Education and Skills

In Haiti, a bold project for education is delivering results

Haiti's learners face a variety of challenges in accessing education — but this bold new project seeks to remedy that.

Haiti's learners face a variety of challenges in accessing education — but this bold new project seeks to remedy that. Image: REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Jean-Claude Brizard
President and CEO, Digital Promise
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Dominican Republic

  • Haiti's learners face a variety of challenges and obstacles to accessing the education that is their right.
  • But this bold project, which employs blended learning, technology and hyper-local community involvement, is promising to change that.
  • This is a model that could be employed in other challenging educational contexts the world over.

I was born in Haiti and came to the United States when I was 11 years old. Haiti is a beautiful country, and my childhood, in many ways, was terrific. However, I have also seen first-hand the challenges facing the Haitian education system, including low enrollment, poor literacy rates and a shortage of trained teachers.

While the right to education is enshrined in Haiti’s constitution and highly valued by Haitians, schools still reflect Haiti’s colonial past. Traditional, lecture-based instruction, lessons delivered in French rather than students’ native Creole and a deficit-based rather than culturally-affirming curriculum are all the norm.

Moreover, faced with numerous disruptions due to COVID-19, natural disasters and ongoing political unrest, the majority of Haitians lack devices and internet access that would allow them to transition to remote or hybrid learning. Given these challenges and volatility, many funders have been hesitant to invest in Haiti’s largely non-public education system.

But, amidst these harsh realities facing Haiti, what would happen if we equipped Haitian students, educators and communities with the necessary tools to ensure continuous, high-quality education?

Have you read?

Partnering for education in Haiti

Digital Promise joined forces with a consortium of partners, including Anseye Pou Ayiti (APA), Blue Butterfly, Model School Network (MSN) and Summits Education, to answer this question.

The result? Introducing a pilot project around blended learning, which combines digital and face-to-face instruction, to 12 rural primary schools.

“Haiti is one of the few countries in the world where teaching and learning still take place in the traditional way. We have always experienced natural disasters and political unrest that hinder the smooth running of schools. So, it’s important to bring this new project, which combines technological tools and active pedagogy, to make learning more meaningful for students, because the world is changing.”

Olles Honorat, Coaches’ Supervisor, Model School Network

Here's how the project works.

Since September 2022, these organizations have taken a three-pronged approach that trains Haitian educators to deliver high-quality learning using technology and tools, makes culturally relevant digital content more accessible and improves schools’ access to electricity and connectivity. This has included introducing solar power, devices and classroom speakers to help teachers deliver active science learning in students’ mother tongue of Haitian Creole.

"We are thrilled that our Eksploratoryòm science series is reaching even more children through the blended learning pilot. Project partners share our commitment to elevating teaching and learning in Haiti by delivering high-quality, culturally relevant educational resources."

Bessy Marie-Aure Jeudilus, Program Coordinator, Lakou Kajou

Lessons from delivering blended learning in Haiti

Over the course of the project, we have learned some important lessons — many of which have broad applications for digital learning in other remote contexts:

1. Focus on cost-effective, sustainable solutions

Because infrastructure and technology can be prohibitively expensive, avoid starting work that cannot be sustained. For example, we are testing Learning Equality’s open-source, offline-first Kolibri platform as a cost-effective and scalable tool that can be used by administrators, teachers and students across Haiti, including at schools without internet access.

2. Emphasize local capacity building

Take a hyper-local approach that taps into community wisdom and local talent pools. In Haiti, that has looked like recruiting staff in the rural zones where schools are located and developing educators’ capacity around the technologies we have put in place.

3. Build on existing assets and community partnerships

Look to existing networks and assets in local communities versus building something entirely new. We have learned the value of engaging the pilot communities deeply throughout the process of planning, implementation and improvement in order to set realistic expectations and put community members in the decision-making seat.

4. Scale deeply before scaling broadly.

Growth is not a numbers game; it’s about scaling impact through community partnership. Anseye Pou Ayiti defines scaling impact as looking inward and “going deep” — harnessing the power and wisdom of communities, connecting strongly in the classrooms and across history and culture and systematically developing a diverse network of allies.

“We’re not in a rush to prove ourselves, because we know we’re facing a mountain and need to pace ourselves with a marathon mindset. We’ll leave no stones unturned and have no students treated as experiments.”

Nedgine Paul Deroly, CEO and Co-Founder, Anseye Pou Ayiti

The first year of the pilot shows that this blended learning approach holds promise. We have found improvements in educators’ blended learning knowledge and skills, broad satisfaction with the digital learning tools and a positive impact on students’ engagement and learning. Use of the Eksploratoryòm curriculum has also led to statistically significant learning gains, especially for those students whose baseline knowledge was lowest.

“The project’s main contribution to learning lies in its ability to personalize teaching and extend the learning time available. It also encourages interaction and collaboration between learners. The use of digital technology enables the teacher to play a coaching role, offering a less restrictive learning approach that can extend beyond the classroom.”

Walter Seraphin, Teacher, Model School Network

Applying the Haiti experience abroad

While scaling deeply within communities has been a top priority, we also know that this work has the potential to create a broader impact. Networks like the EDISON Alliance play a key role in helping us to communicate and codify our work. We’ve also had opportunities to learn from similar initiatives in other countries, build supportive partnerships and ensure that others can build on our work. Ultimately, our hope is that this pilot will inform the work moving forward for education in Haiti and provide lessons for similar contexts around the world.

Through decades of working in education, I’ve learned that technology, when used strategically, has the power to “leapfrog” inequities and dismantle opportunity gaps. Our work in Haiti is a testament to this vision. Amidst what some may see as insurmountable challenges, we have seen how blended learning might help us to solve longstanding educational challenges.

In Haiti and around the world, this approach is moving us closer to a future where digital transformation is delivering equitable opportunities and outcomes for this generation — and those that follow.

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