Solution Overview

Solution Name:

ALBA Education

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One-line solution summary:

A modular curriculum that explores the sustainable strategies of natural systems to develop awareness, skills and agency in the classroom

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Pitch your solution.

UNESCO recognizes Sustainable Development as an integral element of quality education. In line with the urgent need to create more livable futures, worldwide efforts in education reform have resulted in a list of “twenty-first century skills”. Choosing how we teach them has been part of this decades-long struggle.

ALBA supports K-8 school teachers by providing a modular learning system and instructional framework that offers clear definitions and evaluation criteria for skill development. We do so through a curriculum that explores creative and collaborative problem solving strategies borrowed from the natural world that, when applied in the context of the classroom, create opportunities for healthy systems to emerge.  

ALBA is designed for scalable change. Primary school education is a strategic leverage point for seeding the capacities for bottom up transformation.  We activate students’ inherent agency helping them participate sustainably and responsibly in the present and future systems that surround them.

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What specific problem are you solving?

While Latin American governments have made efforts to increase spending and lead systemic reform for skills education, outcomes remain poor. Private expenditure, likely compensating for either lack of access to or the lower quality of public schools, cannot bridge the gap. The average household in Latin America and the Caribbean spends 6.5% of its budget on skill-related expenses. In Mexico, that’s 10.6%. That is more than in the US, with an average of about 5.8% (IDB 2017). Nonetheless, “high-performing kids in the region still underperform high-performing kids in the developed world by a large margin.” In other words, more spending does not yield better prepared students. Skills education is not a matter of spending, but a matter of how we teach it.

The problem of moving from rhetoric to practice in 21st century learning arises in great part from the lack of integrated solutions. Teachers, already overwhelmed with the workload involved in covering the existing curricula, are the ones most heavily burdened with the implementation of skills-based education reform. Furthermore, there are no learning systems that integrate the necessary content, delivery methodologies and assessment tools for developing skills that don't also require extensive professional development.

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What is your solution?

ALBA’s modules deliver strategies from the natural world to solve problems in adaptable, creative and collaborative ways.

Each lesson starts with a real-world example of a strategy found in a natural system - be it large or small - then immerses students in play-based experiences that help them explore, experiment and fail in a safe, controlled environment. Finally, learning is consolidated through reflection and transferred to real-world contexts in project sessions. 

We use examples from the natural world to help teachers weave skill development into their own syllabi, whether content- or competency-based, making our modules easy to integrate.

Our content is low-tech; it is distributed through a digital platform in downloadable format so it can be printed or distributed in other formats. This makes it easy to use in both remote and in-person teaching.

Student work can be submitted via photograph for algorithm-based feedback and personalized suggestions to benefit skill development. This reduces the burden of planning, evaluating and administering student learning.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Our target users are elementary and middle school teachers in Latin America in both private and public institutions, who we equip with tools that help facilitate skills-based education. Our beneficiaries are the students in their learning communities, who, with the guidance of our target users, develop the foundational skills necessary to successfully navigate the problems of the future and contribute to the well-being of the systems they participate in. Engaging elementary and middle school populations is a strategic point of leverage due to the near universal access at the elementary level in Latin America, and the high desertion rate (almost 60%) at the secondary level. The problem in the skills gap in Latin America can be more effectively addressed by planting the seeds of agency and transversal competency in the populations with highest enrollment. To better understand our users’ needs, we have incorporated their voices in an iterative design process. We began our process with interviews and surveys that collected demographic, professional and personal data, allowing us to pinpoint the most important challenges and opportunities reported. Unsurprisingly, educators spend the majority of their time on administrative tasks such as grading and data tracking—time not spent personalizing learning and improving the quality of instruction. Furthermore, COVID related adaptations to their work environments has awakened in teachers a deep interest in improving their professional competencies. We also recruited teachers to work directly in our research and design team. Two lead teachers have read, implemented and observed other instructors implement every module we have published to date. Their feedback is collected in semi-structured forms, which are then delivered to our pedagogy experts and designers to incorporate into our content.

This lets us design modules through which teachers can learn our methodologies through use. Our lessons contain easy instructions and scaffolded content that expose teachers to instructional strategies and pedagogy as needed, without the need for extensive training.

Finally, we absorb the burden of evaluation by processing student work ourselves, compiling data on student association of terms and transfer of knowledge using photograph-based algorithmic assessment.

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Which dimension of the TPrize Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Support teachers and educational institutions with teaching and learning methodologies, tools, and resources that help develop future skills for students
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the TPrize Challenge.

Latin America is the region with the greatest skills gap in the world, and student abandonment further complicates the issue. The problem we address is that of skills-based education at elementary and secondary school levels.

ALBA’s system offers Spanish-speaking teachers low-tech, ready to use modules for skill development, adaptable for implementation in person or remotely. Our modules offer content, delivery strategies and a clear and easy to use assessment system that require very limited training and can be easily integrated in existing curricula. It supports teachers and educational institutions with less resources and time to invest in extra training.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

We just ended our prototype phase, in which we ran small experiments with teachers and groups of students, and are currently piloting our system with the first group schools, providing our content as part of their curricular offer, which was made available on our platform starting August of this year. Our testing includes rural and urban, private and public institutions from several states in Mexico, including Mérida, Baja California, Oaxaca and the State of Mexico.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Mateo Riestra

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new technology
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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Biomimicry
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Mexico
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Mexico
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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

Full-time: Mateo Riestra, Jose Arnaud, Natali Alcala

Part-time: Engeli Haupt, Heriberto Diaz, Alejandra Diaz de Leon

Contractors: Yvette Ramirez, Aline Eichelmann

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Solution Team

 
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