the success of their students. It also allows teachers to work more closely on students’ individual difficulties rather than providing general coverage of a topic, which all students may not understand.
With roughly less than a dozen employees M-Shule is working on the ambitious mission of improving the skills of the 144 million primary school students across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This year they are set to launch a pilot program in order to extend access of their service to more than 50 primary schools in Nairobi, Kenya. Those schools teach more than 12,000 students so room for a potential impact is huge. They have also recently partnered with Engineers Without Borders Canada and will receive a cash investment in order to expand their services.
At the heart of every innovative idea is of course a great and legitimate need. According to the 2012 African Economic Outlook report, Sub-Saharan Africa has the most rapidly expanding and youngest population in the world.
This means that successful outcomes are intimately tied to effective, duplicable and reasonably priced education. Unfortunately, the present educational systems into which new generations will be born are insufficient to handle to number of young minds they are expected to nurture.
When confronted by statistics from All Children Reading, an organization dedicated to improving literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries, the need for ideas like M-Shule become even more apparent.
According to their research, in Sub-Saharan Africa, a child with five years of education has a 40% chance of being illiterate. Similarly grim statistics from Bookings reveals that in Sub-Saharan Africa only 28% of students are enrolled in secondary school.
The amount and quality of education students are able to obtain directly affects their expected income and economic opportunities; however, high student-teacher ratios make it more difficult to ensure that no child is left behind. Personalized educational tools, like those employed by M-Shule can be used to bridge the gap where students lag behind in core subjects.
With an outstanding commitment to solidifying successful academic futures for the smallest of pupils, it’s easy to see why M-Shule has risen to the forefront of education technology.