Bangladesh Steps Up As Leader for SMS Based English Education. Whose Next?


Member since February 24, 2011
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In Bangladesh the BBC World Service Trust sponsors a service called BBC Janala that allows people on a few dollars a day to improve their English. After dialling “3000”, they can listen to hundreds of English lessons and quizzes, updated weekly. Mobile operators charge about two cents for each three-minute lesson. Since BBC Janala was launched in November 2009, 3.1m people have used it.

This excerpt was taken from an Economist article last month (Jan 27, 2011), entitled "Not just talk" .

Now I'm no fortune teller, but I've got to believe that education based SMS platforms are the future for so many disadvantaged young people throughout the world who don't have the means (or time) of attending school (in particular, secondary school). This new system, working very well in many parts of Bangladesh, will in no time make its presence felt throughout the world, I'm sure. Personally, I could see this software being useful in so many circumstances: in the evenings after a part time job in India, when your parents have already gone off to sleep, in the early mornings before work in the mines of Bolivia, or maybe on a Sunday night after dinner with your family and the electricity is gone. Giving direct lessons to a young person, and potentially incentivizing the system for that child (through free minutes or text messages given once lessons are completed to a certain degree), will not only inspire the child to push even further, but to push those around him also. Seeing your best friend learn a new language and the smile on his face day by day is enough reason to try and get moving on the same system yourself.

Teaching English is one thing, but imagine the capabilities when you start creating lesson plans on other topics as well, specialized topics to help develop particular skills, in say, wiring electricity or engineering small products. Through SMS, this of course is still down the road, but how far? Soon enough, the world over will have access to wireless internet and smart phones will be ubiquitous. What does this mean for the future of what education will look like in the developing world?

What will we recycle all of these keyboards into? I encourage everyone to share their thoughts.

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