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New technologies for basic education and literacy Multi-lingual interventions in India and South Africa. IIEP/UNESCO Summer School 2009 Paris, 30 July 2009. Prof. Dan Wagner, Visiting Expert, IIEP International Literacy Institute University of Pennsylvania

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New technologies for basic education and literacy

Multi-lingual interventions in India and South Africa

IIEP/UNESCO Summer School 2009

Paris, 30 July 2009

Prof. Dan Wagner, Visiting Expert, IIEP

International Literacy Institute

University of Pennsylvania

main points
Main points

Prefatory notes

a. What is ICT4D?

b. Why do this work?

  • Technology and literacy: Possible?
  • Trends: Fiscal and human investments
  • Can it be implemented? Examples from India and South Africa
  • Conclusions
why do this work
Why do this work?
  • Literacy remains the most important global educational outcome. What can global science offer to United Nations MDGs and EFA?
  • In education in LDCs, the biggest policy issue is multi-lingualism.
  • Lately, ICT is often considered to be the ‘answer’ – but what is the problem?
  • What can learning sciences bring to the table?
1 technology and literacy
1. Technology and literacy

Many policy-makers say impossible, because…

  • Infrastructure is not available
  • Costs are too high
  • Illiterates can’t use technology
  • Technology can’t really fight illiteracy

-> Current evidence suggests the contrary (see later).

…But there are R&D questions as well, such as…

  • Can ICT really enhance learning, and how much?
  • Who is the end-user (teachers, learners, kids, adults, in- or out-of-school)?
  • How to handle specific languages and orthographies?
  • What are tradeoffs between hardware and software solutions?
2 spending on icts is increasing worldwide
2. Spending on ICTs is increasing worldwide…

Overall Global ICT Spending

USD trillions

ICT Spending by Region

USD trillions

WISTA, 2008

2 but there is a problem of allocation
2. …but there is a problem of allocation
  • While “digital divide” is decreasing betweencountries…
  • Digital divide is increasingwithin countries.
  • More than 90% of ICT investments in education in LDCs go to secondary and higher education
  • This allocation excludes more than half the population (1-2 billion people) in poor countries.
2 similarly there is a problem of skill allocation
Large inequalities by gender, ethnicity and language

In poor (and ‘fragile’) countries, more the half the population may be illiterate or low-literate

For fragile states especially, 100-200 million children are out-of-school youth










2. Similarly, there is a problem of skill allocation

Youth and Adult Illiteracy Rates(15 years and older, 2000)


Traditional Illiteracy

OECD countries



Latin America

East Asia & Oceania

South Asia

2 and by gender
2. And by gender

Adult Illiteracy by Gender (2004)

(15 years and older)

2 the kinds of ict inputs vary greatly
2. The kinds of ICT inputs vary greatly
  • Access
        • Improving dramatically, but limited learning impact
  • Connectivity
        • Improving moderately, mainly urban areas
  • Content (local languages and subject matter)
        • Modest efforts, and almost none among the poor
  • Building literacy competencies
        • Rare

Our goal should be: Focus on EFA – and beware of ICT-only (focused) solutions…

3 bridges to the future initiative bfi
3. Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI)

India – Andhra Pradesh state

Target groups: Reaching the poorest people:

  • Girls and women
  • Ethnic and linguistic minorities
  • Lowest income and unemployed
  • Fragile states: out of school, refugees, etc.

South Africa –


3 india empowering a multi lingual approach
Emphasis on learning Telugu as main implementation language. – ICT support the value of local languages

Learning approach

- Relevance of content

- High quality instruction

- Extremely “user-friendly”

3. India: Empowering a multi-lingual approach
3 india important learning gains
3. India: Important learning gains
  • Two evaluations
  • Location, near Hyderabad
  • Ages: 15 - 25 years
  • Little or no schooling
  • Ave. 2 hours/week
  • Results: More than twice as fast rate of learning as control.
  • ALSO, replicated on young rural children in Grades 1-2
  • Costs: module production, about US$200K




Control, no-ICT

Learning rate per hour

3 south africa limpopo province
3. South Africa: Limpopo Province
  • High poverty, poor schooling
  • 4 official languages in the Limpopo province (11 in S. Africa)
  • Mass Literacy Campaign
  • Multimedia cost: US$250K for basic literacy
3 moving forward the evidence agenda
3. Moving forward the evidence agenda

Monitoring and Evaluation of ICT in Education:

InfoDev/World Bank Handbook for Developing Countries

How to:

  • Use indicators to measure effects
  • Plan for M&E
  • Build M&E capacity
  • Promote “pro-equity” approaches
4 conclusions
4. Conclusions
  • Investments in ICTs are growing, but much is going to the wrong places
  • Thus…
    • Particular EFA needs (multiple languages and skill levels) should be carefully addressed
    • Increased ICT investments should be made in learning rather than hardware
    • More evidence needs needs to be gathered on learning outcomes of ICTs
    • Gadgets are not enough
    • Sustainability is a key issue – what are recurrent costs?
  • Learning sciences and global human development
    • We need to consider multilingualism and local skill base
    • We can open up new ways of motivating and learning
for more information
For more information
  • (for BFI reports and ILI docs)
  • (for the Handbook)

BFI - India

The launch of the BFI in Andhra Pradesh, 2003