Equipe CP 2018b

Our youth ambassadors at the 2017 Campus Party

A Free Education Portal: An Education Strategy for the 21st Century

Call for Innovations Call for Innovations
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

The Free Education platform is an open and collaborative learning space that seeks to awake the interest of Brazilian youth in their personal and professional development. It is a free, open platform, and its practical, interactive content is especially directed at lower income youths (between the ages of 16-24), that have not completed high school and do not have the necessary skills to find employment or interest in continuing their studies through formal education.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

42% of Brazilian youth do not graduate from school and lack the necessary skills and/or interest in continuing formal education that will help them become employed or entrepreneurs. This makes youth more vulnerable to poverty, entering illegal activities, emotional difficulties, among other issues. From the private-sector's perspective, Brazilian growth in the last decade has created new employment opportunities, but companies face significant difficulties recruiting minimally qualified youth. Without dramatic improvements in education and skills training, the country’s economic and social gains could be undermined.

To address this challenge, the government, industry and non-for profit sector are working together to close this skills gap, innovating the way educational contents are designed, produced, shared and learned.

The Free Education platform is an online-learning community. Its contents have been developed after carrying out several investigations regarding youth's interests, learning and social challenges, as well as skills gaps identified by various companies.

The lead organization, Industrial Social Service, has the advantage of working within the formal educational sector closely related to various government agencies and non-for profit organizations, but also being part of the Brazilian National Industrial System, a confederation of medium and large industries. It therefore has close ties with companies' employment processes, challenges and future prospects, which is a key element in identifying skills gaps and linking learning processes to real market needs.

There was a great deal of trial and error regarding content design and production and technological issues. After researching national and international current online learning platforms, nothing quite fit Brazilian youths’ and the industry's needs. Either the platforms were too complex, the contents were not related to specific skills gaps or were too similar to "formal educational formats" that were not attractive to youth.

This research enabled the project not only to identify exactly the pool of necessary skills that is need to improve personal and professional development, and the way these skills can be related in "learning trails or routes", but also the right formats and language to effectively engage target youth groups.

In this regard, the project experimented with developing its own contents with universities students, target youth groups, teachers and even theatre performers. The idea being that the platform increasingly becomes an open system where people can produce, curate, upload and interact around innovative contents produced from multiple sources, particularly young people themselves.

The platform was officially launched mid-2017 with a mixture of self-produced contents and existing contents curated through what is already freely available on the internet in primarily on YouTube channels. The contents are mainly short videos and small questionnaires, organised in specific learning "trails". Alternatively, these can be viewed freely by searching specific skills, making it simple to navigate the platform according to each person's needs and learning rhythm. The platform can collect data on each user's progress and direct content according to their needs.

As a collaborative community, the platform can engage volunteers, people of all ages that are interested in producing or curating contents or mentoring youths. A face-to-face mentoring scheme between company directors and target youth was piloted in 2017, as a useful tool to complement online learning with face-to-face learning a workplace environment.

In collaboration with companies, different job or apprentice opportunities are posted and users must pass custom-designed learning trails to be able to apply to that post. This has developed into an innovative selection process for companies that usefully have difficulties identifying and selecting this target group.

There are a number of future challenges:

1. Scaling-up the use of the platform. Today around 10.000 youths use the platform regularly. The goal is to reach at least 200.000 through a number of public-private sector partnerships and enhancing interaction with social media as the principle means of access and engagement.

2. Expanding learning resources, especially the custom-made learning trails associated to specific opportunities (scholarships, apprenticeships, jobs) and include tools for more collaborative learning and interaction.

3. Expand the content-producing community to include a wide range of people, and give target group youths tools to develop and share their own contents.

4. Guarantee financial and institutional sustainability through public-private partnerships. Today the project in financed by the Industrial Social Service, but as a useful tool for companies, NGOs and government agencies, the idea is for it to diversify is funding through projects and customised services that the platform can develop.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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Year: 2017
Level of government: National/Federal government

Status:

  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed

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