TED Conversations

Qamar Riaz

Deputy Director Audit , Auditor General of Pakistan

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Universal Network of Education

Today, mankind has invented live and interactive video links to vend values across borders. Incredible storage space for data, swift communication through satellite links, globally available computer chips and communities to work for same cause. If all this technology development and community mobilization is employed to develop a Universal Network of Education the goal of “Education for All” can be realized.
If we can generate similar universal learning activities(Say a-z coaching classes) at the base which produce identical out puts (Virtual Videos) and these outputs ensure single outcome (better learning) the goal (education for all ) can be contributed significantly.
Lets see the above logic of idea to a much smaller scale such as town. If we go down to a town level where say 20000 kids are out of school somewhere in third world. We aim to develop a Town Education Network, Where a town owned community school is run by a Town Educational Committee, All resources are put into a pool to transmit this school live on local tv, internet etc. If only 2000 people ensure identification and registration of only 10 kids each on this local network, the target becomes so easy to achieve. The community ensures every kid is registered with this local network and an independent assessment committee evaluates the students through on line tests. This may sound achievable for local community. All such communities will be linked to national network and all national networks will be plugged into regional networks and finally these make a universal education network.
I propose this as a solution for millions of kids who are out of school right now and this online universal school may help UN to achieve its MDG of Education for All by 2015 by enrolling every kid to this universal school with the help of community.
A global virtual conference may be starting step towards Universal Education Declaration.

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  • Jul 13 2013: There has been a start on such a universal system through so called MOOCS which aim to show free lectures on just about everything online. Its a good idea but can never replace actual universities where individual tutoring and group interaction is also needed.
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      Jul 14 2013: Frank, i think technology has enabled us to have individual tutoring and group interactions with extremely reduced costs. You are right, actual universities will never be replaced by such system. I am just proposing to develop a strong networking among all these institutes.
      Further, i feel that in Higher Education, teachers only facilitate learning process and this will be more interactive if technology is employed to disseminate knowledge. And i think, if a Teacher in Europe gives an outstanding lecture on Particle Physics to say 100 students every week. Do you feel that students in Africa or else where in the world must travel to Europe to attend this lecture? Or we can provide world an access to his class room through technology or record his brilliance in video or put him live on our network for interactive lecture.
      I think technology based access will certainly reduce the migration and other associated costs and for our coming generations we should record videos to learn rather writing history to read.
      • Jul 14 2013: Such approaches to learning are ok but universities also act in other ways, a new socialisation takes place, a new independence as well especially if the student travels and lives away from their parents. The interaction with other students builds new relationships and individuality, gradually the student becomes an independent person in their own right. Then there is the example the teachers at university can provide, their character and especially the sense of an intellectual atmosphere, all these things are of value.
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          Jul 15 2013: Frank, no one can deny the importance of universities. However, i am suggesting to build a universal education system which will take start from toddlers and gradually build itself towards higher education. I feel, today if millions of kids are not at schools, we are all responsible for it and we have to think for them and take some appropriate measures to at least teach them basics.
          I have seen them eating garbage, playing with industrial waste, wasting their childhood in begging and living miserably. So i felt for them and now proposing a universal agenda for these kids.
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      Jul 14 2013: "Its a good idea but can never replace actual universities where individual tutoring and group interaction is also needed."

      You'd be surprised how bad at teaching, universities are. A lot of these guys are professors or researchers who don't really give a shit about teaching, they just want to do research, but it's the school that required these people to teach semester courses or else they're fired. Almost none of them know how to teach, and they think way too technically. So things that appear to common sense to them, is gibberish to most students.

      At least that's what goes on at my school, Georgia Tech. Do you know how we studied for Calculus exams or where we consulted to for help?

      The internet.

      We looked at KhanAcademy videos, we looked for Youtube videos, we read articles that articulate the concepts very well. Almost 0 learning comes from the lectures. People go facebooking or sleeping or just straight up skipping because there's nothing to engage with.

      But yes, universities are still pretty irreplaceable, HOWEVER, a closer look, you really see that 70% of the learning pretty much comes from those online resources, and like 30% from talking with others, tutoring outside of class, and hands-on experience, or just reading the textbooks because even though they still suck in my opinion, they do a better job explaining than most of the university professors, which is really sad.
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        Jul 14 2013: James, your experience at Georgia Tech is not different than my experience at my university. During my Engineering studies, i never gained much in class rooms but through self exploration.
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          Jul 14 2013: But what initiates self exploration?

          Interest.

          That is the PRIMARY goal for lectures and classrooms, and the teaching takes care of itself.
  • Jul 13 2013: Let me fill in some gaps to my previous comment.
    First of all, it would be very difficult to broadcast a generic teaching program to a bunch of kids who are never exposed to such experience. Secondly, even if a girl has a TV or Computer in the family, she may not have the skill to navigate, or is not allowed, to watch the program at the designated time or the designated channel. Therefore, the better approach would be that a small "classroom " is arranged in each village, so the "student could attend there with only 1 or 2 volunteers to assist them,if necessary.
    This kind of project should actually better start small, then gradually expand by word of mouth, if they are successful. In other word, the "students" will come in grooves without urging if the program is proven successful.
    Also, the "certification" mentioned in my previous post would not be equivalent as a diploma, nevertheless it should serve the purpose of confirming the effort of the network as well as the individual "students" for their devotion and achievement.
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      Jul 14 2013: Bart. you are right we need to develop a pilot program initially for much small scale, to understand the operational hurdles and response of community. And i feel one community owned class room must be opened in every country in pilot phase.
      Assessment through certification is not a bad idea. Like we can have periodic assessment to verify the progress of learning and final grade certification to advance the students in next higher grade environment.
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    Jul 18 2013: Universal Network of Education aims outreaching millions out of school poor children from poor communities during next 5 years and educates them through information technology based informal interventions.
    In its chase to accomplish the ideals of education for all, the project has three strategic areas i.e. collaboration with major players working for education in world, enhancing community mobilization for education and increasing access to quality education
    1. Enhance collaboration with other education organizations for child education
    2. Enhance Community Mobilization about child education
    3. Increase Access to Quality Education
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    Jul 14 2013: A timely subject Qamar! I did not understand everything you wrote.
    I'm also interested in getting a universal network of education. Especially something that can help those that do not have a class room. can you explain with the universal example then?
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      Jul 15 2013: Manishka Windweaver, the most difficult thing is to explain the dream or vision. To me, the biggest problem around is ignorance and above all culture of ignorance. To me all vicious circles somehow end up with ignorance e.g. Poverty and Ignorance, Terrorism and Ignorance, Extremism and Ignorance etc.
      Let me put it in simple words. Suppose there are nomads who are living below poverty line some where in India. They are travelling and finding temporary shelters around. They cant afford to send their kids to school therefore their kids will never learn the skills to become skillful to compete the world. They ll remain poor as their parents are forever. So see the circle of poverty and ignorance. One is poor therefore cant afford education and if wont receive education will remain poor. Same is true for other vicious circles.
      I am proposing a model where world is helping these kids to come out of this vicious circle with the help of technology. A 5 years old kid, say in US, is learning how to teeth brush and keep his/her teeth healthy. With the help of Universal Network of Education, this learning process can be shown to the poor kids in India with the help of Manishka. What Manishka is doing, Identifying only 10 kids, helping them to get registered with our network and facilitate 1 hour class on her laptop or Tv. This way, we establish a universal network where kids will at least learn the basic skills. Suppose you let them learn for 1 hour daily for 5 years, it amounts 1825 hours of learning in the lives of kids who otherwise spend these hours in non productive activities.
      I know this example raises some fundamental questions about the process. I welcome all those questions. Please dont jump into setting goals and objectives, lets spend some time in understanding the problem first. Thanks
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        Jul 16 2013: I've been working on my own goals and objectives for several years now just like every teacher out there. There are many working on understanding the problem in quantitative ways already out there. Concerted effort would be great, however, wars and terrorism will always disengage regions from any official treaties. Being better prepared with contingency plans to continue education in such situations would be good.

        The circles of poverty, nomadism, extremism, would all benefit from having the existing teachers equipped with entire curriculums saved on electronic media. Curriculums will continuously evolve in countries that put effort into research. Being prepared with any curriculum is better than being stuck without any at all.

        getting a network to identify children who need education would be a great thing. It can be started immediately on a small scale and it can evolve.

        anyway, best of luck.
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          Jul 16 2013: Manishka, the identification can be started but i think if network is not ready to teach these kids, the identification will serve no purpose. Once we have designed at least course for 1 year, identification process should not be initiated.
          I hope if you could share your thoughts about these out of school kids in your country, it will be of great use for us.
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        Jul 16 2013: very very large poverty/ignorance cycle. oopps gotta go, work, will elaborate tomorrow
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        Jul 17 2013: ok, so anyway, yes identifying kids without having anything prepared is a waste of time. unless you're doing research into what they need.

        I'm working on something slightly different which is to get content into electronic media that doesn't require internet connections, or international agreements, something that can be passed along without having official school attendance, and trying to push the limits on reducing the number of professionals needed to get certification.

        good luck with your venture.
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    Jul 14 2013: I envision appealing International Development Agencies, Governments, Local NGOs, International NGOs, Existing School Networks, Media Groups and Educational Charity Based Foundations to develop a consortium to achieve the ideals of quality education in world. The idea of developing consensus among stakeholders about education cause needs to be consolidated into concept note. This project will aim to invite all possible donors to become the part of innovative consortium which will act as common pool of resources to achieve desired objectives. Resource pool consists of seeding funds, unrestricted grants, material support, expert human resource and administrative support.
  • Jul 13 2013: I just read a news report that a girl from Pakistan; Malala Yousafzai, has given a speech in the UN, For her goal of promoting girls' education in Pakistan. I feel sad that such an obvious good goal and policy had to be be raised by a 16 year old girl who had suffered greatly for her opinion. I am all for such proposal or the endeavor to establish the networks.
    A more practical approach would be a network of district entities which will mange the TV/internet channels to broadcast such education curriculum AND MANAGE THE TESTING AND CERTIFICATION OF SUCH PROGRAMS. The teaching materials can be easily collected or modified from outside sources with broadcasting teaching experiences, and translated into appropriate languages, if necessary, by the local groups. Of course, the local group should design/write certain materials which are unique for the country or the region.
    Finally, let me say a few words about the freedom of speech and education in a democracy. The citizens must not be deterred by terrorists for the sake of improvement of education and human rights. All free citizens have to stand up to the pressure like Malala did, otherwise there could be no hope.
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      Jul 13 2013: In Pakistan, state of education is in dismay. The gravity of situation can be traced in alarming indicators of education reported back in late nineties. According to the 1998 provincial population census reports, the school age population of the age group 5-9 years was more than 20 million. Of this about 11 million (57%) never attended school (Memon, 2007). After 14 years those 11 million illiterate are now the feed of Pakistan’s labor markets. This presents a bleak picture of productivity and human capital for knowledge industry. Recent research indicates that 25 million children are out of school and yet 7 million children have to receive any formal education. If these children are not identified and educated, in coming ten years Pakistan will bear the burden of unproductive and unskilled labor force.
      We completely support Malala and committed to bring change through our innovative education network. We need your valuable support and guidance to develop this project.
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      Jul 14 2013: This sounds to me like a normal classroom, broadcasting a program because of a lack of teachers or funding.
      • Jul 15 2013: That's exactly what I meant in my post. You must understand that it is impossible for the Pakistan government or private businesses to finance such large number of schools within a short period (so that many poor people can afford to have their children to learn, actually to reach a high school graduate level, not university level), through electronic media. I personally don't advocate that university or professional school education can be done in this way.
        This arrangement would be better managed by at least consolidating the media equipments and keeping some record of attendance than broadcasting the programs into individual homes which may not be reachable without someone to donate such equipments to most of the homes.
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          Jul 15 2013: I agree with you Bart, in that financing is a problem for a very proportion of the world, and I have something in mind. I haven't figured out all the details yet.

          The goals I'm setting are:
          1. no classroom attendance required
          2. No teacher required
          3. Learn at your own pace
          4. measurable results
          5. offer variety
          6. extremely interesting so that the child or adult will be motivated to continue once introduced
          7. Covers k-12 levels in English, Regional language, Math, History, Geography, Biology, Zoology, Chemistry, Physics, Life skills, Human Rights, computer science. (to be expanded when possible)
          8.Structured

          My first thought was to have a single really addictive online game like Everquest to cover a person's whole education. But I can't program, so other than suggesting it to the right people, there's nothing I can personally do to realize it.

          What I can do is to find the nearest approximation.
          The resources already available are: Curriculum standards that are pretty much standard world wide, TV shows, apps, computer games, you tube videos.

          I can compile collections of these in order and put together modules of a year, a month, a week and put them online. Khan academy has this started already, but I would expand it. people have different perspectives, so having 3 or 4 different explanations by different people might help. also format such as tv shows, games need to be included for each concept. The games are actually practice exercises aren't they.

          With this base, get some help finding funding to put these on memory cards, pen drives, cell phones, talk to the one laptop per child guy about distributing computers through us without established classrooms.

          Establish testing centers/ lending libraries in areas where internet access is restricted and in poor neighborhoods.

          Having classrooms would of course be great, but as we have seen in cases such as Malala, it may not always be safe. That's why I say no requirement of having a particular place to go.
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    Jul 13 2013: Open (Source) Education ftw!

    But Qamar, I can tell you thought this through incredibly hard, any company or job will respect your passion for this, or else they're retarded, but that's ok, retarded companies don't last long in the marketplace.

    So I'm afraid this was a little too technical for most people. I kind of understood it, but only having read through a few times what your idea was.

    So here's the underlying problem that you'll need to figure out for yourself.

    How can you engage us on your idea? A lot of Ted people here are very good at listening, but not a lot of people out there are like Ted people.

    You can PM me if you need some help :)
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      Jul 13 2013: Dear James, Thanks for your inputs and i am glad that you got it at last. I tried to explain it as simple as possible. The vertical logic of the project is simplified and Town example was given for people who can not grasp it for whole world. Initially i wrote the global example then i thought it would be difficult for some people to understand.
      However, i ll explain the idea in more simplified version.
      Stick around please
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        Jul 13 2013: Lol no problem, I've decided to take a day off and just chill on my computer almost all day.
  • Aug 11 2013: How is this system going to overcome the cultural differences which makes communication very difficult? Back in the Sixties, the UN supported the development of standard signs for the world. They had to give up on color, certain symbols, and discussion of the symbol for man and woman took months and still caused major problems in several countries.
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    Jul 22 2013: I am trying to expand the discussion further in Project Designing.

    For this universal education network we are following a logic which is very simple and incorporates theory of change (TOC, you can google it for better understanding)
    The vertical logic strats with the proposition that goal will be contributed if pre-conditions are met( or outcomes realized). Outcomes will be realized are achieved if strategic objectives are met. Strategic Objectives will be achieved if universal activities are carried out. Activities for such larger scale will be carried out if unified inputs(Capital+HR) will be made available.
    Goal
    Pre-Conditions(Outcomes which must be achieved for contribution in Goal)
    Strategic Objectives to achieve above outcomes
    Activities (Project Interventions)
    Inputs.

    So Far we have developed top two area i.e. Goal and Pre-conditions. You can go through this conservation for understanding this apparently complex project which we are trying to make as simple as possible for you. Thanks
  • Jul 17 2013: Let me make a brief comment which probably is related to the most timely and geographically relevant to your network education plan.
    Before you finalize the entire course content, be sure to send your staff out to talk to several small and medium size businesses and other institutions as to what kind of skills they would like their hiring any temporary help summer employees or young trainees to be suitable for their recruiting preference. Isn't this the most effective bases for your planning guidelines? Furthermore, even if we hope that some of the student might be able to start as a young entrepreneur, still in most past history, most young entrepreneurs started with gaining skills and confidence through their work experience.
    Because I really can't be familiar with the situation in your region or country, thus it is more appropriate to start the "opinion survey" in your place. The sample size needs not be too large, but rather needs to cover a reasonable types of potential employers. As I mentioned in my comment about the number of classrooms (it doesn't have to be too many anyway), it is more convenient to make the survey locally in areas where you have already recruited the volunteers to work for this program.
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    Jul 16 2013: Bart,
    Your suggestions are very valuables and you shared your experience which if children can see in the form of 1 hour lecture video in Pakistan, they would definitely be amazed about your experience. Infact, i am always a strong advocate for informal education.
    Your point is well considered in which you suggested to focus on entrepreneurship learning in high school. Which we ll include in the recommendations for curriculum committee. We have however always considered that a kid after 5 years of informal learning must be able to keep his expense sheet on our network, which will be key performance indicator about his skills in math and finance.
    We are going to educate these kids through technology, so our educated kid will be able to take notes on a digital note book and ll demonstrate practically how to seek information from internet and how to select from information and paste it in his notebook. So technology is at the core of our learning theory.
    Your 3rd point is also very important as we are going to teach them basic skills about contacting the world through email or text messages and how to describe different situations.
    I ll be very glad, if you please narrate a more about out of school kids in your country or community.
  • Jul 16 2013: Let me offer my 2-cents worth of opinion here:
    The education of children in high schools anywhere, especially in Pakistan, should be aimed at knowledge of practical skill to be able to operate a small business or services in the immediate area of the students' village. I would suggest the following subject areas:
    1. The handling of money for a small business, such as how to get a bank loan and how to handle the purchase and the sale of commodities. Or how to determine the charge rate for a service rendered, etc. Also they must have a little knowledge of the government regulation on small business and the taxes on their income. All these things might not be needed for the preparation for college education, but they would be more beneficial for the students who wouldn't get to the colleges immediately. I myself quit school at the age of 14, but, believe me, when I finally went back to college/graduate school, the knowledge I acquired through my work experience still helped me tremendously. In other words, these life experience/skill will always be beneficial in life regardless whether one has a college education or not.
    2. Some "knowledge" of the new technology is also helpful, which can be introduced through visual demonstrations.
    3. Of course, language skills are extremely important, not necessarily in literature, but in the skill of verbal or text communication with the others.
    In summary, you should carefully choose the video edu materials (from all the sources) as a generalized (non-profession-specific) vocational education rather than preparation for colleges. Of course, you should make up a special module for the general citizenship duties/obligations for Pakistanis only.
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      Jul 16 2013: Thanks Deepak for your prayers. I wish if you could help us in designing the project logic. ?
  • Jul 15 2013: Sugata Mitra is keynote at The Conference, 2013; he is speaking on 'The Future of Education'.

    The event is an innovative (not-for-profit) educational conference for teachers on October 19th. www.contemporarylearning.net. @contemplearn #CLConference.

    Professor Guy Claxton, Phil Beadle and Brian Ashton MBE (among others) are also all talking at what will be a fantastic CPD event for educators at all levels.

    Book now to avoid disappointment. If The Network (currently under construction) can help your vision for global education then please let me know.
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      Jul 16 2013: Your site mentioned does not provide any useful information about network.
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    Jul 15 2013: I propose that this project may be divided into different phases.

    Phase 1- Development of Consensus among nations about out of school kids

    Outcome: Agreement on Universal Education Policy and Consensus on allocating desired Resources

    Out Puts: Universal Education Policy Document and Detailed Project Planning Document

    Major Activities: Universal Education Conference

    Detailed Activities: Raising awareness through Media Campaigns for universal consensus, Preparing Agenda for Universal Conference through Documentaries, Movies, Books and Community projects to pave way for consensus among stakeholders.

    Description:
    As a starting point, a project may be initiated as a Pilot Program in different regions of the world to identify the educational problem of these kids who don’t go to school. As international development agencies like USAID, DFID etc are already working on this global issue, they can act as catalyst of change in this regard. A regional conference may bring all stakeholders on same pitch. These regional and national efforts may become a foundation for Universal system of education. All countries may be asked to prepare their educational emergency response fund to cater the needs of these out of school kids. A collective effort and agenda will definitely contribute towards increasing access to quality education for these kids.
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    Jul 15 2013: For better understanding i am trying to put up things in a vertical logic.
    "Universal Network of Education to provide free access to quality education to all" may be our Goal which is at the top of this logic.
    Pre-Conditions which may ensure the achievement of this goal and have to be in place in this vertical logic may be as follows
    1. Universal Education Curriculum in all possible languages
    2. An online Website solution which ensures availability of courses and materials
    3. A virtual video network dedicated to ensure linking with all stakeholders
    4. A universal technical team of experts to ensure smooth functioning of network
    5. Worldwide registration of Kids with Network
    6. A dedicated community of universal teachers
    7. Universal Evaluation and Assessment Committee
    ( there can be more, please suggest if you think alike)
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    Jul 13 2013: Some people say that identification of 1 million kids sounds impossible. I feel, if 100,000 people take this job to identify only 10 kids, the target will be achieved in one day (100,00x10=1 million). These kids can be found in segments which are poor and living in slums. So individual target is only 10 kids and i found these kids in a day which are out of school. I found them in my poor relatives, in nomads living just outside my town and in slums of my city.
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      Jul 13 2013: It's not impossible at all.

      1 kid can identify himself and pass on the message to 5 more people they know. This kind of shit happens on Facebook all the time lol. I think that's what you've been trying to say, is it not?
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        Jul 13 2013: Sir, i am talking about the kids who never attended any school what to talk about facebook. These kids are unaware about internet. The community workers have to extend their hands to introduce them to network.
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          Jul 13 2013: Let's play a game.

          The rules are simple.

          1. Send me a letter stating your name and date of birth. My address is 1234 SomeAddress.
          2. Tell five more people you know to do the same.


          This is how information on social media spreads so fast. Word of mouth to a small number of people.
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    Jul 13 2013: Would it not be preferable to provide more flexibility in the offerings learners can tap rather than having a single uniform offering?
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      Jul 13 2013: Dear Reisner, The problem statement says there are 28 million children out of school live in the world's conflict zones, and more than half of those are women and girls. The first challenge is to identify these out of school kids. Alone in Pakistan 7 million kids are out of school with age group (4-9), in Pakistan there are more than 120 districts and if every district makes such a community network we ll have more than 120 class room experiences available for a newcomer to choose, to compare and to learn from these online class rooms.
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        Jul 13 2013: I wish you the greatest success in reaching these many children.
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          Jul 13 2013: Thanks for your wish :)