December 12 2016

Mobile learning helps young Cambodians build skills

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are important tools to improve young people’s education, skills and employability. In Cambodia, SOS Children’s Villages, in partnership with MobilTrain, is implementing Text to Change, a mobile-phone based learning project aimed at enhancing the employment prospects of young people in Battambang and Siem Reap.

Cambodia has a population of over 15 million people. About 65% are under the age of 30. According to official statistics, the employment rate in Cambodia is very low at about 0.5%. But most people work in the informal sector. Finding regular employment and quality jobs is important to help young people build sustainable futures. Education is key, and mobile technologies are one way of reaching people.

SOS Children’s Villages Cambodia is integrating technology into the education of young people. Text to Change, for example, provides students with easy-to-grasp lessons that help them improve their English, develop self-confidence and gradually prepare them for careers.

A great advantage of using mobile technology is that it can make learning available to everyone – regardless of people’s location, age, or educational level. It is an easy way to engage people in learning activities and connect them beyond their communities.

The young people share the SMS Quicklearns they receive – text messages containing lessons tailored to the needs of the students.

“If we compare it to our parents’ generation, it is very different. It is more modern and we can learn about a lot if things around the world,” says one of the students. “I can get my lesson every day and everywhere, even if I’m not in school. It is really useful.”

In regular Skype sessions with the MobilTrain team, students learn about building self-confidence, how they can improve their English, and they receive additional lessons that build upon the mobile text messages.
Teachers also receive the SMS Quicklearns, which they can integrate into their classroom work. When young people can use technology, they tend to be more motivated to learn, teachers have observed.

“With this training, we lead the student to use the new technology on mobile. We are in a century of innovation – the students like using technology and they are happy using new technology – they research their lessons with their phones,” says Then Panhean, a teacher at the Hermann Gmeiner School in Angkor Siem Reap.
Students are encouraged to work together and discuss the text messages and lessons. This way, friends and families can also benefit from mobile learning. “When they know a lot, they can teach their sisters or brothers,” says Phou Sopheap, who teaches at the Hermann Gmeiner School in Battambang.
There are many possibilities to expand the programme. One of them is developing an app that allows young people to connect with mentors or guides them through the job market. The young people are enthusiastic about the new ideas. “It’s good and its fun because I can see more than before. I can see the world,” says one of the students.

All photos by Lydia Mantler

Through this initiative, SOS Children’s Villages promotes Sustainable Development Goal 8, supporting decent work for young people for a sustainable and inclusive future. Read more about how SOS Children's Villages contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch our short video about the Text to Change project in Cambodia:

Read more about SOS Children's Villages' ICT4D projects.