Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

140207 - MR - Text messages to teachers boost children’s reading ability

07 February 2014

Text messages to teachers boost children’s reading ability

A daily mobile phone text message to Papua New Guinean elementary school teachers has boosted children’s reading ability.

Papua New Guinea and Australia have trialled sending text messages to elementary teachers in two provinces to improve the skills of students.

Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) conducted the SMS Story trial in partnership with the Department of Education. Australia funded the trial through the Economic and Public Sector Program.

A group of teachers received 200 text messages over 20 weeks containing stories they wrote on the blackboard and lesson plans designed to help them introduce children to reading English.

At the end of the trial, the reading ability of more than 1000 children in Simbu and Madang provinces was significantly higher than other elementary school children.

Minister (Development Cooperation) at the Australian High Commission, Stuart Schaefer, said the trial provided strong evidence to help Papua New Guinea to tackle illiteracy.

“Poor literacy ruins lives and leads to poverty. Australia supports Papua New Guinea’s efforts to increase the number of children who can read and write,” Mr Schaefer said.

“A rigorous evidence base is vital to test if ideas like this can fit with existing services and have a development impact.

“By thinking outside the square Papua New Guinea is finding new ways of using existing technology and systems to improve development.”

The Acting Assistant Secretary of the Curriculum Development and Assessment Division in the Department of Education, Mr Wesley Lakain, said the project was innovative and important.

“The Government of Papua New Guinea is committed to improving service delivery, and we are excited about being able to use text messages to help teachers based in rural and remote places,” Mr Lakain said.

Papua New Guinea and Australia have also trialled using mobile phones to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Alotau and to collect more reliable data from 35 District Courts across PNG.