Using Mobile to Create Low-Cost, High-Quality Language Learning Opportunities: Lessons from India and Bangladesh

  • Alexandra Tyers
  • Amy Lightfoot
Part of the International Perspectives on English Language Teaching book series (INPELT)


This chapter provides an overview of the issues involved in designing, implementing and measuring mobile English language learning, using a project undertaken by the British Council in South Asia as an illustrative case study. The chapter begins with a summary of the context and related m-learning projects in South Asia. It then describes the two-phase process that the British Council team undertook to develop appropriate content (using an app, interactive voice response—IVR—and SMS technology) to enable young people in India and Bangladesh to develop their English proficiency to improve their employability prospects. Finally, the authors attempt to analyse the experience in order to examine the challenges and make recommendations for future initiatives.


  1. Aker, J. C., Ksoll, C., & Lybbert, T. J. (2012). Can mobile phones improve learning? Evidence from a field experiment in Niger. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(4), 94–120.Google Scholar
  2. Ally, M. (2014). Increasing access to education for all through mobile learning. Commonwealth of Learning. Available at: Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  3. Ambient Insight. (2014). Ambient insight regional report: The 2013–2018 Asia digital English language learning market. Available at: Accessed 31 Mar 2015.
  4. ASER. (2015). ASER (rural) findings. Available at: Accessed 3 July 2015.
  5. Aslam, M., De, A., Kingdon, G., & Kumar, R. (2010). Economic returns to schooling and skills; RECOUP (Working paper no. 38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Azam, M., Chin, A., & Prakash, N. (2013). The returns to English language skills in India. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 61(2), 335–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. British Council. (2015). Technology for professional development: Access, interest and opportunity for teachers of English in South Asia. New Delhi: British Council.Google Scholar
  8. British Council Bangladesh. (2012). Internal market research report (unpublished).Google Scholar
  9. British Council Bangladesh. (2014). Research report: Jobseekers (unpublished).Google Scholar
  10. British Council India. (2011). Internal market research report (unpublished).Google Scholar
  11. Burston, J. (2015). Twenty years of MALL project implementation: A meta-analysis of learning outcomes. ReCALL, 27(1), 4–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cotter, T., & Ashraf, T. (2012, October 15). BBC Janala mobile service: A response to context and user experience. Presented at MLearn 2012 Pre-conference workshop mLearning solutions for international development: Rethinking what’s possible. Helsinki, Finland. Available at: Accessed 3 Apr 2015.
  13. Cotter, T., & Rahman, A. (2014). English language learning through mobile phones. In S. Garton & K. Graves (Eds.), International perspectives on materials in ELT (pp. 159–177). Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Drèze, J., & Sen, A. K. (2002). India, development and participation (2nd ed.). New Delhi /New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. English in Action. (2009). Socio-linguistic factors: Motivations for learning English and demand in the workplace. Available at: Accessed 3 Nov 2015.
  16. Erling, E. (2014). The role of English in skills development in South Asia: Policies, interventions and existing evidence. New Delhi: British Council.Google Scholar
  17. Graddol, D. (2010). English next: India. New Delhi: British Council.Google Scholar
  18. Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA). (2015a). GSMA Intelligence. Available at: Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  19. Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA). (2015b). GSMA Intelligence. Available at: Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  20. Hockly, N., & Dudeney, G. (2014). Going mobile. Peaslake: Delta Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. International Telecommunications Union. (2015). ICT facts and figures—The World in 2015. Available at: Accessed 14 Nov 2015.
  22. Kam, M., Kumar, A., Jain, S., Mathur, A., & Canny, J. (2009, April 17–19). Improving literacy in rural India: Cellphone games in an after-school program. In Proceedings of IEEE/ACM Conference on Information and Communication Technology and Development (ICTD ’09), Doha. Available at: Accessed 15 Mar 2015.
  23. Keegan, D. (2005). Mobile learning: The next generation of learning. Distance Education International. Available at: Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  24. Kidwai, H., Burnette, D., Rao, S., Nath, S., Bajaj, M., & Bajpai, N. (2013). In-service teacher training for public primary schools in rural India (Columbia Global Centre—Working paper no. 12). Available at: Accessed 9 Nov 2015.
  25. Kingdon, G. (2007). The progress of school education in India. (Global Poverty Research Group—Working paper series (71)). Available at: Accessed 10 Nov 2015.
  26. Kukulska-Hulme, A., & Traxler, J. (2013). Design principles for mobile learning. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed., pp. 244–257). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Kukulska-Hulme, A., Norris, L., & Donohue, J. (2015). Mobile pedagogy for English language teaching: A guide for teachers. London: British Council. Available at: Accessed 30 Jan 2016.
  28. Lewin, K. (2011). Making rights realities: Researching educational access, transitions and equity. CREATE. Available at: Accessed 21 Nov 2015.
  29. Lightfoot, A. (2012, March 13). Signal poor on M-learning’s impact. The Guardian Weekly. Google Scholar
  30. Oberg, A., & Daniels, P. (2013). Analysis of the effect a student-centred mobile learning instructional method has on language acquisition. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 26(2), 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pegrum, M. (2014). Mobile learning. Languages, literacies and cultures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  32. Simpson, J., Bhattacharya, A., Badgar, R., & Shah, S. (2013). MOBIGAM: Language on the move in Gujarat—a preliminary status report. ELT Quarterly, 14(1–4), 84–87.Google Scholar
  33. Tooley, J., Dixon, P., & Gomathi, S. V. (2007). Private schools and the millennium development goal of universal primary education: A census and comparative study in Hyderabad, India. Oxford Review of Education, 33(5), 539–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Traxler, J., & Vosloo, S. (2014). Introduction: The prospects for mobile learning. Prospects, 44(1), 13–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tyers, A. (2012). A gender digital divide? Women learning English through ICTs in Bangladesh. mLearn 2012 Conference Proceedings. Available at: Accessed 31 Mar 2015.
  36. Valk, J. H., Rashid, A. T., & Elder, L. (2010). Using mobile phones to improve educational outcomes: An analysis of evidence from Asia. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(1), 117–140.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra Tyers
    • 1
  • Amy Lightfoot
    • 2
  1. 1.Panoply DigitalLondonUK
  2. 2.British Council IndiaDelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations