Addressing Learning Loss/Gap Using Low-Tech Remote Learning Among Underprivileged in Developing Countries: The Bangladesh Case

In response to the learning loss students experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) is collaborating on a research project that evaluates the effects of delivering audio lessons to students from poor and marginalized backgrounds using basic feature phones. This study will assess the impact of the intervention in addressing students’ learning gaps and improving their cognitive and noncognitive skills.

Researchers: Paul Glewwe, Marjan Hossain, Anika Islam, Asad Islam, Dr Khandker Wahedur Rahman, and Shwetlena Sabarwal

Partners: Global Development & Research Initiative (GDRI), Monash University, and World Bank

Timeline: 2022–2023

Status: Ongoing

Method: Quantitative

Contact: Marjan Hossain;


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in over 150 countries and affected 1.6 billion students. In response, many countries implemented some form of remote learning. In rural and underprivileged communities in Bangladesh, where smartphones, televisions (TVs), and the internet are not readily available, basic feature phones became widely popular in educating the mass students. However, the use of basic feature phones in education is limited to SMS reminders or brief calls to the parents to follow up on homework. The BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) is collaborating on a project that extended the existing applications of basic feature phones in education by incorporating the interactive voice response (IVR) system to deliver interactive radio instruction (IRI)-based lessons.


The primary goal of the study is to assess the effectiveness of the lessons provided through IVR in addressing the learning loss that students experienced during the long pandemic-induced school closure. In addition, the study will also focus on the hope and educational aspirations of the students, and whether providing remote learning opportunities through IVR improves children’s cognitive and noncognitive skills.


The study uses a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of students receiving audio lessons (podcasts) delivered via the IVR telecommunication platform. These lessons will cover English and mathematics, as students from rural areas and low socioeconomic backgrounds usually struggle with these two subjects.

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