This project provides 200 primary and middle school math and English teachers with access to 300 lessons via mobile phone and is designed to clarify concepts that are important in delivering quality education. Videos are viewed offline by participants anytime and from any location. The project addresses the problem of content knowledge gaps among primary teachers, particularly in rural areas of Pakistan.
The competitive advantage of Developments in Literacy (DIL), the organization that runs the project, is that the content is homegrown, locally relevant and owned by DIL, which makes this simple, effective intervention highly scalable and cost-effective.
The boundless capacity of mobile devices for storing and accessing content make this an innovative and cost-effective alternative to in-person training or library development, particularly in rural settings where independent travel for female teachers runs counter to cultural norms. Mobile learning circumvents these issues by empowering teachers to assume ownership of the tools and learning process.
In the 17 years that DIL has been operating in Pakistan, it has been noticed that critical gaps in subject knowledge among rural teachers are a major obstacle to quality education. While teachers are motivated, they lack access to information to build knowledge.
Rural teachers in Pakistan are products of a deficient national education system hamstrung by poor quality and ineffective teaching. As a result, they have various gaps in basic knowledge that cannot be fully addressed in pre-service and in-service training. Teachers in rural areas are also less qualified academically and are less likely to receive training. In order to break this cycle of ineffective teaching, perpetuated in part by weak subject knowledge, teachers need access to on-going professional development opportunities that address such knowledge gaps through lessons designed to clarify concepts (UNESCO 2011 World Data on Education. 7th Edition).
Moreover, 57 percent of teachers in Pakistan reside in rural areas and lack access to knowledge materials that support independent training.
DIL equipped rural teachers with a digital library of localized lessons accessible by mobile smartphone to clarify concepts and deepen understanding of the content they teach. Its mobile learning project is built on the hypothesis that if teachers have a strong command of their subject matter at deeper understanding and application levels, they will then be better equipped to teach those concepts effectively to their students.
Mid-project assessment within the first phase, involving 200 teachers, resulted in a performance increase of 37 percent in math and 19 percent in English, compared to baseline. Baseline and mid-project assessments were conducted in monitored settings with standardized testing tools and protocols across project areas. At the time the baseline assessment was conducted, an experimental design was planned and groups of like composition were assigned as intervention and control groups. In practice, the control conditions were unable to be maintained due to unanticipated sharing of mobile learning lessons at school and among extended family. Teachers who had been assigned to the control group expressed a strong desire to receive the intervention. Because 22 percent of control-group teachers joined the intervention group early in the project, the experimental design changed to a simple “pre-post” comparison. In both baseline and mid-line assessments, teachers were tested on the full range of knowledge and skills including those topics for which they had yet to view mobile learning material. Analysis showed marked teacher growth against baseline in those topics for which they had viewed mobile learning content, whereas in general teachers showed little to no growth in those topics and skills in which mobile learning lessons had not yet been provided.
The pilot developed 23 Internet hubs across three provinces, where teachers upload new lessons and receive technical support. DIL curated and designed localized content that is relevant to rural teachers and their students, and provided a digital library of 300 math and English lessons aligned with Pakistan National Standards.
At the end of 2015, the project will be in its second phase and will have established agreements with school partners. It will also have a full set of high-quality, localized English and math lessons and be engaging 500 NGOs and government teachers.
Mobile Taleem is one of the projects selected for the 2014-2015 WISE Accelerator.