How QF-backed Edtech is making Arabic part of the digital learning revolution
A passion for learning and change has led to the development of an EdTech platform that provides Arabic digital content designed to meet today’s needs – backed by the global education think tank of the Qatar Foundation.
Kamkalima is an Arabic educational platform hosting playful and contemporary digital content in a framework that includes all the educational objectives of the Arabic language, from reading and listening to speaking and writing.
WISE, a Qatar Foundation initiative that brings the world together to shape the future of education, has chosen Kamkalima to join its WISE Edtech Accelerator – a program that helps advance edtech solutions with the potential to have a positive educational impact – due to its goal of reinventing access to language learning. This dedication to innovation in learning has led WISE to continue to partner with Kamkalima as an alumnus of the program, enabling it to broaden the reach of its projects and promote them internationally.
Siroun Shamigian, co-founder of Kamkalima says: “Twenty years ago, I started my career as a teacher and, due to my passion for education, I was keen to promote an interactive and enjoyable environment for students.
“I was training a number of teachers in the use of technical tools via the Internet, but I noticed that there were challenges around the Arabic language, due to the lack of digital content that simulates the technological progress. I met my colleague Nisrine El Makkouk, who shared the same vision of what education should be.
“We decided to look for a solution – and that was Kamkalima.”
According to Kamkalima co-founder El Makkouk, the platform is designed to fill the gaps related to edtech in Arabic. “Kamkalima supports educators by providing content, tools, and in-depth data analytics to help educators prepare and deliver lessons, report student progress, track student performance, and assess learning “, she says.
The platform, Shamigian says, provides teachers with reading, speaking, and listening study plans, as well as teaching resources and academic texts that teachers can control. “They can add specific resources to the platform, and we also give them actionable tips on how to improve performance,” she says.
“All of this leads to lightening the load on teachers, giving them time to understand and identify the different capacities of students and to stimulate these capacities as much as possible, using the flexible tools we make available to them.”
Through a survey conducted by WISE, it has been found that, to some extent, Arabic language learning has been left out of the digital learning revolution, due to a lack of Arabic content that can help teachers to create engaging learning experiences for students. This led to the start of WISE’s relationship with Kamkalima.
Speaking about the support Kamkalima has received from the WISE Edtech Accelerator program, El Makkouk says, “WISE is the only initiative in the Arab world that supports edtech projects, as it focuses on emerging projects through a team that has deep knowledge in this domain.
“When we joined this program, we realized that we were taking a big step forward, thanks to the professional experts and technical support that WISE provided to us.”
And El Makkouk points out that Kamkalima’s connection with QF extends beyond WISE. The platform organizes activities and events with QF schools, which are also a test bed for it, and organized workshops for teachers on constructive critical thinking during the WISE 2021 summit. This year, Kamkalima will participate in the WISE accelerator as a supporting alumnus.
“We believe that learning Arabic can be adapted to today’s classrooms, but we must provide the tools that can reduce the challenges teachers face when trying to achieve this goal, and that’s what we do in QF schools,” says El Makkouk..
“Teachers have responded to our plans and goals and have shown outstanding interest, which makes us optimistic about the future of Arabic digital education within QF and the region.”
Acquiring Arabic writing skills is the most difficult aspect, and the Kamkalima platform helps to improve these skills using artificial intelligence, thanks to a digital assistant called Fahim.
“Fahim follows the students’ writing pattern and, instead of just correcting, he gives linguistic advice, while reminding students of the rules and vocabulary of the Arabic language,” says Shamigian. “It makes writing enjoyable, in addition to distinguishing between colloquial and classical vocabulary, and trying to provide alternative vocabulary for the words that the student repeats, thus enriching his linguistic stock.
Kamkalima works with writers from different Arab countries to create various Arabic texts, which are selected by specialized educators and converted into teaching materials. We decided to create modern resources that simulate the current interests of young people, in cooperation with writers and educators from the Arab world,” said El Makkouk.
Shamigian and El Makkouk believe that with cooperation and collaboration between educational institutions, academic experts and policymakers, a significant change can be brought about in the perception of the Arabic language by the younger generation, and that its learning can be made more attractive through the provision of interesting content.
“We are very optimistic about the digital future of the Arabic language; we regularly receive requests to join,” Shamigian said. “Today, 20,000 students and 450 teachers benefit from the platform, and she is a school in West Africa for the first time, which motivates us to continue to grow and include schools from more countries. She added,“
And El Makkouk said: “We dream of a generation that invents solutions in its mother tongue, and to help this dream come true, we try to create learning spaces that belong to us, to our environment and to our identity, rather than coming from outside.
“We cannot just observe the world as it changes. We must invent our own solutions to maintain our connection to this world, and that will only be done by strengthening our mother tongue as the language of communication and technology.
Kamkalima is a veteran of the WISE Edtech Accelerator. Kamkalima was originally selected to be part of the program because of how they chose to reinvent the way we access language learning, and WISE has since continued to partner with them because of this dedication to learning.