Of the nearly 650 million people living in Southeast Asia, 25.7 percent fall within the school-attending age group. Yet access to quality education remains limited and unevenly distributed across the region, for example, in Vietnam nearly 37 percent of youth at upper-secondary level are out of school. Furthermore, even students who do attend school are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and math with only 78 percent of children completing basic education in the Philippines and 55 percent of Indonesian 15 year-olds considered functionally illiterate. These inequities were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, as an estimated over 150 million children were impacted by school closures in the region.
At the same time, Covid-19 dramatically transformed the delivery of education through remote learning and accelerated the demand for edtech capabilities—from e-learning apps to language and digital collaboration tools. In fact, it is estimated that 135 million school children across the region would have lost access to education without home-based learning, preventing significant implications for long-term, downstream effects on development and economic opportunities. Still, the pandemic highlighted the drastic digital divide and varying levels of internet penetration in the region including less than 60 percent internet penetration in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Looking beyond the pandemic, technology presents an opportunity to enhance aspects of the education process and complement the work of educators. This potential has been thrust to the fore over the course of the last year, with students around the world reliant on remote learning amidst prolonged school closures—exposing the digital divide that persists. It has also revealed the enormity of the challenge in using technology at scale to support the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ for whom consistent access to reliable learning technologies remains a far-off aspiration.
To that end, the Octava Social Innovation Challenge is seeking accessible and affordable edtech solutions focused on underserved K-12 learners that utilize evidence-based educational content informed by the science of learning and are aligned with curriculum outcomes. The Challenge seeks solutions that are operating in at least one of Octava Foundation’s target countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and/or Vietnam), and address one or more of the following dimensions:
- Increase equitable access to quality learning opportunities through open-sourced, offline, or virtual models, especially for underserved learners in low connectivity environments
- Improve literacy, numeracy, and social emotional learning milestones while supporting a diverse range of learning pace and styles
- Strengthen delivery of STEM and 21st century skills for learners to effectively build work readiness
- Support educators, school leaders, and other system stakeholders including through adaptive learning management systems, too personalized instruction, and access to professional development and training opportunities
Finalists will be invited to a pitch event to present their solutions in front of distinguished judges. A total pool of $500,000 in prize funding is available for up to 8 selected winners of the Challenge. Each winning solution will receive a minimum of $50,000.
In addition to funding, each Challenge winner will participate in a ten-month tailored support program run by MIT Solve and the Octava Foundation that will include:
- A comprehensive needs assessment to determine what resources and support are most appropriate in order to accelerate your impact
- Access to a network of resource partners, mentors, and coaches across industries and sectors
- Learning and development modules aimed at refining your business model, theory of change, and plans for scaling
- Invitation to participate in Solve’s annual flagship Solve at MIT event (held in May each year)
- A monitoring and evaluation track to support you in building your impact measurement practice
- A peer-to-peer network to build a community of practice with dedicated spaces to convene throughout the duration of the support program