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Changes in Education Start with Grassroots Innovations

On June 5, the results of the semifinals in this year’s KIVO International Education Innovation Competition were announced. Held for the fifth straight year since 2014, KIVO is a joint project between IOE and the Rybakov Fund that aims to support grassroots innovations in learning & development. In 2018, an authoritative expert panel has shortlisted 28 best projects out of more than 500 applications filed. The finalists will first take part in an acceleration summer school to be held in Moscow later this June. The competition finals will get underway in the fall of 2018.

Over the past five years, KIVO has received over 3,000 applications and been supported by dozens of partners, including the Agency of Strategic Initiatives and the Prosveshcheniye Group, as well as leading universities and IT companies. The overall winner is awarded a travel grant for a trip to any country to further develop and promote their startup while also learning about various international best practices in entrepreneurship and management.

According to Diana Koroleva, the competition director, KIVO is primarily a venue where innovative ventures can receive an important momentum for further development into a viable enterprise. The most vivid example is Kodabra, a programming school for children aged 6–14. This project made it to the finals in 2015, when it was hardly known to anyone, and by now it has evolved into one of national leaders in early programming extracurriculars.

This year, the competition received applications from 20 countries: it was for the first time that it was possible to apply in English. Interestingly, the number of applications by school and university students has picked up year-on-year. In general, however, the largest participant cohorts have remained educators and entrepreneurs. Both categories also include parents who become keen on innovating education in response to what they observe about how their own children learn and develop.

This year, most of the projects submitted for the competition were set within the frameworks of secondary schooling and extracurriculars. The former projects are mostly related to final exams: the innovators are actively looking for more effective ways to prepare for K-9 and K-11 examinations. The share of projects for preschools has also grown this year: it is recognized that kids actively acquire and advance a number of important competencies at this age, so parents are likely to place great emphasis on this developmental phase.

The information received from the KIVO participants has consistently served as important empirical data for experts at the Center for Education Innovation to found their studies on. Changes in education start with grassroots innovations, Tatiana Khavenson, Research Fellow at the International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis has commented, and such innovations should be put to multifaceted scrutiny in order to ascertain best-practice approaches to managing them and to improving their overall survival rate.

Such factors as educational background, job, family and the social environment are among the principal determiners in whether and to what extent one is disposed to engage in educational entrepreneurship. Sometimes an innovative project can grow out of an academic task or research, Diana Koroleva says. Or, for example, parents of future schoolers come to understand one day that the child will not be able to get the necessary skills as part of the formal educational system, and so they decide to open an innovative school or preschool. Family ‘innovations,’ such as various games, can also be effectively taken to market.

‘An innovative startup has a long and challenging way to go, and not all innovators can succeed in steering their project from early stages into a sustainable enterprise,’ Tatiana Khavenson says, ‘But the more people become innovators, the more innovations will be implemented.’