Digital Business, Education, Collaborations, Innovation, Video
Learning English via Video Boosts Uruguayan Students -- and the Economy
Cisco President Latin America & Senior Vice President in the Americas
Latin America is working hard to close the IT skills gap that threatens to slow down the region’s digital transformation. Organizations are collaborating with schools and governments to expand internet access and provide training in networking technology and related areas. Uruguay is taking a slightly different approach, starting with teaching English as a second language through Plan Ceibal. Ceibal, which stands for "Conectividad Educativa de Informática Básica para el Aprendizaje en Línea" (Educational Connectivity/Basic Computing for Online Learning in English), was created to support the Uruguayan government’s mission of teaching English in all of the public schools in the country.
Learning English increases national competitiveness, creates more jobs, and allows Uruguayan citizens to compete for remote jobs in the global market. Better internet connectivity and wireless coverage gives people the opportunity to learn those all-important IT skills as well.
The first challenge? Not enough qualified English teachers, and not enough budget to bring English teachers to Uruguay from other countries. The solution: Using video to access the expertise of English teachers in other countries and other parts of Uruguay for a few hours at a time. This involved providing classrooms with internet connections, increasing the bandwidth to support video, and deploying Telepresence technology. In some schools, electricity and basic phone lines did not exist. Cisco Capital, the financing arm of Cisco, helped out with $15 million in financial support for televisions, microphones, and speakers.
The results are impressive. Over the last five years, 600,000 laptops have been delivered to elementary, middle, and high schools, and even to Kindergarten classrooms. In a country of only 4 million people, that makes a huge difference. Also, free internet access has been provided in public places and rural areas across the country. And this year, Telepresence video technology was deployed in 1,300 schools, allowing 80,000 students to learn English from teachers located in Argentina and the Philippines.
Cisco Account Manager Federico Bisetti points out the benefits, “Uruguay’s English speaking workforce no longer has to leave the country for jobs that require specialized skills.”
There are other benefits as well. Teachers don’t have to travel 500 kilometers for training. And instead of meeting twice a year, they meet every month, via Telepresence. Social inclusion is a big benefit as well. All of the children in Uruguay now have the same opportunities. Kids in small rural villages are learning English, just like students in large cities.
Gabriel Sakata, Cisco’s Country Manager for Uruguay sees great potential for replicating this program in other Latin American countries. “It is very important to share this experience with other countries to accelerate the process of transformation using technology,” he says. “Uruguay with the Ceibal in English program is creating an educational impact on the region.”
Watch this video to see first-hand the positive impact that English learning via Telepresence is having on Uruguay.