BY CINDY HSIAO
Since the start of COVID-19, more than 800 million children across Asia have had their education disrupted due to school closures and amongst these, more than 27 million children have been waiting for more than a year to return to school. Whilst home-based learning has become the norm for some children across the region, children from vulnerable communities face inequitable challenges in accessing education and are at risk of falling further behind.
With education being the top thematic area of interest and work amongst APC members, APC’s final Call for Collaboration of the year sought to provide a platform for members to share initiatives they are championing and to invite fellow members to get involved in these initiatives to enable better access to education for children from vulnerable communities in the region.
In presenting the Octava Social Innovation Challenge, APC member Pang Sze Khai recounted the journey Octava Foundation took to identify regional opportunities to propel education for all. They commissioned a White Paper to better understand gaps in K-12 education and EdTech in Southeast Asia, discovered a lack of EdTech solutions for bottom- and middle- of pyramid learners, and thus partnered with MIT Solve to launch a Challenge to identify promising EdTech solutions in Southeast Asia.
The Challenge sought to select and support innovative solutions addressing access to quality education specifically in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. Each winning team would receive a minimum of $50,000 in prize money and a tailored ten-month support programme. Members were invited to engage not just as funders, but also in creating an enabling ecosystem of support for these innovators by joining as implementation partners and mentors. The Challenge, which closed in October with 124 solutions submitted, will announce its final winners in February 2022.
With a similar focus on reaching students from vulnerable communities in Southeast Asia, APC member Stanley Tan invited members to support community development in Rakhine State, Myanmar through a scholarship programme administered by the Centre for Diversity and National Harmony.
The scholarship programme not only aims to improve access to higher education for marginalised students from Rakhine, but also also aims to improve social cohesion and conditions in Rakhine by bringing students from different communities together.
Since then, six APC members have expressed interest to support this scholarship programme. While the situation in Myanmar remains uncertain, with universities being closed for more than a year, support for this programme is thus contingent upon the reopening of universities and students being able to safely resume their education. Ultimately, the programme aims to ensure that students can continue their studies and contribute to supporting community development and improved conditions in Rakhine in the long run—when the opportunity becomes once again available.
In 2022, APC plans to host a Call for Collaboration every quarter. For members interested in sharing opportunities for collaboration in Q1 of 2022, please do reach out to the APC team. We look forward to hearing from you!