Techno innovation breaks barriers to education, says VSO


Innovations in technology are helping teachers to break barriers to education, says leading international development agency, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) UK, as it marks World Teacher’s Day on October 5th.


VSO, a charity which aims to fight poverty through volunteers, has been working across Asia and Africa to monitor the positive impact that information technology, such as mobile phone apps and text messages, can have on improving the quality of education.


In Papua New Guinea, VSO found that 92% of teachers have access to mobile phones.


In partnership with the Department of Education and with funding from Australian Aid, VSO conducted an SMS Story research project to determine if daily mobile phone text-message stories and lesson plans would improve children’s reading in PNG’s primary schools.


According to Purna Shrestha, Global Research and Advocacy Advisor (Education) for VSO:


“Teachers in the participating schools received an explanatory poster and daily text messages for 100 days. Teachers in other schools – the control group – received no text messages.


“By the end of the trial, the reading scores for children in the participating schools were far higher than for children in the control group. There was clear evidence that text messages that carried lesson plans and stories to teachers improve children’s reading ability significantly and change teaching practice in the classroom.”


Likewise, in Malawi, VSO partnered with app developer Onebillion, amongst others, to create an app to help teach Malawian school children maths.


Education in Malawi is often basic – classes of 90 pupils are normal and some children have to share one teacher with 300 classmates.


However, by using mobile tablet technology in the classroom, it allows for highly tailored and interactive learning, which can improve the quality of basic education for primary school age children, especially girls, in Malawi.


Researchers at Nottingham University tested the Onebillion app against other teaching apps, as well as no apps, in a randomised control trial. They found that it helped to greatly boost children’s maths knowledge compared to the other options.


“It is essential we continue to invest in education and ensure teachers are equipped with the right resources to do their job whether that’s via technology or not,” says Purna. “It’s distressing that the investment needed to improve the quality of teaching and learning hasn’t been prioritised in the development and implementation of national education sector plans.”


“VSO is committed to ensuring that improvements in pupils’ learning outcomes are possible when teachers are well-trained and effective in helping their pupils learn, through a combination of volunteers, technology and research.”


VSO is currently recruiting for volunteer teachers. For more information, visit


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