Elon Musk Donates $15 Million To Project Geared Toward Helping Children Read

This is Musk's "largest philanthropic gift to date," and it will have grand implications.

Credit: XPRIZE Foundation

In addition to revolutionizing space travel, solar power, and electric cars, Elon Musk is also investing in future generations by donating some of his hard-earned money to worthwhile foundations. One project that recently received $15 million from the tech genius is Global Learning XPRIZE, which is devoted to helping children in Tanzania read and write.

The project is the last attempt from the XPRIZE Foundation to revolutionize a new area of the world, as IFLScience reports. The ultimate goal is to teach illiterate children how to write, read and do math by themselves. Consider approximately 260 million children in Tanzania do not have access to primary or secondary education, the money couldn’t be used for a better purpose.

Through the foundation, 150 villages will be given one of 8,000 Pixel C tablets which were supplied by Google. On each tablet will be software designed by a variety of teams to help the children (aged seven to ten) become educated without formal instruction.

Days ago, XPRIZE announced that 11 semi-finalists from around the world had been chosen, narrowed down from 198 entrants in 2014. Those who will move on now have one month to finalize their software, which is required to be open source. Five finalists will be chosen in September, and each will be awarded $1 million to move forward with tests in Tanzania.

Credit: YouTube

Said Matt Keller,  senior director for the Global Learning XPRIZE, “The goal is getting [the children] to the highest level possible, but particularly to the cusp of going from learning to read to reading to learn.”

He added that over the next 18 months, children will use the tablets that are loaded with pre-tests and post-tests which focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Whichever team sees the most improvement in the children (compared to a control group) is guaranteed an award of $10 million. To determine growth, the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and the Early Grade Math Assessment (EGMA) will be used.

In total, 3,000 children who live in “very remote places” will receive tablets loaded with educational resources, as each finalists’ software will be handed out to 600 children. An additional 1,000 children will form the control group. Read more about each team here.

For this project, XPRIZE partnered with UNESCO and the UN World Food Programme. None of the teams will directly interact with any of the villages. Rather, trained employees with the partners will oversee the progress. To power all of the tablets, 150 solar-charging stations will be installed — one for each village. They are expected to last five years and once the project is over, the children will get to keep the tablets they’ve received.

Credit: XPRIZE Foundation

“It is very important to note this is not a sustainable project,” said Keller. “The hardware does not yet currently exist that would make this sustainable. But we believe we will help drive market forces in such a way that results in devices that will be sustainable over the long term.”

Musk fronted 100% of the money for the project, making it his “largest philanthropic gift to date,” according to Keller. Besides the donation, he is not otherwise directly involved.

“Our belief is that technology is the only thing that can – someday – guarantee that every child on Earth has a world-class education in the palm of her hand,” said Keller.

If the project is successful, hopefully, the software can be implemented elsewhere to help others in poverty-stricken locations become educated as well as change their lives for the better. What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

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