Investments Show Hope that Technology Increases Literacy Rates in Benin

The Republic of Benin is a West African country located between Togo and Nigeria. Benin’s population of 12.3 million people has low levels of literacy. In 2018, over half of general adults were illiterate while adults ages 15-24 were nearly two-fifths illiterate. This low literacy level signifies an increased need for development in the classroom so more students are able to learn how to read at a young age and in different ways. In fact, the Beninese government allocates more funds to education each year. This increased funding can also be used in varied ways since technology increases literacy rates in Benin if used properly in the classroom.

Growth in Education

Benin was formerly a French colony and achieved independence on August first, 1960. After the collapse of the Marxist government in 1989, Benin formed a more democratic government, which resulted in a new constitution and the formation of the Republic of Benin. Along with this new democracy came more programs to improve the education system. More advances include increased access to education for children and better teaching and learning conditions. Since then, the education system has become more public and secular. There are now many government ministries dedicated to education including the Ministry for Primary and Secondary Education and the Ministry for Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Many international organizations have offered economic and technical support that has resulted in new changes in the classroom. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Development Research Centre of Canada (IDRC) helped fund Benin’s 2005 National Information and Communication Infrastructure Plan. One goal of this plan was to prioritize education and training. The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) initiative launched to increase Information and Communications Technology (ICT) usage in some primary and secondary schools in Benin. In order to directly increase literacy, Benin and Cooperation Suisse, a supporting organization, created the Literacy Support Unit. This organization was created to communicate between citizens and the government’s Literacy Service Agency.

Need for Technology Improvement

Benin was the first West African country to connect to the Internet in 1995. However, there is a technological gap that exists within the country. According to a 2019 survey, citizens were asked if they had used the Internet in the past three months; less than 20% had used the Internet during this time frame. Low levels of Internet usage persist due to the cost of equipment and unstable electricity. A lack of education on the Internet also results from the unregulated curriculum of ICT. However, some NGO programs, among others, have begun implementing training programs, for literacy and beyond as the government attempts to increase ICT education.

Technology Programs for the Classroom

Hopes are that technology access increases literacy rates in Benin. Since technology allows for an individual and customizable experience, students are able to interact with their education more. Technology can result in more student-driven learning due to the more opportunities technology provides. There are many programs students can use in the classroom, including digital learning games for vocabulary or spelling and electronic word references. Apps like Scribble also allow students to collaborate and work together to annotate via technology. Increasing the usage of technology in the classroom is only one way for the country of Benin to increase its literacy rates.

Benin created an Education Sector Plan for 2018-2030 that will increase access and quality education for its citizens. The World Bank has also provided a COVID-19 pandemic grant to support Benin’s Ministry of Education. One nonprofit organization in Switzerland, Graines de Paix, is working toward training teachers and social workers in quality education. In total, the organization plans to train 1,800 teachers. More teacher training allows for a more impactful education for students, in turn, increasing literacy rates.

Literacy not only promotes learning but also improves the economy. This correlation shows how important literacy is in reducing poverty levels. Benin continues to rise in literacy levels due to its investment in education. It also has improved its education through more government funding, programs and teacher training. As a result, more schools have begun to implement technology in the classroom. Due to the impact technology can have on literacy, technology in the classroom could critically increase literacy rates in Benin.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Flickr

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