Despite the economic growth in the Philippines, more than one million children of school-going age are not in school due to diverse factors such as financial, social or physical challenges. The interplay of these factors, plus others such as malnutrition leading to poor academic performance, have resulted in the Philippine Institute for Development Studies finding that “the lack of personal interest” is one of the top reasons for school dropout.
To help schools conduct lessons and engage students more effectively, especially in underserved remote communities, Nokia has collaborated with several organisations to set up Text2Teach, a mobile learning programme for Grade 5 and 6 students in public elementary schools.
Text2Teach is the Philippine pilot of the global programme ‘BridgeIT’, a project initiated by Nokia, the International Youth Foundation, the Pearson Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme. Started in 2003, the multi-sector partnership aims to improve educational outcomes by using mobile technology to deliver interactive multimedia education materials worldwide.
In its infancy, teachers utilising Text2Teach materials could only request for videos and teaching resources via SMS, and had to wait for the materials to be downloaded from a Nokia-managed server to the school via a satellite dish. Today, in what is known as Microsoft Education Delivery (MED), teachers can use the MED application on 3G-enabled Lumia devices to download educational videos on math, science, English and values education, and stream them onto a television in near real-time. Each MED setup includes a prepaid SIM card and a television for classroom use.
With this cellular platform, schools can access resources in remote areas and in the absence of Internet connectivity. Students are more engaged during lessons, which helps to enhance learning greatly and teachers are spending less time on preparing their visual aid materials for classes, which frees up time for activities such as making home visits.
Text2Teach has reached 2,500 schools, 16,000 teachers and 700,000 students with significant impact. A recent assessment involving 179 schools in the five provinces of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Cavite, Antique and Negros Occidental, showed an increase in learning gains in the subject areas covered by Text2Teach. The percentage of students dropping out in Grade 5 has dipped to as low as 24 percent from 42 percent, while the dropout rate for Grade 6 students has been cut in half, dropping from 34 to 16 percent.
According to Mei Ling Tan, Regional Sustainability Manager, Microsoft Mobile and Text2Teach Project Manager, Microsoft is currently updating the MED system, as well as Microsoft Data Gathering software (also used in Text2Teach). “By constantly pushing the limits on the quality of our service delivery, we expect to amplify the results we’re already seeing,” she said.
While Nokia and Microsoft are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Text2Teach together this year, Microsoft has recently signed an agreement to scale up the project. Together with the Ayala Foundation and the Philippine government departments of Interior and Local Government and Education, the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (the umbrella organisation of the leagues of all local government units and elected local government officials) and Globe Telecom, Microsoft will help mainstream Text2Teach by implementing it in all 38,000 public schools across the country.
In his reflections on the programme, Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector Education, Microsoft, emphasised in his blog, “The ability to learn wherever, whenever is one of the most important aspects of ensuring that more students throughout the world have access to a quality education.”