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Early learning at scale

Closing the global opportunity gap; making high quality preschool education accessible to all children.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

The lack of educational infrastructure can cause long-term disruption of academic learning for preschool children living in refugee situations as it can demand one-size-fits-all teaching methods. Parents keeping girls at home, perhaps to protect them, can result in a lack of knowledge that is hard to recoup. At EIDU we want to solve this. Our mission is to diminish the global opportunity gap by providing smartphone based, personalised education to kids in challenging situations.

Explain your innovation.

We are creating an early learning system, based around a smartphone app. The app is unique in that it enables autonomous, personalised preschool learning at scale. The app: - Has a simple, child-friendly, language-free interface - Is adaptive – personalised to each child - Is easy to use for parents and teachers - Provides feedback to parents and teachers on each child’s progress - Requires no, or little, Internet access You can download an early version of the app from Google Play: The app is structured as a collection of games – small, engaging activities that teach one or a few mathematical skills. As an example our Spaceship exercises teach kids about number value and cardinality. The curriculum of the app currently focuses on: - pre-numeracy skills (patterning, classification, categorisation and logical reasoning) - early numeracy (counting, one-to-one correspondence, cardinality, ordinality, number identification, the number line, addition, subtraction) We aim to licence the app at scale but for a very small fee to education-focused aid-organisations. They will use it as a tool in their work in displacement camps etc. Digital content can improve early childhood learning (see Onebillion, Herbert Ginsburg Mathemantics, ST_Math) in developing ( and developed ( countries.

Who benefits?

The EIDU curriculum caters to the most formative years of child development – ages 3-6 – and helps ensure that children during this very important time do not fall behind due to their circumstances. Our educational approach works anywhere where there is electricity and some form of educational infrastructure present (a teacher, a place where children gather). This means that the education of all young children living in resettlement camps, refugee centers, informal settlements, could benefit from our approach. Our pilot project runs in Kenya with 50 schools, 100 teachers, and 3000 children participating. Teaching math via an app brings the educational experience to the family home and can show the benefits of education to family members and the broader community. Girls and others who do not go to school can thus learn early math. Parents are given the opportunity to engage in their children’s academic success – they are closer than ever to their children's learning process.

How is your innovation unique?

All over the world virtually everyone is in possession of a mobile phone, most likely a smartphone (, and these numbers are rapidly increasing. Instead of taking the difficult route of distributing hardware to remote and/or less organised places in the world, we use the already existing smartphones in those places, and focus our undivided attention to creating the best quality educational software to run on these devices. The EIDU software is unique in that children are able to use the app autonomously, they are not dependent on any adults having to help them. Also, we are creating a research-based curriculum that is completely adaptive to each child. Each activity that is presented to the child is chosen to match it's current skill level and necessity for repetition.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

How might we motivate caregivers to continuously provide their child with access to the app? Our next step in solving this challenge is to prototype various motivational tactics and evaluate them with parents and teachers in Kibera. How might we improve the adaptivity of the app? Our current work on adaptivity involves analysis of usage data paired with professional observations. We are also building up our knowledge of machine learning approaches such as deep learning because we believe that these techniques will be useful for adaptivity. How might we measure successful learning? To measure learning success is a core focus of EIDU. Current work is based on finding patterns between interaction data and off-line skill assessments.

Tell us more about you.

We are a social business, founded 2015 in Berlin, Germany, and Nairobi, Kenya. Our design and development is done in Berlin by a team of 15 education experts, designers, researchers, strategists, developers and data scientists. Our userlab is in Kibera, Kenya, where four former early childhood educators now do school outreach to our 50 testing schools. We work with Airtel, a telecom provider, to collect interaction data from participating children.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

We believe that 3–6 year olds who lack education for long periods are at grave risk of falling behind in their education. The EIDU app can provide a good foundation in early math. We therefore want to provide the app to people living in prolonged displacement. In particular, we believe that environments with scarce resources but some degree of basic organisational infrastructure, such as refugee camps or centres, would benefit greatly from the scaleable nature of our approach.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Our first location will be Nairobi, Kenya. UNHCR counts over 30 000 refugees just from Somalia living in the city ( Working with an educational aid organization we want to reach some of these displaced somalis. We design the app/system to be usable and culturally appropriate all over the world. The learning activities (games) contain no language. To distribute the app in a new country/region the instructions to guardians may need to be translated, but this is a small task.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

For 2 years we’ve been operating our user lab in Kibera (Kenya). We’ve built close working relationships with the informal school sector inside the slum. We are working together with more than 100 teachers in 50 schools. As a result we’ve gained extensive experience in collaborating with the local schools, the head teachers and the preschool teachers. To develop the app's adaptivity we need interaction data from the kids in the pilot. We’ve therefore entered a collaboration with Airtel Kenya.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

Education: Nina holds a MSc in developmental psychology and has worked as a head-teacher and teacher-trainer. Max holds a PhD on early childhood education and has started a preschool. Mariana has spent 5 years rolling out school projects in socio-economically deprived areas of Africa. Technology: EIDU’s founder, Bernd, was CTO of Ableton for 15 years. Our senior developers have an average of 12 years experience. For the design practices the team has a total experience of over 20 years.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered for-profit company (including social enterprises).

Organization Location

Berlin, Germany and Nairobi, Kenya.



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