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United Nations Young Leader for the SDGs Amélie Jézabel Mariage discusses her inspiration in advocating for children’s rights to access inclusive education, adding that “innovation in education is a proven path to inclusion and a bridge to opportunity.”

Why did you decide to devote your life to promoting inclusive education?

My interest in education was sparked at an early age when I was confronted with the reality that not every child is granted an equal opportunity to receive a great education. It grew particularly in 2012, when our 2-year-old cousin was diagnosed with autism. With him, we quickly discovered the meaning of being part of a minority. We personally experienced the barriers to access inclusive schools. We were also inspired to create ‘Aprendices Visuales’ as a means to enhance basic educational opportunities for all children.

We devoted considerable time to try analyzing and understanding the rights of children to education and the obstacles they faced once admitted. Meanwhile, we investigated the power of visual aids and technological tools to bring together all children – those with autism and those without – within the context of learning. We found out that the positive impact on learner-autonomy, understanding environmental and social situations, anticipation skills, behavioral regulation and communication is widely recognised and validated. Moreover, it encourages inclusion and opportunities for diversity in schools.

What started 6 years ago, as two women’s passionate project to help our little cousin, became the first technology-based, play-driven and visual learning solution to advance the potential of children. 

Innovation in education can help break barriers. How can it be particularly used to reach children in poor communities or those affected by major crises?

I truly believe that we can make the world better for generations to come by promoting equal opportunities for all children. I believe that innovation in education is a proven path to inclusion and a bridge to opportunity!

Innovation in education is a proven path to inclusion and a bridge to opportunity!

Aprendices Visuales is one of the first “tech-nonprofits” using the power of visual learning to teach and to enable children to develop their potential, regardless their conditions or circumstances. At the intersection of innovation and education, we created a series of ebooks and apps with pictograms in 5 languages, to teach autonomy, social and emotional skills. It reached one million children around the world. Our story is an example of how innovation in education can help breaking barriers.

What is the future of education and how do you see technology shaping it?

Over the past decade, tremendous gains have been made in education, however, more things need to be done! It is difficult to exactly predict what education will exactly look like in 20 years. As technology is rapidly changing the world around us, the way we educate children needs to change given the massive potential of technology.

One thing is for certain: education will never disappear. I think it will just take up different forms. Children will be equipped with different devices and they will have more opportunities to learn. Technology will facilitate opportunities for remote self-learning, and the most amazing part is that it will allow everybody, everywhere in the world to have access to education.

Technology will facilitate opportunities for remote self-learning… It will allow everybody, everywhere in the world to have access to education.

Technology and coding are the new languages of tomorrow. Virtual reality can already make learning truly immersive. 3D printing is allowing children to bring their ideas to life. Machine learning is making learning adaptive and personalized. Artificial intelligence can create new ways of learning! We will focus more and more on soft skills, such as empathy, passion, ethics, critical thinking, persistence, imagination, experiences, curiosity, storytelling, entrepreneurship, and more. I hope we will be able to provide all children with an education through which they can believe in their abilities, regardless of their conditions and circumstances. An education that makes them excited about the world!

Amélie Jézabel Mariage is a co-founder of Aprendices Visuales and advocates for children rights to access inclusive education in Spain and around the world. Aprendices Visuales is an award winning tech non-profit whose use the power of visual learning to teach children.

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