Free spectacles scheme to boost learning

Two years ago, Yves Behar helped prove that a laptop could, with a little imagination, be stripped back to its basics and sold for just $100. Since then, more than one million portable computers based on his practical design have been distributed in developing countries as part of the One Laptop Per Child programme.

Now the California-based designer has turned his skills to an even more ubiquitous piece of kit: the humble spectacles.

He became involved after a Mexican optics company, Augen, discovered that students' eyesight — especially in the country's poorer states — was having a drastic impact on their marks.

Research showed that 11 per cent of children were not learning simply because they could not read blackboards or books. The company found that in schools in states such as Morelos, Sonora and Chiapas up to 70 per cent of pupils needed glasses. Augen teamed up with the Mexican government to launch a programme along the lines of Mr. Behar's OLPC, called See Well to Learn Better. The plan is to provide 400,000 free pairs of glasses every year.

The problem was the cost, which is where Mr. Behar came in. But he did not want to compromise on quality, strength or style. “Similar to the OLPC philosophy, I want to design products that are suited to the children's specific needs, life and environment,” he said.

Children everywhere are among the fussiest consumers on the planet, so the frames also had to be wearable.

The incredibly light and almost unbreakable glasses are made from advanced plastics and have a two-part design — giving children the option to mix and match colours and shapes when they choose their frames. This allows an extra dimension of individual expression, and easy assembly of the lenses inside the frame without costly heating processes.

The glasses are to be distributed by optometrists, who will travel to the schools, test the children, and then place the order with the factory.

Augen and Mr. Behar are now looking at expanding the programme to other countries. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 11:34:43 AM |

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