WISE is pleased to unveil the 2012 WISE Awards Finalists. These 24 Projects, from a wide variety of sectors, have adopted an innovative approach to address various educational challenges around the globe.

The 24 Finalists from 14 countries join the WISE Awards Network that supports the development and replication of cutting-edge best practices.

Take a look at the profiles of the 24 Finalists to find out more about their contribution to society and education.

The 2012 WISE Awards Jury will evaluate detailed applications submitted by the Finalists later this month.

Six WISE Awards Winners will be announced in September. Stay tuned!

Share your views and leave a message of support of the 24 Finalists in the comments box or log on to WISE Facebook and LinkedIn.

Richard Baraniuk, the Founder of Connexions, tells us about what sparked the idea of launching the web platform and how it helps improve learning among students worldwide today.

Thirteen years ago, I was just a professor frustrated with "one-size-fits-all" education. My frustration led to the realization that an open-source approach could provide new ways and means to develop new educational content efficiently, to customize it so classes and even individuals can have the perfect book, and to keep it fresh, relevant, and accurate for years to come. It has been fun watching Connexions (cnx.org) grow into one of the world's largest open educational platforms, with content contributed by a global community that has been used hundreds of millions of times. And now WISE is helping us take it to a new level, including a major college textbook publishing initiative, OpenStax College and a major machine-learning based personalized learning system, OpenStax Tutor. These are exciting times indeed for education!

Click on the image above to view the web documentary.

The Citizens Foundation Adult Literacy Program – Aagahi is an opportunity for women from the rural and urban slums around TCF schools to participate in the education process.

Aagahi Program at TCF has been ongoing since 2005, with the financial support of National Foods Ltd., Shield Corporation and most recently, USAid. To date over 11,600 women have been made literate through this program.

Within four months Aagahi prepares an illiterate female to read an Urdu newspaper, write  a letter and do basic mathematics.

50-year old Mrs. Ghulam Fatima has got a second chance at life. From being an illiterate woman she has received the gift of education. Initiated in 2005, the Aagahi program is an opportunity for women from rural and urban slums around TCF schools to participate in the education process. Within four months, an illiterate female can read an Urdu newspaper, write a letter and do basic Mathematics. Aagahi students have reported life-changing experiences because of this program. Mrs. Ghulam Fatima is one of such students. Her story is the story of every other female born and brought up in rural Pakistan.

One of three sisters and two brothers, Ghulam Fatima was never given the chance to attain education and got married off before she could reach puberty. Two years after her marriage, at the tender age of 14 she became a young mother. Currently, she resides in one of the many urban slums sprawled in and around Karachi. She has seven children. Her husband works as a security guard in a factory in Landhi. She herself worked in a garment factory for eight years and was forced to leave when she developed a heart condition. “One day I took the wrong set of tablets and my condition deteriorated. I was rushed to the hospital and saved just in time. None of this would have happened if I could read the prescription,” recalls Fatima.

Three years back, her two youngest children (studying in TCF School) told her about Aagahi. “I enrolled for its three month program and it altered my life. I cannot forget the first time I was able to read Holy Quran and actually was able to understand what the verses meant in Urdu,” Fatima’s eyes brim with tears and her face breaks into a wide smile. “I was living in darkness. Now, I feel as if I am also of some worth! When my youngest son is doing his homework I help him out. I can handle all kinds of bills now. And unlike before, no one can now cheat me when I do grocery for the house.”

These days, some neighborhood women gather in her home everyday and she teaches them a little of basic Urdu and simple Mathematics.

From Bhavna – the first girl in her village to be able to read and write, to Ramkatha – the first girl from her community to successfully pass her 10th grade high school exams, to Shivaleela – the first Nanhi Kali (tiny bud in Hindi) to be awarded the prestigious National Merit scholarship by the Government of India, Nanhi Kalis across India are not only rewriting history themselves but are also defining a brighter more hopeful future for generations of girls to follow them.

A decade and a half since inception Project Nanhi Kali jointly managed by the K. C. Mahindra Education Trust and Naandi Foundation continues to take forward its commitment to provide 10 years of quality education to girls from economically disadvantaged families. Today, through the project, over 75,000 underprivileged girls from remote rural and conflict afflicted tribal communities across nine states of India are receiving not only support through Academic Support Classes where concepts of Maths and Science are taught to enable the girls to attain grade specific competency levels, but also direct material assistance in the form of a school bag, 2 pairs of uniforms, underclothes, shoes, socks notebooks and stationery to enable them to attend school with dignity.

Project Nanhi Kali has witnessed a significant increase in both enrolment of girls and attendance of girls in schools. Furthermore,  the dropout rate has been curtailed to 10% in the project area in comparison to the national average of 30% and learning level have increased by 20 percentage points. Most importantly in a predominantly male favored country, Project Nanhi Kali is creating a “shift in culture” in favor of educating the girl child.

Over 8000 individual and corporate donors across the world, have joint hands to support Project Nanhi Kali by sponsoring the education of an under privileged girl for Rs. 2400 a year or 60 USD (for a girl studying in grades 1 – 5) or Rs. 3600 a year or 90 USD (for a girl studying in grades 6-10). The donors receive a profile of the girl and two progress reports every year.

The goal of Project Nanhi Kali is to educate 1,00,000 by 2013 and in order to create mass global awareness and raise sponsorships, Project Nanhi Kali has collaborated with New York based advertising agency StrawberryFrog to completely reinvent its marketing strategy in order to harness the potential of the digital media and online space. This collaboration has witnessed the design and launch of some unique and successful digital campaigns like the  ‘A Girl Story’ & ‘Girl Store’ and the more recent ‘Girl Epidemic’. Through these innovative campaigns Nanhi Kali has not only been able to successfully create mass awareness globally and raise sponsorships for the project, but also successfully drive traffic to the official Nanhi Kali website and generate a buzz on online communities such as Facebook & Twitter.

Looking ahead, Project Nanhi Kali hopes that this kind of alternative thinking on and off the field, will continue to help it drive positive change in the lives of underprivileged girls. Project Nanhi Kali is committed to supporting and motivating underprivileged girls in India to accept no limitations of their circumstances and through its interventions work with them so that they can build a world of their choice.

Click on the image above to view the web documentary

The 2011 WISE Awards Winner SueñaLetras is a software package for children with hearing disabilities, which helps them learn how to read and write. The software works like a memory game and it uses different educational strategies and stimuli such as sign language, finger alphabet, written words, lip reading, and images to bridge the gap between sign language and written language.

Watch how this initiative is helping learners on the ground and meet Ivan (12) and Camila (8) who are both using the program in class. Since its launch in 2006, the software has been downloaded more than 21,000 times across the globe.

Between now and the 2012 WISE Summit in November, web documentaries on the 2011 Winners will be regularly uploaded on the WISE website.

Download the latest version of Flash if you experience any trouble viewing the web documentary.