Janine Teo is the CEO of Solve Education, an education technology not-for-profit with the mission of delivering quality education to everyone, focussing on the BOP (Bottom of Pyramid) demographic. She is the first Asian to receive the International Intellectual Benefits to Society Award by Mensa International. Janine is also an advisor to Asian Development Bank, on Digital Technology for Development, and a fellow of the University of Pennsylvania - Global Social Impact House.
Teo believes that education is the key to solve the many challenges we face in the world today, and because of this, she is an avid speaker on topics like education, edtech, gender equality and poverty alleviation.
Janine has received multiple recognitions and here are some of them Ashoka x Google.org Changemaker, Lancome Visionary Award, Great Women of Our Time nominee by Women's Weekly, 51 Most Impactfu Social Innovators' by World CSR Day, Women Super Achievers Award World HRD Congress, Education Leader award by the World Education Congress.
In this exclusive interview with TeacherTribe.world, Janine shares her thoughts on global education, changes the education space will see p the pandemic, technology in education and lots more.
1. Tell us about your journey in the education space. How did it all begin?
April 2015 marks a monumental change in my life. Life was glitzy and glamorous. Behind the scenes, it was hard work too: from managing our hotel owners, revenue numbers, key accounts to managing to walk gracefully on high heels and the 'big hairdo' expected of high-society women in Indonesia.
After a hard day's work, I would return home to my empty apartment walking distance from my office, completely exhausted. I was living away from my family and loved ones. It all became a routine. And it hit me.
I needed a better reason to get out of bed daily.
Back then, I was an ambitious corporate executive, and I was hungry for career growth. And when I dug deeper into why I was working so hard and why I was so motivated, it boiled down to making my parents proud of me. I felt like I needed more meaning and purpose in my life. I wanted to contribute more to the society and make the world a better place - and there is so much to do!
Now, fast-forward: I started Solve Education!, an education technology organisation to enable people to empower themselves through education. Today, Solve Education! has delivered over 2M lessons globally.
The entrepreneur journey is arduous. However, the people I've met along the way, especially my fantastic team members, have inspired me to be better every day. I've made a lot of genuine friendships with other people like teachers who are doing their best to make a difference and drive change. This has energised me, and feel more aligned as a person.
Live your best life with purpose.
What is your purpose in life? This is the question that we all ought to ask ourselves. Once you've decided that, living will never be the same!
2. Tell us a little about Solve Education.
Many challenging problems can be solved with well-built technology. The global education gap is no exception. Solve Education! is an education technology organisation that is committed to helping children and youth around the globe receive quality, effective education. Whether these children and youth don't go to school, or the traditional education they do receive is ineffective, we are here to help. Our team is made up of experienced educationists, technologists and business executives. What do we have in common? Our driving passion to close the global education gap, one child at a time.
For learners: We hold learning competitions, provide digital scholarship and micro grants opportunities to all learners.
For teachers: We support teachers by providing micro grants, learning apps and tools, and digital transformation sessions.
3. How do you think education and learning will change in the post COVID era?
This question came up in the last few panels I was invited to speak on, and it is not surprising as this is indeed something that is in our minds, as we transit from 2021 to 2022. Uncertainty inevitably drives fear. I am here to hopefully provide some sense of optimism and share some exciting opportunities that have arisen out of this two-year-long challenging period. Now, let's dive in.
We will not go back to 'how things were':
The pandemic has forced a mindset shift and left us with no choice but to get to know and get used to technology. How we live, interact and experience things have changed, and because through technology, many things have become more efficient, less costly to implement and more convenient. It is improbable that things would go back to '100% how they were'.
I heard from some teachers I've interacted with, who were hoping for things to go back to 'normal'. My message to everyone is- We will not go back to 'how things were', and the ones who dare to embrace changes and reinvent themselves are the ones who would thrive and be successful in the new normal.
Remote learning/working opportunities unlocked:
Remote work complimented by remote learning unlocks the world of opportunities for everyone. Youth and adults in developing countries can now access learning materials and courses to upskill themselves. After that, they can apply for remote jobs that allow them to work from their villages/hometowns.
The ability to be plugged into the global economy is now within reach. The next billion users will be coming online over the next few years, and they can improve their lives by being part of the future workforce. Solve Education!'s vision is that resources and opportunities can be equitably distributed.
Teachers: How do we equip ourselves and our students/learners/kids?
Take action to reinvention yourselves because the world needs you! There are also many online platforms to up-skill like Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, etc.
Sign up for digital literacy courses, like Solve Education!'s digital transformation sessions. Write to us quoting "Teachers Tribe x SE!" to sign up for free.
Apply for Solve Education!'s micro-grant program. We provide devices, internet data, and other support in the form of micro-grants to help teachers and their students learn and be part of the digital movement.
Part 2 coming soon...
This article originally appeared in the TeacherTribe Magazine January 2022 edition.