» Posts tagged: ‘UNESCO

imagesICTs have long been in the toolkit of development organisations, yet ‘development through texting’ appears a rather new practice.

As part of its ‘Youth Empowerment through Mobile Learning Project’, UNESCO Thailand, in collaboration with the Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education of the Thai Ministry of Education, has been bombarding ‘more than 1600 young Thais’ with daily text messages sent out through Facebook and by telephone SMS (see HERE).

The text messages contain quotes from famous scientist, business people and movie stars, including the likes of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. This is one such example, that would have popped up (in Thai script!) on the screens of the young Thais participating in the project:

“The only wrong thing would be to deny what your heart truly feels,” from the film “The Mask of Zorro”. 

With these texts, UNESCO aims to stimulate the development of mental skills, cognitive skills and technical skills among Thai youth’s. Mass-texting may thus well be regarded a development project.

As with most development projects, whether these goals are achieved is perhaps the least interesting of questions. What I would find more interesting is learning by whom and how these quotes are selected. There is a documented history (e.g. by Thongchai) on Thailand’s appropriation of certain western practices and knowledges in the name of ‘civilization’, and the examples provided by UNESCO suggest indeed that the quotes used in this texting programme are from famous people from the west exclusively. Despite this possible historical continuity, the absence of any quotes from the Thai king, from Buddhist monks, or former prime-minister Thaksin for that matter, would still raise really interesting questions. Also, what sense do young Thais make of such daily ‘feeds’ and how do they interpret such ‘development texts’ in relation to the many other ‘electronic updates’ they no doubt receive. There is also a question of political economy. Assuming that subscription to this UNESCO SMS service is free on the receiving end, the service still has a price which UNESCO might subsidise and/or has an agreement about with one or more of the companies providing mobile telephony services in Thailand.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


Posted by Roy Huijsmans

In their efforts to increase global school attendance UNESCO acclaims that ‘We cannot afford to ignore the data’. But what about representations of ‘development and education’ in both text and image in global education campaigns? Does it matter that we speak about ‘children slipping away’, and what to make of ‘catch these kids while we can’? Whose is the ‘we’? Why ‘catch’? What is written out of the script through such representations?

And what about the metaphor of school as an hot-air balloon? Is here a parallel drawn between physical laws and the role of schooling in upward social mobility? What sort of questions are here then erased, and how does this, for example, relate to rising concerns about ‘educated unemployment‘?

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