The ECD Launchpad – fast tracking access to early learning solutions on mobile devices
Imagine every South African child was armed with the stimulating tools that they need for optimal early childhood development. A country where children received a rich and substantial education from birth, including at-home care by their parents, that would put them squarely on a path to pursue a plethora of opportunities. If learning barriers were to be eliminated, income inequality would be eased and every South African child would blossom into an adult unencumbered by anything but their own dreams and ambition. This is unfortunately not our South Africa, but steps need to be taken to make it our reality and that is precisely what The Reach Trust and The Innovation Edge are trying to achieve.
Our country’s schooling system is ranked poorly globally. Fewer than one percent of our school leaving matriculants achieve grades higher than the 70% required for consideration for STEM degrees. This failure in the system does not happen at a high or even primary school level, learners are hindered by holes in early childhood learning that forever challenge their future learning capabilities. The fact that at the end of Grade 4 more than half of South African children (even more in rural areas) still lack the ability to read for meaning indicates that the need for intervention beyond existing conventions is not something that can be debated.
The issues influencing these outcomes go beyond the classroom and lie in the socioeconomic and political realities of our country, but acknowledging that fact alone will not bring about the necessary change. Creative intervention is the answer, and this is where The Reach Trust and Innovation Edge’s ECD Launchpad comes in.
What is the ECD Launchpad?
The Reach Trust and Innovation Edge are partners in creating cost-effective mobile solutions that empower everyday South Africans to aid in their children’s early learning and childhood development. The ECD Launchpad is a means of making the development of these mobile solutions more streamlined, and thus faster. Essentially, a platform for creating apps has been formulated to optimise the overall development phase of creating any ECD-centered app.
A base infrastructure has been created to enable the repurposing and appropriation of core features vital for all apps of this nature. The apps, though connected by a shared foundation, will have design features that set them apart and make them independent, but they will also still form part of one ecosystem. The benefits of this approach are substantial.
Benefits of the ECD Launchpad
The fact that the wheel does not need to be reinvented with the production of every new app means there is a shorter turnaround time for development. This speaks to a more targeted and less costly process from conception to the launched app. As the apps are scaled, another opportunity presents itself – partner organisations can share best practice, resulting in earlier fine tuning of content and design and sharing of new ideas. The apps existing within one ecosystem means that user profile material can be shared between apps, which leads to lower onboarding and marketing costs because a user audience already exists. In the same vein, the experience for users becomes a more expansive journey.
A mother can start using Every Word Counts with their child when they are 2 years old, progress to CareUp for the years between 3 and 5, and graduate to MathsUp when the child is in Grade R. The user data this opportunity presents provides a means for a child’s progress to be developed before they even get to Grade 1, and provide a baseline for even further intervention. This addresses the culture of children falling through the cracks of our exclusionary educational system when intervention can have the greatest impact. And multiple other apps that focus on the holistic development of the child can now easily be developed on the Launchpad.
Impact of the Launchpad
The ECD Launchpad, together with its partners, has birthed four new apps in less than a year. CareUp, built in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Social Development and Wordworks, is a literacy pilot that sends bite sized daily activity ideas to parents and practitioners, is the app whose success set the wheels of the Launchpad in motion. In this ecosystem of apps are also MathsUp, Early Bird and a Wordworks app.
MathsUp, built together with Redink, is designed to improve the Maths development of children at Grade R level in South Africa. Its launch is in October, shortly after which it will be piloted in the Eastern Cape – the province with the lowest Matric Maths results in the country.
Birdseed by Early Bird is an inclusive educare model for workplaces that provides the same high quality ECD experience to the children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. And the Wordworks app is an extension of the successful Every Word Counts programme that supports the learning of babies and young children.
The Launchpad is founded on giving parents and practitioners the power to positively influence the early learning development of children in South Africa, and to set the country up for the better tomorrow it deserves. The Reach team is focused on addressing the needs of disadvantaged children by creating high quality literacy and numeracy mobile solutions that remove the cost aspect that locks these very children out of the early education opportunities they deserve.
Children that enter Grade 1 not at the same place developmentally as others, start the marathon that is education yards behind their peers and rarely close that gap. Initiatives like the Launchpad aim to ensure that the starting line is at the same for all of our children, meaning they all stand equal chance for every success.