• The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted students’ education worldwide.
  • It also illustrated the possibilities for the future of learning.
  • The WorldClass Education Challenge builds upon Deloitte’s WorldClass initiative and helps advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 to provide a quality education for all.

Access to education is a right, not a privilege. But we know that’s not the reality for many of the world’s young people. And the pandemic has only further fueled the education inequalities sparked by socio-economic factors, gender and geographic location. As a result, we face an ever-widening achievement gap that threatens the diversity and capability of our future workforce.

At its peak, the pandemic affected an estimated 1.6 billion students worldwide. School closures were challenging enough. But for those without access to the internet and remote learning options, the loss of learning was profound. While the full, long-term effects of these learning impacts for students remain to be seen, the Asian Development Bank estimated that Asia’s students have lost approximately one-third of a year’s worth of learning, which in turn could cause students to lose an average of $180 per year in future annual earnings.

What will be harder to quantify, but no less serious, will be the pandemic’s effects on social emotional development and other “soft” skills. These repercussions could be greatly magnified for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

But, dire as the challenges have been, the past year revealed the ingenuity and creativity of educators who developed workarounds to the obstacles created by COVID-19. Thanks to the forward-looking and entrepreneurial solutions they developed, we have a real shot at getting more of today’s students the skills they need to be tomorrow’s leaders.

Investing in education solutions

To that end, Deloitte and the World Economic Forum have set out to identify and help advance the best of these education solutions. On May 12, Deloitte launched the WorldClass Education Challenge on the Forum’s UpLink platform. We will be prioritizing investing in organizations in Africa and Asia.

The challenge seeks to connect educators, entrepreneurs and innovators who are implementing novel learning approaches that have proven successful during the pandemic with Deloitte professionals who can help scale their solutions. The cohort selected will receive up to $1 million in professional services expertise and financial grants as well as be invited to participate in designated Forum and Deloitte events, projects and communities.

Outside-the-box learning approaches will be essential to not only overcoming the educational setbacks created by COVID-19, but to prepare students for the societal and workforce demands of tomorrow. The pandemic accelerated many emerging trends that will usher in untold changes – including the automation and digitization of positions or entire industries. To meet these shifting dynamics head-on, it will be imperative to equip today’s students with future-proof mentalities and skillsets that foster lifelong learning as well as prepare them for job demands that may not even exist yet.

The WorldClass Education Challenge builds on Deloitte’s WorldClass initiative, which aims to improve the lives of 100 million people through education and skill-building by 2030. By applying the skills and expertise of its professionals, Deloitte is helping individuals from underrepresented and marginalized groups to develop job skills, improve educational outcomes, and access opportunities for personal and professional advancement.

What types of solutions is the WorldClass Education Challenge seeking out that are capable of creating tomorrow’s educational opportunities at scale?

Recent work by One Young World (OYW), an organization dedicated to developing young professionals into future leaders who can solve the world’s toughest problems, and its partners demonstrates exactly the type of novel approaches and innovative thinking that will lead to positive change in education.

Take Ilana Milkes, for example. Her startup, World Tech Makers, is focused on addressing the digital skills gap in Colombia and throughout South America. Ilana’s organization pioneered coding and technology bootcamps in the region, to help individuals develop the skills necessary to compete in today’s job market. Further, World Tech is also focused on personalizing the learning experience with mobile learning systems that democratize education and empower learners. World Tech also facilitates connections between students and organizations interested in hiring or investing in their start-ups. To date, World Tech has empowered over 100,000 students in five countries, with a 100% job placement rate.

Or consider Arielle Kitio’s work in Cameroon. As the founder of Cameroon Youth School Tech Incubator (CAYSTI), her mission is to develop and promote innovative technological tools to provide access to quality education in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). The organization’s training center in Cameroon is dedicated to low-income students and refugees from neighboring countries. Through using ground-breaking coding tools and online education platforms, CAYSTI has trained over 350 teachers and 7,500 young people.

Ilana and Arielle exemplify the value of innovative solutions to educational challenges. Since its inception in 2017, WorldClass has aimed to nurture and scale these strategies, impacting the lives of 11.7 million people around the world to date. We believe the WorldClass Education Challenge will provide a critical opportunity to grow that impact exponentially.

For more information or to apply, visit the Forum’s UpLink WorldClass Education Challenge page here.