Global Literacy: The Open Brain Story
Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.
― Kofi Annan
Global literacy rates are rising, but not fast enough.
Even the United States ranks about 50th in overall literacy with a 99% percent literacy rate. In particular, the Arab states, South and West Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa have extremely low literacy rates. Of all the illiterate adults worldwide, two thirds are women. Increasing political and religious freedoms around the world are permitting better and more open access to reading, writing, and other educational materials, but we at the Open Brain Project believe more can be done, and it starts now. We are taking full advantage of technology and the ever proliferating internet at our fingertips to make high quality, peer-reviewed courses and educational resources available anywhere there is a basic internet connection and a computer.
Kofi Annan has said that literacy is a basic human right. It is one of the main things that separates us language users from the animals, one of the core concepts that allows our inherent human understandings of language and abstract symbols to completely flourish. People and cultures who don’t think literacy is an important enough skill to teach all their children, or can’t afford to, or whose governments restrict educational resources, are invariably stuck in a state of poverty and the problems associated with their late development persist. It is difficult for the culture’s youth to catch up the skills needed to attract foreign investments after an entire childhood of going to schools with few or no reading materials or text books, with instructors who are uneducated themselves, and then having your school blown up. Some children in developing nations can’t go to school or have to work instead. Whatever the case, these cultures always suffer from poverty and their children are never able to catch up the skills the workforce needs to attract high quality foreign investments.
For the last few years we have been researching global literacy and the potential for online education programs to deliver effective, high quality reading and teaching materials to parents and educators in developing nations with low literacy rates. We have found that teachers can’t be effective without good teaching tools, basic visual aids, and activities that reinforce the learning. Many do not have the resources to create their own learning tools or just do not know how, being themselves products of an education system that fell apart years ago or never developed to begin with. One of the Open Brain community’s primary goals is to establish a set of tools and resources that teachers in developing nations can use whether they are teaching reading, writing, math, science, or history. We are sensitive to the needs and limited logistical means of educators who have only the most basic physical resources at their disposal, so the information in the classes we design should be reproducible in the most basic classroom settings if needed. We are not suggesting that computers and internet are widely available in all areas of developing nations, but free access to internet exists. All of our materials should be able to be saved and downloadable, easily formatted and printed. We should donate paper and copy machines to schools that are in need.
What to do?
We are calling on the world community of educators and teaching experts to develop concise, easy to teach, easy to engage courses that teachers and amateur instructors can replicate for their students. We will establish best practices and have the community of teachers and experts peer-review the literacy teaching materials being developed, posited, and discussed on Open Brain www.openbrainproject.com. These low budget literacy projects and teaching tools need to be available in all languages, 10 times better and more interesting than Rosetta Stone, and free. We can have more than one type of effective learning systems. We are pragmatists here, whatever gets people reading and writing works. But this is only going to be possible with help from the experts out there.