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300K Bangladeshis Sign Up for English Classes via Cell


The BBC World Service Trust, the charity arm of the international broadcast company, is preparing to launch a service in Bangladesh that will offer lessons in English via cell phone. Called Janala, the service, slated to go live Thursday, started accepting subscriptions this weekend, and the BBC was surprised by the rush of customers. Sara Chamberlain, the manager of the service, told the Financial Times, "25,000 people would have been a good response on the first day." To her delight, or possibly terror, Janala has instead seen over 300,000 sign-ups to date. The sheer volume could bring the service to its knees before it's even had a chance to launch.

Learning English is considered a key to economic mobility both within Bangladesh and to Bangladeshis seeking work abroad. According to the Financial Times, 70-percent of employers in Bangladesh are looking for workers with "communicative English" skills.

The lessons, which cost roughly $0.04 apiece, are three-minute phone calls that offer both audio and text (via SMS, we assume), and involve such tasks as repeating simple vocabulary and dialogues.

While using cell phones for educational purposes is nothing new, this is certainly the largest project we've seen. If the BBC can keep its servers up and running under the crush of the massive response, Janala could prove that cell phones are a legitimate educational tool, and not just a gimmick stealing students' already short attention spans. [From: Financial Times]

Tags: bbc, cellphone, education, english, language, top

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