Friday, November 20

Bangladeshis rush to learn English by mobile

Quite an interesting development here. I quote:

The project, which costs users less than the price of a cup of tea for each three-minute lesson, is being run by the BBC World Service Trust, the international charity arm of the broadcaster. Part of a UK government initiative to help develop English skills in Bangladesh, it marks the first time that mobile phones have been used as an educational tool on this scale.

Through its Janala service, the BBC offers 250 audio and SMS lessons at different levels. Each lesson is a three-minute phone call, costing about 3 taka (2.6p).

One basic lesson involves listening to and repeating simple dialogue like: “What do you do?” “I work in IT, what about you?” “I’m a student.” “That’s nice.” Another is devoted to differentiating vowel sounds like those in ship and sheep or leaf and live.

All six mobile phone operators in Bangladesh have agreed to cut the cost of calls to the service by 50 per cent to make it more affordable. Ms Chamberlain said the project team was in talks with the mobile phone companies to increase capacity to cope with the unexpectedly high demand.

The language lessons are mainly targeting 18 to 24-year-olds, who typically had five or more years of formal education, but whose training in English had been weak. The target market is people living on less than 10,000 taka ($145, €97, £87) a month, who would struggle to pay for formal English lessons.

Education by mobile phones. This can be used to drive other educational programmes as well. I was discussing with a friend of mine about how to use Google Wave in educational institutions after the idea was sparked by a discussion online. I think I am going to try to see if any of my professor friends around the country would be interested to see if we can roll this out for a class somewhere. The idea being that we can have twitter, sms, email, online conversations, documents all mixed up when we are evaluating a proposal or something like that, all inside a class.

But this is indeed very interesting. Worth watching out for.

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