Pakistani Mobile Phones Improve Literacy via SMS Messaging
A UNESCO sustainable literacy pilot programme using Mobile Phone SMS text messaging has shown significant results in rural Pakistan. In this pilot project which ended last month, the learners who had just completed the basic literacy course, were given a mobile phone each. They receive three text messages a day in the local language. They are required to practise reading and writing the messages in their work book and reply to their teachers by text. The five-month programme, initiated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), targeted 250 females aged 15 to 24 years old in three districts. Monthly assessments held at the learning centres showed improvement in literacy skills. While results varied in the three districts – Lahore, Sialkot and Hafizabad – learners who scored C reduced from an average of 52 per cent to 12 per cent. According to Ichiro Miyazawa of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Islamabad, many youths, after attending the basic literacy course, often relapse into illiteracy because the available reading materials are either too difficult or not interesting enough. Pakistan, with half its population illiterate, is the fourth largest contributor to the world illiterate population.