Mobile phones can soon be used to help teachers improve English language literacy skills among primary school students in Nigeria. The project is being launched by UNESCO and Nokia, with support from the British Council and the National Teachers’ Institute of Nigeria.
Participating teachers will sign up for a mobile service called “English Teacher”, which sends teachers educational content and messages with pedagogical advice once a day.
The messages are organized into thematic modules and include images and exercises. The service runs on the popular Nokia Life+ platform and is one of the first attempts to employ mobile technology to improve tools for primary school teachers.
On May 2 and 3, UNESCO and Nokia will host a training seminar with teachers from almost 50 different schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Nigeria, where the project is being piloted.
”English Teacher” leverages a technology that is already owned and used by a majority of Nigerian educators. Over 90 percent of Nigerians have access to a mobile network, and mobile phones are fast becoming a major gateway to the internet. This means that the service is available to most people, including teachers in difficult areas such as the northern states, where educational needs are most urgent.
“Our aim from the beginning was to develop a service that teachers working in difficult conditions and without a great deal of support could access quickly,” said Steven Vosloo, the project coordinator for UNESCO. “Mobile technology is a promising avenue and, in some instances, the only option in terms of technology.”
“English Teacher” is available to anyone in Nigeria without a subscription fee. It is hosted on the popular Nokia Life+ platform, which offers an extensive menu of content and covers topics as diverse as education, health, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. When teachers sign up for the service they receive daily messages designed to improve and support their instruction.
The content was developed by the British Council and draws on the organization’s 75 years of experience building resources for English language teachers. Thematically-organized and sequential modules, generally broken across one or two week periods, promote strategies to encourage learner independence, cultivate different learning preferences, and prompt educators to reflect on their teaching practice, while providing links to relevant outside resources. The programme runs for 72 weeks and begins whenever a user signs up for the service.
“We are delighted to partner with UNESCO in launching the ‘English Teacher’ service and provide high-quality professional development services to primary grade English teachers across Nigeria,” said Jawahar Kanjilal, VP and Global Head of Nokia Life. “using the service will benefit from the rich learning experiences presented in an engaging manner through the Nokia Life+ web app.”
The mobile technology project in Nigeria reflects UNESCO and Nokia’s commitment to enlist technology in the global effort to promote literacy and equitable access to education.
The educational challenges facing Nigeria are daunting. Some 42 percent, or roughly 10.5 million primary age children, are out-of-school, and those girls and boys who do attend are struggling to learn basic literacy and numeracy. This has resulted in one of the highest adult illiteracy rates in the world.
“We’re in Nigeria because this is where we are most urgently needed,” said Mark West, a UNESCO project officer involved in the training in Abuja. He added: “While it would be nice to offer in-person training to teachers, there are 575,000 primary school teachers in the country and more are needed to achieve universal primary education. We need to enlist all tools at our disposal to confront serious educational challenges and this absolutely includes technology. Because a majority of Nigerian teachers own or have access to a mobile device, an educational service that utilizes these devices has the potential to reach not just thousands but tens of thousands of teachers. This wasn’t possible before. The rapid uptake of mobile technology in Africa has made it realistic to reach teachers who were, practically speaking, unreachable just a few years ago. It is exciting work, and we hope the project provides a model others borrow, emulate and improve upon.”