Enhancing primary education with mobile phone applications for teachers and pupils: Findings and results from Senegal

Ms Christelle Scharff and Mr Constant Tchona Agbessi | Presentation (PDF)

Pace University and SenMobile



In 2011, Senegal, with a gross enrollment rate of 127.2% in the first class of primary school, only 60.8% of the students complete primary school. According to 2013’s ChildFund student data collection report, a primary school class has on average 38.6 students (with peaks of more than 100 students in urban areas). According to Group 5 and UCSPE’s (Unité de Coordination et de Suivi de la Politique Economique) 2010 report, the success rate for the primary school certificate examination was 60.8% in 2009. The evaluation reports of the second phase of the Senegal ten-year education plan, known in French as ‘La Programme décennal de l’éducation et de la formation’, or PDEF, from 1998-2008, displayed that the level expected in reading and mathematics is still a major challenge. Schools are rarely equipped with libraries and computers. Teachers are not always trained appropriately in pedagogy and technology for teaching.

This context generates different challenges for teachers inside and outside the classroom. For example, it is difficult for them to provide pupils with individual attention, accommodate different learning styles, track progress and communicate with parents in a timely manner.

We propose a solution that leverages mobile technology to improve education in Senegalese primary schools in terms of providing pupils with skills in literacy and numeracy in a more personalized way. This solution relies on having teachers organize stimulating class activities where pupils use mobile apps in reading and maths alone or in teams of two to three pupils to practice with the material that is taught. The project integrates the development of apps using agile methodologies in collaboration with education expert, training, coaching and incentives to contribute for teachers, distribution of the apps to parents, and a help desk for live support.

A pilot took place in spring 2013 in a class of CE1 (2nd grade) of 80 pupils in a school of the suburbs of Dakar in collaboration with ChildFund and with the institutional support of the Ministry of Education. CE1 apps were developed based on the Senegalese curriculum and integrated customized feedback and a voice component. Pupils, teachers, inspectors and parents were involved in the project from the start such that we could build a solution that fits their needs. We gathered their comments on the solution and the problems they faced. We administered a pre- and a post-test to the target group and showed that 40% pupils improved their results in literacy and 45% in numeracy. Results in numeracy were much better than results in literacy. Further study is required to verify these results.

Based on our solution, our presentation will highlight the following topics: What is the general perception and usage of mobile apps by teachers? How to involve teachers in the development of apps for literacy and numeracy (e.g. contribute content)? How to train and coach teacher to use apps in their teaching (e.g. usage of apps and interactive activities, pupils monitoring)? How to motivate teachers to use apps regularly in their teaching (e.g. incentives)? How teachers can integrate apps in their teaching (e.g. team work and tests)? How the use of mobile apps impact teaching (e.g. charge of work and class dynamics)?



Ms Christelle Scharff is an associate professor of Computer Science at Pace University in New York City. She established Mobile Senegal (http://mobilesenegal.org), a Pace initiative that has been building capacity in mobile application development in Senegal since 2008 and trained more than 400 mobile developers. She is the founder of SenMobile (http://senmobile.com), a start-up established in Senegal specialized in mobile solutions for developing markets in education, health, sport and financial awareness.

Agbessi Constant Tchona is an inspirational leader, a seasoned and disciplined development professional, with substantial experience in long term community development processes, building functional and accountable governance systems, and influencing policies to protect and promote the human rights of children. He has totalled 16 years + of global development experience with three international organizations including 10 years with Plan in Benin and Burkina Faso, 2 years studying and reflecting on the development industry in Syracuse University (USA), 9 months with CARE and about 4 years with ChildFund International.







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