Education in the 21st century (I) Growing together in a social, inclusive and digital education system
The objective of the national research and innovation strategy is to make Luxembourg a country where sustainable, diverse and digital knowledge can thrive. Education plays a key role in this objective. In a cosmopolitan country, it is therefore logical that the education system allows students to grow and learn in an open, diverse and multilingual environment. This is a challenge that researcher Tahere Pazouki and teacher Sarah Scholtes are eager to embrace! In a first article, we shine a light on the Magrid programme with its creator Tahereh Pazouki. In a second article, we discuss the French literacy pilot project - launched in September 2022 - with Sarah Scholtes.
Learn and be prepared for the world of tomorrow
The rapid pace of technological progress has become part of our daily lives. Therefore, in Luxembourg, digital technologies are not only part of the educational programme, they are also used as tools to develop knowledge about this type of content. Among other benefits, they help to address the challenge of multilingualism in schools. Research in Luxembourg aims to study and develop programmes and opportunities to ensure equal opportunities for all students, irrespective of their socio-economic background, in an open and diverse world.
MAGRID: an inclusive educational programme
Five countries, 400 schools, 1,300 teachers and 12,000 students, Magrid is known across the world and has been awarded numerous prizes. This 100% visual educational programme improves the development of mathematical, visual-spatial and cognitive skills of young children aged 3 to 9 years old, and in turn their performance at school. It also helps teachers and parents to increase the pace of teaching and to facilitate learning. Tahereh Pazouki created the Magrid Learning Solution in the incubator at the University of Luxembourg during her PhD. It started as a spin-off, now it's a start-up!
Please could you briefly introduce yourself.
I am 31 years old and I come from Iran but I'm also Luxembourgish at heart. I arrived in Luxembourg in 2012 to finish my studies in computer sciences at the University of Luxembourg. Afterwards, I went on to study for my PhD in psychology. The Magrid programme is the culmination of my research work. It is a learning solution that provides equal opportunities for all children in the world. In September 2020, I created a start-up.
What brought you to Luxembourg?
I was looking for European universities which offered good courses in computer sciences. The profile of the professors in Luxembourg was special and the enrolment costs were affordable. Two of my friends also wanted to study in Europe and we wanted to stay together. All three of us were accepted at the University of Luxembourg. It was a great opportunity and a fantastic experience.
When did you get the idea for the Magrid programme?
It all began with my studies in computer science and my interest in psychology. When I discussed my idea of undertaking a PhD in psychology, the heads of the department presented me with various projects that the University of Luxembourg was working on. The field that particularly caught my attention was the one that sought to explain the differences in the performance of students in Luxembourg and how to address these divergences. One explanation was the multilingualism in the education system and in society. The ambition of my doctoral thesis was therefore to discover a solution to overcome this language barrier in the teaching of mathematics in early and primary education. Moreover, it was also the first ever interdisciplinary cooperation (between the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Psychology) thus offering considerable potential for fostering programme development and future projects.
What is the meaning of "Magrid"?
The name refers to the daisy flower, which is called "Magréitchen" in Luxembourgish. It also has a poetic connotation: we are planting the seed in order to nurture the mathematical skills of children. The petals of the growing flowers also refer to the different elements of the mathematical concept. Together, all these petals allow the flower to bloom.
Who supported you during the development process?
Besides the psychology and computer science departments at the University of Luxembourg, I mainly received support from SCRIPT (Service de Coordination de la Recherche et de l'Innovation pédagogiques et technologiques) and the Ministry of Education, Children and Youth who helped me during the test phase of the programme by testing the programme in various schools with different groups of children, training the educators and teachers, collecting the results, carrying out the assessments, etc. The Luxembourg National Research Fund also supported the project.
How have the first users reacted to the programme? Could you perhaps share a particularly interesting anecdote with us?
When the testing phase was completed, the teachers asked for me to keep the material and to use the results of the training. It was at this point that I realised that Magrid was more than a research project. It needed to be developed into a programme and perhaps a company, at a later date. Subsequently, the Ministry of Education purchased licences for the application and in March 2021 Magrid was launched in all public schools in Luxembourg. At present, 12,000 children have used the programme.
After the publication of the scientific results, the feedback was also very positive. I started to receive requests from various countries around the world, such as South Africa, the United States, Brazil and Turkey. We then started to expand beyond the Grand Duchy and took Magrid across the globe.
What is unique about Magrid is that it can be used by all children, including those who have special educational needs (hearing difficulties, language problems, etc.) In Portugal, for example, the programme is used to develop the cognitive skills of children with Down's syndrome.
Magrid is a reliable training programme with a clear pathway in terms of tasks and development.
What is your impression of the scientific ecosystem in Luxembourg?
For the creation of the start-up, I was able to count on the support of Luxinnovation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of the Economy. My partner for this project is based in the US and he is impressed that such a small country can provide such a significant level of support.
From a personal perspective, what do you like most about Luxembourg?
The country has a strong commitment to excellence and this concept is flourishing. The pace of development is very high and everything is constantly being improved. Luxembourg is a welcoming and open society. I now consider this country as my homeland.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline for the future? Will you continue your research in the field of early childhood education?
I intend to stay in Luxembourg and continue to work in the fields of education and equal opportunities, and it is my intention to try to provide high-quality learning methods. We are also expanding our scope. In the future, Magrid will be available for other age groups, with programmes specifically designed for different levels of learning difficulties and adapted to a wider geographical area.
Many thanks to Tahereh Pazouki for this interview. We would like to inform our readers that, due to layout constraints, some parts of the interview have been summarised.
Did you know?
The Ministry of Education, Children and Youth, together with other partners, has also developed the personalised learning platform MathemaTIC, allowing pupils in primary and secondary schools to learn mathematics while having fun! For more information about the programme and its interactive mathematical modules, click here.