Literacy Rates
Literacy is fundamental when investing in the future and working toward greater health, economic prosperity and gender equality and is a fair indicator of a nation’s relationship with education. Former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova summarized this perfectly when she said “the future starts with the alphabet.” As a proven pathway out of poverty, education leads to higher literacy rates, which can ease economic burdens in developing nations.

Global Literacy Rates

According to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), in 2016, the global literacy rate stood at 86% for individuals 15 and older in comparison to 91% for youth aged 15-24. These high percentages are indicative of increased access to basic education. Across the past 65 years, “the global literacy rate increased by 4% every five years from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.”

However, there is a large disparity among developing countries, specifically those in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in 2019, Niger’s youth illiteracy rate for ages 15-24 stood at 60.3%, which is a constraint for economic and social development in the nation.

From an economic perspective, any effort toward increased literacy marks a returned investment in the nation’s growth. High illiteracy rates place a financial burden on nations. The World Literacy Foundation found in 2018 that the economic cost of illiteracy in the U.S. alone is more than $300 billion, and in terms of the global economy, illiteracy costs the world $1.2 trillion.

Literacy for Poverty Reduction

Established research highlights the correlation between high literacy rates and a high GDP. Friedrich Huebler, the head of the Education Standards and Methodology Section of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, conducted a study in 2005 where he plotted the school net enrollment ratios (NER) against GDP per capita of 120 different countries. His findings showed that “the higher the income levels of a country, the higher the levels of school enrollment.”

When it comes to cost per student in regard to literacy rates, there is a stark global trend: “In high-income countries, for instance, households shoulder a larger share of education expenditures at higher education levels than at lower levels – but in low-income countries, this is not the case.” The amount a household spends on education directly correlates to higher education rates. Because of this, low-income countries are falling behind in education levels because of the low private spending on education in comparison to their higher-income counterparts.

Books For Africa Works to Increase Literacy Rates

Books For Africa is working to “end the book famine in Africa” by collecting and distributing books, tablets and computers across the African continent. Tom Warth founded BfA in 1988 when he visited a Ugandan library with an extreme scarcity of books. He went back to the U.S. and spoke with “publishers, booksellers and librarians” at the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable, prompting the start of the organization.

Through a simple idea, Books For Africa has made a profound impact on the access to knowledge in Africa. According to its website, “last year alone, Books For Africa shipped 3.1 million books, and 224 computers and e-readers containing more than 885,000 digital books to 28 African countries.”

The organization’s methodology has been proven to increase education and literacy rates. According to USAID’s research, “children and youth who learn to read are healthier, more self-sufficient, can earn a better living and have more opportunities to become productive members of their societies.” Not only does the increased access to books promote literacy but it also contributes to the development of children and communities at large.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an international nonprofit that is fighting specifically for increased access to girls’ education alongside children’s literacy. This mission is important as more than two-thirds of the 796 million illiterate people in the world are women.

John Wood founded the nonprofit in 1998 when he visited a school in Nepal with 450 students and very few resources. Wood began with 3,000 book donations from family and friends. Wood soon left his job at Microsoft as director of business development to pursue his passion for education with co-founders Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has reached more than 32 million children across 15 developing nations. About 20 million children have enrolled in Room to Read’s literacy initiative and the organization has provided training to more than “200,000 teachers and librarians.” Specifically, in the arena of girls’ education, 2.8 million girls have enrolled in the organization’s girls’ education program.

Room to Read prioritizes working directly with “local governments, schools, communities and families” to highlight the importance of education “and how [these groups] can play a role in enabling students to achieve their full potential.” Additionally, 87% of the organization’s staff work in their countries of origin, ensuring that the efforts are more grassroots and built from the community.

High literacy rates are paramount for economic development, and with a continued commitment to further this at the grassroots level and beyond, global poverty rates can reduce.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Seven Facts About Girls' Education in Peru

Girls’ access to education is a topic that has rightfully garnered a lot of attention in recent years. With organizations such as Girl Rising, which began as a 2013 film documenting girls who faced obstacles in receiving education and has since become a renowned advocacy group, the circumstances prohibiting girls from receiving proper education have come under scrutiny. From societal pressures to financial hardships, there is a variety of reasons as to why millions of girls can’t reach their potential through education.

Like in many countries around the world, girls in Peru are at a disadvantage when it comes to their educational opportunities. While there are girls around the Western South American country who are able to complete primary and even secondary schooling, education beyond that is often not accessible, especially for girls in rural areas. The following seven facts about girls’ education in Peru explain how the girls in Peru are at a disadvantage for their education.

7 Facts about Girls’ Education in Peru

  1. There is a 6 percent gap in literacy rates between genders in Peru. An estimated 97.2 percent of males 15 years and older can read and write, while 91.2 percent of females 15 and older are literate. While this difference is not huge, it is still significant.
  2. With 45 percent, and still rising, of the population under 25 years old, Peru’s education system is faltering. The government is being forced to spend more on education than is allotted in its budget in order to provide free education to children between 6 and 15 years old. While this free education is meant to be mandatory, many students, male and female, are still unable to attend. In fact, only 36 percent of girls in rural areas of Peru end up graduating from secondary school.
  3. Of Peru’s 31 million citizens, 22.7 percent live below the poverty line; that’s more than seven million people in less than liveable conditions. Many families living under the poverty line also live in rural areas, creating more obstacles for girls wanting to go to school. These girls would have to walk to and from school, and in cases where only afternoon classes are offered, many would be forced to stop attending out of fear for their safety.
  4. In 2001, a law improving access to education for girls in rural areas was passed. However, the results have been more surface-level than actually yielding tangible progress. Mainly, the law has resulted in activism on the subject of girls’ education. While more awareness is always helpful, active change in education opportunities is the ultimate goal.
  5. Because Peru’s population is largely made up of young people, there is a disproportionate ratio of students to teachers available to work. These scarce and largely underqualified teachers are unable to provide adequate learning environments to students, let alone give guidance to further propel students’ education opportunities. Some teachers are not even fully versed in the subjects they are meant to be teaching.
  6. Organizations such as Peruvian Hearts are working to make tangible differences. Working directly with Peruvian girls and young women living in rural areas, Peruvian Hearts not only offers quality educational opportunities but also one-on-one guidance and community involvement to create well-rounded young women.
  7. Basing their selection on the girls’ financial needs and display of ambition and willingness to learn, Peruvian Hearts gives their selected girls financial scholarships, college tuition and room and board. Their 100 percent success rate with girls completing secondary school means that more girls can continue their education in college. Additionally, the organization provides the girls with English lessons to further prepare them for higher education.

These seven facts about girls’ education in Peru highlight the setbacks many young girls face regarding their access to education. However, these facts also shed light on the progress made both in legislation and through organizations. Ultimately, despite the obstacles, more girls are slowly gaining the education they deserve.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

ten facts about living conditions in Gabon

The West African country of Gabon is home to nearly 2 million people and shares a large part of its borders with The Republic of the Congo. While more politically stable than its neighbors, Gabon still struggles with extreme poverty and corruption. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Gabon

  1. Poverty: Even though Gabon boasts a per capita income four times the sub-Saharan average, as of 2015, 34 percent of the country still lived below the poverty line. Some estimates place unemployment at more than 40 percent. Of those who are employed, 64 percent are primarily employed in subsistence agriculture. By 2025, President Ali Bongo hopes to move Gabon into a “higher-tech, skilled economy,” which will potentially yield quality jobs beyond subsistence farming.
  2. Oil: Until oil was discovered offshore in the 1970s, Gabon primarily exported timber and manganese. As of 2012, Gabon had 2 billion barrels of accepted oil reserves, making it the fifth largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, oil makes up 80 percent of exports and 45 percent of the GDP. Despite the money generated from oil, the hydrocarbon sector, unfortunately, doesn’t generate sufficient jobs.
  3. Clean Water: More than 97 percent of urban populations have access to clean drinking water while only two-thirds of rural populations do. Relatedly, only 43 percent of urban dwellers and just below one-third of rural inhabitants have access to quality sanitation. In 2018, the African Development Bank granted Gabon a fund of $96.95 million to improve the water deficit in its capital Grand Libreville by expanding the drinking water infrastructure into Greater Libreville and other municipalities. The goal is to have sustainable universal access to drinking water and sanitation by 2025.
  4. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, 56,000 people in Gabon were living with HIV/AIDS. That same year, 1,300 people died from causes related to HIV/AIDS. This, however, is a decline from 2003 when 3,000 people had died of HIV/AIDS-related causes. Since 2010, new incidences of HIV have dropped by 50 percent while the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by one-third.
  5. Leading Causes of Death: In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in Gabon. However, as of 2017, that number had fallen to fifth place, being overtaken by ischemic heart disease and lower respiratory tract infections as the top two causes of death. Although from 2007 to 2017, Malaria had risen to third place in deadliness. In 2017, there were more than 35,000 confirmed cases of malaria and 218 deaths.
  6. Corruption: Gabon has been relatively stable politically since gaining independence from France in 1960 and electing El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba in 1968. President Omar Bongo ruled for 41 years until 2009 when his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the presidential elections. But, within this relative stability, dissent and distrust had begun to surface. The elder Bongo’s re-election in 2002 was riddled with allegations of electoral fraud. In 2016, when the younger Bongo was reelected, the country erupted into riots which resulted in the burning of the parliament building. The opposition, as well as international election observers, flagged the election results as suspicious, but Gabon’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Ali Bongo Ondimba extending his mandate to rule until 2023. In January of 2019, while President Bongo was in Morocco on an extended stay, several soldiers attempted a coup. They were unsuccessful and ultimately arrested.
  7. Education: According to the Education Policy and Data Center’s 2018 National Education Profile, 90 percent of primary school-age children were attending school. Literacy rates for young adults ages 15-24 were at 89 percent for females and 87 for males. This shows impressive improvement from 1985 when literacy rates were much lower, 53 percent for women and 70 percent for men.
  8. Maternal Mortality: The average woman in Gabon has about 4 children. In 2015, 291 women died out of 100,000 live births. As of 2018, there was still only one physician for every 3,000 people; therefore, complications from pregnancy and delivery can often go undetected and untreated. While still distressing, this maternal mortality rate represents a marked improvement from 1996 when it was 403.
  9. Infrastructure: In the 2013 World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report, Gabon ranked 112 out of 148 countries for quality of infrastructure. While roads are often impassable in the rainy season, railroad infrastructure had performed substantially better, coming in at 72 out of 148. Gabon has “one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa. More than four in five people live in cities.” In fact, 59 percent of the population lives in the country’s two dominant hubs: Libreville, the political capital and Port Gentil, the heart of its oil industry.
  10. Life Expectancy: In the 1980s, women were only expected to live into their early 50s and men only into their late 40s. Improvements in healthcare among other factors have extended life expectancy for women into their 70s and for men into their mid-60s. Furthermore, the mortality rate for children under the age of five was cut in half since 1990 when 80 out of 1000 children died. In 2017, that rate was approximately 40.

It is evident through these top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon that there have been dramatic changes in the quality of life. Hopefully, Gabon will reach its drinking water and sanitation infrastructure goals for greater Libreville by 2025. It is through initiatives like this that Gabon will continue to improve the standard of living for those in the country.

Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Education in LithuaniaLithuania is a well-developed country in Europe that has one of the fastest-growing economies in the European Union. Education in Lithuania does not fall behind either, with a majority of the population being literate and attending school.

Lithuania‘s literacy rate for 15 to 24-year-old males and females is 99.8 percent with the total adult literacy rate in Lithuania at 99.7 percent. The country’s enrollment rate is also high. The gross enrollment for pre-primary school is 73.6 percent for males and 72.1 percent for females. The net ratio of primary school participation is 93.6 for males and 93.5 for females. The survival rate to last primary grade in Lithuania is 96.4 percent. Finally, the net enrollment rate for secondary school is 90.6 percent for males and 90.9 percent for females.

In Lithuania, there is compulsory education for children ages six to 16. Pre-kindergarten is not compulsory but because there are so many women in the workforce, Lithuania has the highest number of working women in western society, preschools fill up fast. After preschool, children go to primary school for four years then move on to a program called basic first stage that lasts for six years, with an age range of 10 to 17 years old. At this point, students can choose to continue their education by attending vocational schools, junior colleges or university.

As for language, most schools in Lithuania teach in Lithuanian, the country’s official language, but there are also minority-oriented public schools that teach in other languages.

Higher education in Lithuania is state subsidized, so many advanced students attend college for free. Like private secondary schools, private universities are unpopular because of their high costs.

In Lithuania, the government spends 13.29 percent of its total expenditure on education. Of the amount spent on education, the government spends 28.76 percent of that on higher education.

The education rates in Lithuania are some of the highest in the European Union. In 2008, 90.6 percent of Lithuania’s population had finished secondary or higher education, which was one of the highest rates in the EU, with the average rate being around 70 percent. About 31 percent of Lithuanians have completed higher education which is more than the average of the EU, which is at 25.1 percent. In addition, the number of higher education graduates has increased by 50 percent in the last decade.

Education in Lithuania is already doing well and continues to improve.

Téa Franco

Photo: Flickr

Improving Literacy Rates
has a literacy rate of 33.6 percent that needs to be addressed. Despite many criticisms, Dr. Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, argues that Fiji had started improving literacy rates by including libraries in schools.

Dr. Rosi Lagi, a university academic, argues that in order to improve the low literacy rate, Fiji has to improve the way students are taught at schools. In particular, he criticizes the teaching style of many teachers and suggests that teachers be more creative in drawing the attentions of students in class.

Fiji has been receiving aid from the EU, which has significantly helped education programs in Fiji. Fiji and the EU originally established a firm diplomatic relation in 1975. The EU heavily supported Fiji after Cyclone Winston in February 2016 with the restoration.

Fijian government believes that education is the pathway to prosperity for any country and hopes to build a knowledge-based society that will lead the country to be competitive in the world market.

Therefore, the government has provided educational opportunities for Fijian youths to develop their future. The government also ensures that every child in Fiji goes to school and promotes many programs within government policies and the Ministry of Education.

However, recently a Fiji Minister has brought the issue of discrimination against women educators to attention. Rosy Akbar, Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, argues that there is still a fear of letting women move forward in the education sector of Fiji. She argues that there are still attitudes against promotions, where many would prefer to have male principals than female principals.

Fiji strives to become a knowledge-based society where people will have knowledge of all factors of production and aspects of life in the society. In order to achieve the goal, the Prime Minister of Fiji strongly believes that the future will be determined by how they nurture and educate the children now.

They argue that the people of Fiji are given access to all forms of education based on fairness, equality and quality. Although there still exists deep-rooted conservative ideas among few, Fiji is gradually changing its education system to improve the quality of lives of its people in the future and to grow competitively in a global world.

Gulyn Kim

Photo: Flickr

Town Library
Rwinkwavu, a community of 30,000 people in Rwanda, is significantly economically disadvantaged. The town is mostly made up of farmers and lacks basic modern resources such as running water and power.

Despite these conditions, the non-profit Ready for Reading built a town library in 2012 that Worldreader, a Barcelona-based charity, then filled with e-readers, smartphones, Wi-Fi and a broad range of digital books for locals to explore.

Books not only provide entertainment, but their educational value is paramount. This access to knowledge helps to improve language skills and literacy while explaining new and different information in an enjoyable way. More specifically, reading has helped adults in Rwinkwavu master various skills including applying for new jobs, opening bank accounts and even running their own businesses.

Accessing knowledge through reading has also helped children develop interests in topics they most likely would not have explored otherwise. Each night, people of all ages now gather at Rwinkwavu’s town library to read after long days of laboring in their fields. As they continue to learn new information, new doors continue to open for them.

More than one in three adults in sub-Saharan Africa, a total of 182 million, are unable to read and write. In Rwanda, 48 million of the youths are illiterate. The population’s lack of education has led to 44 percent of people living below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. However, new town libraries like the one in Rwinkwavu could potentially change the status quo.

Worldreader has already used its digital books to fill multiple schools and libraries across 14 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa, helping to educate over 100,000 children and adults. The charity hopes to continue its expansion, with plans to fill another two libraries by the end of the year.

“There is massive inequality in the world. Africa needs education at scale to start closing the gaps,” said Worldreader Co-Founder Colin McElwee.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Worldreader

Phone Data

Literacy is one of the most significant contributing factors to eradicating poverty. Telenor, a Norwegian research group, believes it has found a way to measure literacy rates in developing countries using mobile phone data.

Currently, an estimated 750 million people around the world are unable to read and write. Two-thirds of these people are women, according to MIT Technology Review. UNESCO studied the effects of illiteracy in South American communities and found that illiteracy correlates to higher unemployment rates, poor health, exploitation and human rights abuse.

In order to address the growing concern of widespread illiteracy in developing countries, Telenor, led by Pål Sundsøy, developed a machine-learning algorithm to figure out which communities have the highest rates of illiteracy.

Using mobile phone data, Telenor’s algorithm evaluates a variety of factors to predict literacy rates in developing countries including the location of calls, number of incoming versus outgoing text messages and the diversity of social contacts.

When evaluating the probability of illiteracy, geographic location is one of the most deciding factors. Sundsøy believes that the algorithm is able to identify slum areas where economic development is low and illiteracy is high by analyzing where calls are placed.

Additionally, a higher quantity of outgoing messages and a lower number of incoming messages may also hint at illiteracy. Telenor’s model takes this information into consideration since people do not typically send texts to contacts who they know can’t read.

The diversity of an individual’s social network is also a helpful indicator of literacy since those who are illiterate are more likely to concentrate their efforts on communicating with a few people. The relationship between the diversity of social contacts and illiteracy is also supported by a strong three-way correlation between economic well-being, illiteracy and diversity of social contacts.

By identifying which communities are at risk for low literacy rates, Telenor’s mobile phone data algorithm can make literacy programs more effective in developing countries.

The National Literacy Programme in Namibia (NLPN) states that their main challenge to boosting literacy rates is limited funding for the program. Implementing Telenor’s algorithm would make a significant impact on programs like NLPN that have finite resources by helping organizations to identify and allocate resources to communities that have a higher concentration of illiterate people.

While regional and gender disparities continue to persist in current illiteracy data, the development of powerful resources like Telenor’s algorithm will help raise literacy rates in developing countries and make it easier for literacy programs to target those who at a greater disadvantage.

Daniela N. Sarabia

Photo: Pixabay

Education in Ecuador

In 2008, more than 65 percent of the Ecuadorian population voted to implement a new constitution. President Rafael Correa proclaimed Ecuador a new nation that day. He asserted that this constitution, with its potential for broad social reform, would help catalyze his efforts to transform the economy and alleviate poverty.

The president considered education reform to be an essential component of his initiative: The Citizens’ Revolution. Section Five of the constitution is dedicated to outlining the ways and means by which education in Ecuador should be viewed as a human right. This includes Article 27, which guarantees “Universal access, permanence, mobility and graduation without any discrimination.”

While access to higher education for all is a top government priority, quality has become the focus of many reform efforts. Standards are a relevant concern in discussing education in Ecuador largely because of the country’s past. Despite previous attempts to make education a primary concern, none of the conventions or programs ever gained any traction.

Well-implemented public education programs in the 1970s increased school life expectancy. Decreased illiteracy brought on a “Golden Era” for education in Ecuador. By 1980, education amounted to a third of total government outlays, yet expansion came with resource issues that forced the 90s to be a decade of regression. Free public education was abandoned, the Ministry of Education weakened, student enrollment came to a halt, as well as a plethora of other problems.

To avoid the trends of the past, President Correa established the Council for Evaluation, Accreditation and Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CEAACES) in 2010. This government organization is charged with the responsibility of improving the quality of higher education in Ecuador.

CEAACES evaluations are obligatory and use a multi-criteria methodology to make numerically subjective judgments when evaluating an institution. Each institution then receives a ranking, the worst of which are subject to suspension for lack of quality. Accreditation is required in order to provide any academic programs, thereby regulating the academic standards of education in Ecuador.

Yet, while the CEAACES ensures a quality system, it does nothing to maintain it.

In 2013, as a part of The Citizens’ Revolution, President Correa introduced Yachay, the City of Knowledge. “Yachay” translates to “knowledge” in the indigenous Quechua language. It is a pivotal step in Correa’s plan to transform Ecuador into a knowledge-based economy. When all is complete, the City of Knowledge will house Yachay University (known as Yachay Tech), 13 public research institutes, a technology park and industry.

Yachay Tech opened for its first semester in March 2014 as one of the only institutes for postgraduate education in Ecuador. Its staff currently consists of 32 teachers, all of whom have PhDs, most of whom are international. The objective of the institution in the short term is to provide its students with a research-intensive education rare to Ecuador. In the long term, it aims to produce “about 1,000 master’s and PhD students, who will eventually provide staff for other institutions.”

As hoped, the Citizens’ Revolution has been an effective agent in President Correa’s poverty relief initiatives. With the education reform set in place, along with the other social policies the new constitution has allowed Correa to implement, Ecuador has become a regional frontrunner in poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, the poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines has decreased by 12.6 percent from 2008 to 2014.

Other countries can learn from this revolution, that investing in people is a winning strategy. Correa has managed to actuate a new form of economy, not reliant on resources that may one day be exhausted, but instead reliant on its own human capital. With the aid and skill provided by the government now, the people of the Citizens’ Revolution will be the catalyst of a diverse Ecuadorean economy. They will lift others out of poverty and create opportunities for all in a hub of innovation.

Alexis Viera

Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan's Sesame StreetAfghanistan’s Sesame Street is debuting its first Afghan Muppet character, who just happens to be a girl.

According to PBS Newshour, although Afghanistan’s Sesame Street has been running for about five years, it has mostly included international versions dubbed into local languages, with only short sequences filmed locally.

The character is a six-year-old with multi-colored hair, wearing a headscarf with her school uniform, reported the New York Times. The debut of a female character is noteworthy for Afghanistan, where women’s rights are strictly curtailed.

Also notable is the extremely low rates of both education and literacy for girls in Afghanistan, with 85 percent of girls receiving now formal schooling, and a literacy rate of 24 percent, reported Newshour.

Under these circumstances, having a bright and curious female character like Zari debut to audiences in Afghanistan is a positive step. The Huffington Post reports that Afghanistan’s Sesame Street is the most watched show by young children in the country. Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that produces Sesame Street, recorded that 81 percent of children aged three to seven have seen it.

Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy, spoke to Reuters about her excitement in introducing a female character. She thinks she may just have the power to change some minds, including fathers’ attitudes about educating daughters.

Westin told Reuters, “The exciting part about Zari is that she is modeling for young girls that it is wonderful to go to school and that it’s ok to dream about having a career.”

Specifically, Zari will appear in segments about health, exercise and well-being, reported the Huffington Post. One segment will feature Zari visiting her doctor for a check-up, and asking how she can become a doctor herself. Zari will interview various kinds of professionals for the show.

She will also speak directly to viewers and interact with kids in person on the show, said the New York Times.

According to Huffington Post, Sesame Workshop is working with the Afghan education ministry to try to reduce any resistance to the notion of an empowered female character on a popular children’s show.

Sesame Street changed attitudes in the U.S. when it debuted almost 40 years ago. As Westin told Reuters, “Part of the power of the broadcast and Zari’s potential as a role model is to reach children and parents where they may not have access to other educational content.”

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

Throughout rural Pakistan, many teachers don’t have access to quality educational training for a variety of reasons, including cost, distance and family commitments.

Online distance learning could easily fill-in these educational gaps, but limited Internet coverage has proven to be a stumbling block for educators and students alike.

Developments in Literacy (DIL), a nonprofit founded by Pakistani-Americans in order to bring quality education to disadvantaged children in underdeveloped regions, has created a revolutionary solution to end this problem.

Funded by USAID, DIL created a mobile distance learning program known as mLearning. The parameters of the program were straightforward. Teachers were each given a smartphone with video lessons loaded onto them, giving teachers unlimited access to the material.

Once a month, teachers would meet at one of the 23 WiFi hubs DIL established throughout the nations to download more training videos. The 8- to 10-minute videos cover a variety of techniques to engage and inspire students to love learning, especially math and English.

Although the program’s focus is on bettering the understanding of school subjects and the teaching ability of rural educators, the end-game is to inspire children to stay in school. The goal is to have smartphones affect education gaps in rural Pakistan.


The average number of years that Pakistani children stay in school is only eight years, with most dropping out before age 16. This low level of academic participation has capped the Pakistani literacy rate at 57 percent, with only 45 percent literacy for women.

Because of this, mLearning is aimed at improving the education and opportunities of poor children and at-risk rural girls through better teacher training and learning resources.

During the course of the initial mLearning program, 200 teachers were given smartphones and completed the program from January 2013 to November 2014. Currently, more than 5,000 children benefit from being taught by teachers who have participated in mLearning.

Since the end of mLearning, the educational aid videos have been shared with 40 schools not affiliated with DIL, and countless teachers have shared the videos personally from their smartphones.

That’s the real brilliance behind mLearning using smartphones as its method of delivery. Since DIL owns the majority of the content, teachers are able to share the videos freely.

mLearning’s results thus far have been impressive. Across the board, teachers reported a 30 percent increase in their English skills and a 40 percent increase in their comprehension of mathematics. As the mLearning videos continue to be spread around, DIL is looking to expand the program.

Claire Colby

Sources: USAID, World Factbook
Photo: USAID
Photo: The Hindu.Com