Ring in for BBC English lessons in Bangladesh

Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:51am EST
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DHAKA (Reuters Life!) - Bangladeshis seeking to learn English and better their job prospects abroad need not look further than their mobile phone, which will feature brief lessons conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

The audio and SMS-based learning program is called "Janala," Bengali for window, and was launched by the BBC and six mobile phone operators on Thursday.

A three-minute audio program costs three taka (4 U.S. cents) and is less than the price of a cup of tea. Lessons are also supported by a learning website, www.bbcjanala.com.

"This is the first service of this kind anywhere in the world," Alan Freedman, the country director of BBC World Service Trust, told a news conference.

"This will help Bangladeshis to have an access to better jobs across the world and improve their economic condition."

Ashraful Islam, senior official at the education ministry, said the mobile phone lessons would help improve the standard of English language education in Bangladesh.

"We have an acute shortage of English language teachers in Bangladesh. It will help us fix the problem somewhat," he said.

More than 6 million Bangladeshis work overseas, mainly in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Their remittances are a key source of foreign exchange for the cash-strapped country as well as the main income for millions back home.

In August, Bangladesh received a record $937.91 million in remittances from workers overseas, up 30 percent from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Azad Majumder; writing by Anis Ahmed, editing by Miral Fahmy)