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Changes in Education Start with Innovations ‘from Below’

Competition of innovations in education (KIVO–2017)

On June 5th, the results of the Competition of Innovations in Education (KIVO–2018) were announced. The competition was organized by the HSE Institute of Education together with the Rybakov Fund. Out of 503 applications, the jury selected 28 projects. Their authors will take part in an innovation accelerator summer school, which will take in Moscow in late June. The competition finals will be held in autumn.

The competition turned 5 this year, and during these years, it has received over 3,000 applications and been supported by dozens of partners, including the Agency of Strategic Initiatives and the Prosveshchenie Group, as well as leading universities and IT companies. The overall winner gets a travel grant for a trip to any country to develop its project and become familiar with the international experience. All the other finalists leave the competition with a ‘bag’ of presents from the sponsors.

But this is not the main goal of the competition. According to Diana Koroleva, the competition director, the competition has repeatedly become an incentive for further development and monetization of the projects. 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 today it’s a leader in teaching programming to kids not only in Moscow, but in other cities as well. Participation in KIVO is a good opportunity for advertising: paradoxically, some projects gain popularity in their regions only after having been recognized in Moscow.

This year, the competition accepted applications from 20 countries: it was for the first time that it was possible to apply in English. Another feature is the growing number of applications made by school and university students. But generally, the demographics of innovators remain the same and include educators and entrepreneurs. Both categories include parents who are interested in changing the education system because their kids study in it.

This year, most of the project submitted for the competition were dedicated to continuing education, secondary and high schools. The reason for the interest in continuing education is that this sphere is less regulated by the authorities, and doesn’t have any formal educational standards, so there are minimum obstacles for implementing innovations. The projects for secondary and high schools have been mostly related to final exams: the innovators are looking for better ways to prepare for the EGE and GIA tests. The share of projects related to preschools has grown this year: it is believed that kids get many important competencies at a pre-school age, so parents pay maximum attention to their children’s development on this stage.

During all five years of the competition’s existence, researchers from the HSE Institute of Education have been studying innovations and innovators in education. The information received from the competition participants has become empirical data for other studies. The changes in education start with innovations ‘from below’, since the traditional mechanisms of management and reformation aren’t always effective during fast growth, believes Tatiana Khavenson, Research Fellow at the International Laboratory for Education Policy Analysis. And such innovations should be studied in order to manage them and improve their efficiency.

The main factors promoting innovation in education are educational background, job, family and the social environment. Sometimes an innovation project becomes a study task or an academic study, Diana Koroleva said. Or, for example, parents of future school students understand that he or she won’t be able to get the necessary skills as part of the traditional educational system, and open an innovative school or pre-school. Family ‘innovations’, such as toys or games, also can be ‘packed’ and mass -produced. Innovation impulses can evolve anywhere, even from the state, although it is very uncommon when it creates incentives for innovations in education ‘from below’.

There are a lot of innovations in Russian education at the stage of an idea or the start of a project, but only a few of them become successful, and the annual selection for KIVO is the best confirmation for that. ‘The way of innovation is long and challenging, and not all innovators achieve the realization of their project’, Tatiana Khavenson said, ‘But, to paraphrase the Nobel Prize winner Edmund Phelps, the more people pave this way, the more innovations in education will be implemented’.

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