Nov 21, 2017
How lessons learned from leapfrogging in other sectors could make education more equal.
Progress often occurs gradually as small improvements are made, but a radical surge in development can sometimes transpire when a revolutionary technology or process is introduced. The adoption of certain innovations can lead to dramatic advancement, allowing industries and countries that may have previously lagged behind to skip numerous steps and land at the same place as -- or even beyond -- those that were once more dominant. This effect is referred to as “leapfrogging” and examples can be seen throughout the world. How does leapfrogging apply to education and is it the solution to the worldwide disparities in education? Read on to learn more about its current applications and how education may benefit with its intervention.
Examples of leapfrogging in less developed countries are not difficult to come across. Today, mobile payments are prevalent in many African communities that traditionally did not have the infrastructure to allow for citizens to open traditional bank accounts. In fact, when looking at the top 20 most advanced countries worldwide in terms of mobile payment, African countries hold 15 of those spots. Senegalese farmers doubled the price of their crops when mobile phones were introduced as they suddenly had immediate access to agricultural information that wasn’t as readily available to them before. In China, the rapid introduction of cars promptly crowded roads that were once dominated by other forms of transportation, resulting in a sharp rise in accidents and traffic. Along with the concurrently improving design industry, Chinese experts developed a new traffic light system that many consider superior to others seen throughout countries that have had car-dominated transportation methods for a much longer time. Brazil, once dealing with widespread deforestation and environmental issues, has turned to using ethanol produced from sugarcane instead of pure gasoline, leading to one of the most eco-friendly forms of fuel worldwide.
Clearly, leapfrogging can take place within many industries, but it’s important to examine the underlying reasons and the conditions in which it frequently occurs. In some cases, it occurs naturally due to availability of a technology. For example, countries that may have had little access to internet previously may find that Wifi is easier to adopt, leading to a surge in internet capabilities. Alternatively, when there a lag in innovation exists, leapfrogging may occur deliberately when countries invest in the development of a new technology that then surpasses those of others. Simultaneously, more developed countries who have incrementally progressed in the same industry may not feel immediate pressure to invest in substantial innovation as their current system may seem as if it’s working. Either way, in order to be successful, the entire community must be open to adoption of new processes and share common goals.
Significant disparities exist between countries and communities within the education system. In some underdeveloped countries, many students hardly have the opportunity to readily learn math and literacy is often scarce. Schools within the same country can even see enormous variance when it comes to accessible resources and technologies being utilized. A recent KQED article explained that, without significant and innovative intervention, students in the poorest countries would take a century to catch up with those in richer countries.
While leapfrogging may be a term used most frequently in conjunction with technology and business, there is now a clear demand for this rapid development in education. The Brookings Institution cites “non-linear progress in education” through leapfrogging as a feasible method to intervene and help students catch up. They look at numerous examples that have already been put into practice along with innovative developments that could potentially be applied to the education system. Through this analysis, they believe leapfrogging should occur in three areas within academia: teaching and learning methods, progress tracking systems, and the tools and technology employed in education.
But, with such notable discrepancies among student schooling worldwide, will this be enough? The answer remains to be seen but, for now, it seems that leapfrogging is certainly a potential solution worth testing. The effort to facilitate equality in education is certainly not a small one, but it can be more easily achieved once the goals of all communities are aligned.
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