Case Study V. IKRAA - Computer Based Software for Illiteracy Eradication in Lebanon and Egypt

Ikraa, the Arabic word for "read," is an audio and video self-learning software program. Ikraa utilizes ICTs to quicken the pace of literacy education, which is achieved by teaching the Arabic language through a cumulative approach using colors, audio and video components. Developed by a private company, Star Technology, Ikraa is composed of 24 lessons, coupled with extensive vocabulary, sentence composition and self-test exercises.

Ikraa has used existing computer labs to avoid incurring additional costs for course delivery. The program uses technology that does not incur large training costs. Ikraa pilot projects were executed in two countries: Lebanon and Egypt, in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

The Ikraa Project: Process and Outcomes

Star Technology undertook the implementation of the Ikraa Project with the support of UNESCO. Local NGOs were responsible for attracting students in their regions and training instructors to deliver the course in the computer labs. The students learned to read through interactions with the software that included listening, writing and repetition exercises. They could view images, hear sounds, speak into a microphone, and then input words and sentences by writing.

Participants were allowed to progress at their own pace, permitting them to overcome the pressure and psychological obstacles that often hinder the literacy process. Although participants were encouraged to take their time, the program was designed to eradicate literacy in a mere 35 training hours, spread over five days. This short week represented a vast improvement upon traditional techniques that often have required up to nine months to teach a person to read and write.

Ikraa employs the novelty of using a computer to draw participants into engaging with the course material. So while they are learning how to read, the students also are becoming familiar with the basic components of a computer. Once the learners acquire literacy skills and basic computer skills, they are able to continue and take classes in basic ICT skills. Ikraa has also been used in schools to support the teaching of Arabic to children.

In both trials, participating women became literate in just 35 hours. UNESCO recognized the strides in eradicating illiteracy that Ikraa had taken and rewarded the project with the Creativity Award under Education in 2009.

Case 1: Ikraa in Lebanon

In Lebanon, 12 per cent of adults are illiterate, and that percentage is much higher among middle-aged and elderly women. The UNESCO National Committee and Star Technology Sarl implemented Ikraa in Lebanon in July 2008. The project was deployed in 46 computer centers, donated by NGOs, schools, and mosques, all over Lebanon, including Beirut. During the pilot program, 1,500 participants, mainly women, procured literacy skills. The computer centers are still operating and attracting new participants each day.

Case 2: Ikraa in Egypt

Ikraa was implemented in two separate trials in Egypt. The first pilot program took place in January 2009, managed by the same coordinators as in Lebanon -- UNESCO and Star Technology Sarl. Two computer labs, containing 10 computers each, were used to train 20 illiterate women over a period of five days. At the conclusion of these five days, all 20 women were literate and had obtained basic computer skills. Seeing the results of the pilot program, the Egyptian Adult Education Agency chose to repeat the trial, implementing the Ikraa programme in their own computer labs with 20 other illiterate women. The result mirrored that of the first trial, with all 20 women becoming literate and learning basic ICT skills.

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