Mali, a country of 15 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, faces a critical problem: it has one of the lowest adult literacy rates on the entire continent.
However, new work from EDC is showing that mobile phones could be a powerful tool for improving livelihoods in countries where resources are scarce. By leveraging the popularity of these simple devices, EDC is using mobile learning—or mLearning—to support commerce and education.
In Mali, EDC’s PAJE-Nièta project is developing mobile learning applications (“apps”) to help out-of-school youth develop skills in basic education, work readiness, functional French, and math. These apps will be pre-loaded onto mobile phones and distributed to an estimated 12,000 youths by 2013.
The mobile phone is an essential tool, linking rural youth to increased economic opportunities through literacy and job training. And it is a booming industry—recent estimates set the number of African mobile phone subscriptions at 500 million.
EDC’s Bob Spielvogel believes mLearning can promote better teaching of literacy around the world. “We are focusing on delivering literacy instruction through mobile devices not because they are fancy tools,” he says, “but because that’s what people have.”
EDC is also exploring the role of mLearning in the classroom through its development of an electronic Early Grades Reading Assessment (eEGRA) .
At its heart, eEGRA is a literacy assessment, measuring the basic skills required for literacy acquisition: recognizing letters of the alphabet, reading simple words, and listening with comprehension. But because eEGRA can run on any mobile device that supports Microsoft Excel, teachers can receive results with the push of a button—and immediately begin to adjust instruction.
EDC field tested the eEGRA program in the Philippines in July 2011. Over the next year, the program will be introduced in Liberia, Rwanda, Tajikistan, and Mali.
Originally published on June 14, 2012