“Microsoft has always believed that education is the cornerstone of opportunity, and that investing in education is the best way to help young people achieve their potential,” said Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft. “Partners in Learning is one of the ways Microsoft works with governments and schools around the world to help teachers use technology in the classroom to make learning exciting and relevant for the 21st century.”
“Actively integrating technology into the classroom takes more than just PCs; it requires the cooperation and input of those with expertise, vision and strong experience in all aspects of the educational process,” said Cristian-Mihai Adomnitei, minister of education, research and youth in Romania. “Microsoft’s continued partnership and guidance through Partners in Learning has been instrumental in the success of our programs to achieve better education through IT and in forming talents for a competitive economy.”
The real impact that Partners in Learning has already had in transforming education is best shown by the stories of the individuals and communities affected by the program. One example can be found at the Ariño Primary School, located in a village in Aragon, Spain, with a population of just 900 people. Head teacher Jose Antonio Blesa wanted to raise educational standards and motivate students by giving them access to online research and interactive learning tools. In partnership with Microsoft, he was able to provide his pupils with portable Tablet PCs linked to a wireless network. Now, final-year students use the PCs in most of their classes, transforming lessons into exciting interactive experiences and letting students learn at their own pace. The project’s success encouraged the Ministry of Education in Aragon to provide an additional 14,000 Tablet PCs to its schools over the following three years; and six other regional governments in Spain have started to introduce similar programs in their local schools.
“The main goals of the Aragon government regarding this collaboration project with Microsoft are to foster the use of IT tools within the region, to provide advanced training to the ‘teachers of the future’ and to develop an online education network,” said Eva Almunia, minister of education in Aragon. “In this respect, Aragon has become a reference across Europe in the application of information technologies to the education process.”
Other Partners in Learning efforts have successfully scaled local programs to have nationwide impact. A 2005 report found that 34 percent of Hungarian students had no technology skills. Using a wide range of programs, from support for intensive teacher training to the development of 101 Ideas for Innovative Teachers, a booklet offering simple tips for technology-based lessons in 10 subjects, the percentage of students without technology skills was dramatically reduced to less than 8 percent by 2007.
An important element of Partners in Learning is connecting the global teaching community, allowing educators to share their ideas with their peers around the world. This is brought to life through the Innovative Teachers program, which includes one of the world’s largest online collaboration portals for educators, and a series of worldwide conferences that bring them together to share ideas and reward exceptional teaching practices. One participant, Sweden’s Brigitta (Bitte) Kajler, created a collaborative lesson on biodiversity that connected students in Sweden with children in Madagascar. The project gave students a deeper understanding of the environment as they learned important cultural lessons and technology skills, providing an opportunity for them to learn from and interact with their peers in another part of the world.
In addition, the Innovative Students program provides affordable, reliable software to qualifying governments purchasing Windows-based PCs for primary and secondary students’ personal use at home. Finally, through the Innovative Schools program, Microsoft works with governments, educators and partners to deliver expert guidance in holistic school reform, plus a road map for technology integration to help schools meet their education objectives.
Today’s announcement represents a new, five-year, $235.5 million (U.S.) investment, and will bring the company’s total 10-year commitment in Partners in Learning to nearly $500 million. Ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to learn is an enormous challenge that requires participation by both the public and private sectors. Microsoft is deeply committed to collaborating with education partners around the world to provide relevant, high-quality learning experiences, and enable students and teachers to achieve their fullest potential.
Additional information, including a video sharing the story of Jose Antonio Blesa and the Ariño Primary School, will be posted at http://www.microsoft.com/unlimitedpotential.
About Unlimited Potential
Microsoft, through its Unlimited Potential vision, is committed to making technology more affordable, relevant and accessible for the 5 billion people around the world who do not yet enjoy its benefits. The company aims to do so by helping to transform education and foster a culture of innovation, and through these means enable better jobs and opportunities. By working with governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and industry partners, Microsoft hopes to reach its first major milestone — to reach the next 1 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology — by 2015.