[Column] Jens Ischebeck: The potential for mobile learning in Ivory Coast
M-learning enables mobile phone users to access online courses (including free courses such as MOOC) and gain qualifications remotely via their smartphones. With many experts hailing mobile based learning as the educational technology (edtech) of the future, it falls to us to ask: what are its implications for the Ivory Coast? The education system in the Ivory Coast is certainly ripe for a shake up as statistics paint a worrying picture. Studies from 2000 showed, for example, that only 48.7% of the total population of the country was literate, with literacy rates being lower for females than for males. Child marriage, poverty (and its result, child labour) and poor healthcare means that many children in the Ivory Coast either miss many days of school each year or abrogate their school studies early in order to work or marry. As such, mobile based learning and other e-learning solutions for the Ivory Coast would have to be part of an integrated solution that sought to improve healthcare and to combat child marriage and child labour. Only then can the full potential of m-learning be realised for the people that stand most to benefit from it: i.e. the country's poorer communities.
M-learning is one of the relatively new applications which use the new internet and mobile phone based technologies to improve the access to some basic needs or skills, such as mhealth, app based language learning or cheap online money transfers.
The education system in Ivory Coast
The education system in this country consists of primary, secondary and tertiary education. However, less than a quarter of primary school leavers go on to secondary school, and only around a quarter of secondary school students actually graduate with the Baccalaureate qualification. Nevertheless, Ivory Coast is notable within Sub-Sahara Africa for its abundance of highly qualified and skilled teachers, so the potential is definitely there for improvement, given the right e-learning technology. When it comes to tertiary education in Ivory Coast, the country has three universities. In the economic capital of Abidjan we have the Université de Cocody, whilst Bouaké is home to the Université de Bouaké and the political capital of Yamoussoukro has the Institut National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny. In addition, there are several vocational training colleges in the country (mainly in its two capital cities) and plenty of institutions offering short online courses and short term diplomas online. In this region of Sub-Sahara Africa, then, the infrastructure is there for students to get a good education: what is hampering them is poverty, poor transport networks, child labour, poor healthcare and child marriage. Could m-learning help to provide a solution?
The use of mobile phones in Ivory Coast
Mobile phone usage in Ivory Coast rose from there being 2.2 million cellphone lines in 2005 to 19.8 million in 2012. In 2012, Ivory Coast was named the country that is 49th in the world for mobile phone use, and it could be set to rise through the ranks in the future. In addition, the mobile phone industry is, to date, the third largest in all of West Africa. That means that the industry and the infrastructure is there to disseminate MOOC, e-learning apps and other types of edtech throughout the country. Though around 68% of the country's economy remains devoted to agriculture, the mobile phone industry looks set to grow in future years - in keeping with an overall increase in the country's GDP. Statistics show that as of 2014, there were 8.8 million Orange users in Ivory Coast (Orange being the most popular mobile phone provider there) as well as 8 million subscribers to MTN and over 3 million users of Moov. This looks very promising for the uptake of m-learning in Ivory Coast.
There is a rising amount of local and regional companies which provide products and materials for online courses and exam preparations, the classical fields of m-learning. This African providers guide illustrates a list of edtech startups in several countries.
The future of m-learning in Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast can be described as a region that currently has a rather poor success rate with its education system but that does have massive potential. Skilled teachers, educated directly by government departments, and a growing mobile phone network based economy mean that mobile e-learning could well be the learning style of the future for many inhabitants of Ivory Coast. What is crucial, though, is to ensure that any developments in mobile based learning for Ivory Coast happen in tandem with initiatives to tackle child labour (and its cause, poverty), poor healthcare, child marriage for girls and attitudes towards girls that do not see education as a priority for them. These are some of the root causes of the country's low literacy rates, and once these issues are being tackled, the country will have a firm foundation on which to promote new mobile based learning models.
For more information about this important and exciting educational market, visit my apps-for-learning.com. Alternatively, if you wish, contact me directly today. Whether you are a student or teaching professional, we specialize in mobile education within Africa and will be pleased to help you with your enquiry.
By the way: If you are interested in online money transfers, the leading providers and how it works, just check my remittance site.