We make games to teach children English and computer skills to give them a better chance in life. We believe that children love to play and that playful learning provides better learning experiences. Children that live in situations where educational materials are not freely available and where good teachers are hard to find can use our games to teach themselves.
Long version: Why do we want to combat illiteracy?
Poverty and illiteracy are twin sisters. In their combination these twin sisters are responsible for the fact that more than 20% of the world population lives in miserable circumstances. People who are poor and illiterate do not have a reasonable chance to escape the oppression of these terrible twin sisters during their lifetime. They are doomed to live their lives in misery.
As it is impossible for us to combat both poverty and illiteracy at the same time, we have decided to combat only one of them: illiteracy. By defeating illiteracy we want to break the fatal combination of the twin sisters.
We believe that people, who have been born in poverty but have obtained literacy as a child, will have a reasonable chance to also escape poverty later.
How to achieve this?
The first condition for obtaining literacy is establishing a basis of communication. Communication can only be achieved when there is some kind of language which is common to the communicating persons. So if we want children to become literate, then, the first thing they must learn is one or more languages that enable them to communicate with literate people by conversing, reading and writing. Undoubtedly English is nowadays the most dominant common language in the world and it is certain that this leading position will increase rapidly with the rise of the Internet. Proficiency in English will give the children access to the Internet which is an invaluable source of information and at the same time a medium for communication with people all over the world.
Thus it is our first aim to teach children English. However, this does not mean that we underestimate the importance of learning national and regional languages for obtaining literacy and maintaining communication on national and regional level. In a later stage, when we have finalized and tested our English program, it is our ambition to expand it and also use it to tutor the children in their national and regional languages as well. Experience and research shows that children are capable of learning three languages simultaneously if teaching begins early enough.
There are two major obstacles to teaching the poorest and most disadvantaged children in developing countries, particularly tribal children. The first is that there are no facilities such as school buildings, books, boards, pencils etc. The second is that there are too few teachers or no teachers at all. This problem is often neglected in discussions about this subject but is perhaps even more important than the first. Not only are teachers not available but even if they are, their abilities are lacking. Their knowledge is hardly greater than that of the children they are teaching. Using modern electronic devices and methods is an attempt on our part to overcome both obstacles.
We are confident that the use of multimedia devices during the early stages of language learning will fill the gap left by a lack of educational facilities. We are also confident that our multimedia programs will make teachers unnecessary. Rather, the programs which will enable the children to teach themselves. The only supervision required is that the devices are used by the children in an organized way and that they are well maintained. The supervisors do not need to be literate themselves. By ensuring children are able to learn English independently of teachers, the project aims to remove an important obstacle facing disadvantaged youth.
What makes our games and installations different?
There are several differences
Existing language programs are made for children who have already learned a mother tongue. Using this mother tongue the programs teach them a second language. Our games and installations are unique as they do not use any mother tongue. They teach English directly by using pictures, symbols, little movies, little games etc. There is no other language used in the program than English. We have a very good reason for this as most of the children in our target audience live in tribes with their own distinct languages and dialects. They live in tribal communities in remote and scattered areas in developing countries all over the world. In India alone the number of tribal people is estimated at 90 million. These tribal people, who are discriminated everywhere, are the poorest and most backward people in the world. We want to make a program that can even be used by children who belong to those tribes.
In our games and installations children will not only learn to understand and speak, but also to read. When they are older and can already understand, speak and read, they will also learn (type)writing.
It has been established in practice that:
Children have an astonishing aptitude for learning languages. They can even learn several languages fluently at the same time. The earlier the learning begins, the better. In fact, aptitude for learning gradually decreases until children are 6 years old. After that age, it becomes much more difficult.
In addition to learning to understand and speak a new language, children can also learn to read them at the same time without much extra effort. (Type)writing is more complicated but may also be learned at a later stage.
Children not only have an astonishing aptitude for languages, they also have a seemingly natural ability for handling electronic devices like computers. The only effective way to teach young children is through teaching programs that attract their curiosity and excite them. Language learning is more likely when the experience is enjoyable and children can interact with a pleasant interface.
They will not need a teacher and will learn by playing. Our games and installations are based on these principles and we are confident of its success.