Transforming education in developing countries with low cost technology

 

Phonics by Phone app + bluetooth thermal printer

FUNX is proud to be one of the volunteer organisations behind Phonics by Phone. In collaboration with Educators International and Open Mind, we are working on a project that uses low-cost technology to improve how English is taught to young children in remote villages in Ghana.

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Outdoors classroom in rural Ghana

These villages may often lack the basic facilities that we take for granted like running water and electricity, but what they do have are a lot of are local volunteer teachers who are passionate to teach and even more young minds who have a large appetite for education and opportunity. Phonics Ghana seeks to qualify these teachers an empower them to teach those young minds. Already they have several hundred teachers who have signed up to get qualified and start teaching, some for classes with up to 70 students!

Phonics by Phone is a project by Phonics Ghana that, as the name implies, uses the phonics method to teach English to young children. Like in many other developing countries in Africa, despite there being a lack of electricity, many people have mobile phones (quite often the so-called feature phones) and the network coverage reaches these remote villages. The teachers can access an audio-based phonics curriculum prepared by Educators International. As the content is all audio only, the teachers are able to playback using the phones they already have in their pockets. With a special arrangement with local carriers, the teachers incur no data cost when accessing the Phonics Ghana website.

A critical part to any educational programme is assessment. In order to accurately measure whether or not the students are improving then the students need to be periodically tested. This is where FUNX comes in. We have developed a lightweight Android app that runs on cheap, old model Android smartphones. The app works by downloading assessment material and then printing it on a cheap and portable bluetooth printer. The type of printer we are using is thermal, usually used for printing receipts so there is zero ink required. Once a teacher is equipped with one phone and printer then they are ready to assess all the students in a very cost effective manner, even if their classroom is outside!

Educators International is a UK based charity that has been actively involved in Ghana for a number of years. Their team of professional volunteers builds upon many years of experience in education at a nationwide level in the UK and other developing countries. They are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Launch Good for a modest target of £15k to help further their goals with Phonics by Phone.

Open Mind is a consultancy firm that is also based in Fukuoka, Japan like FUNX.