Filipino telco helps students get rid of heavy school bags with SMS textbooks

Filipino students struggle to carry 20 or more heavy textbooks into school, becoming exhausted or even suffering from scoliosis. Tablets and e-readers cost as much as a low monthly salary in the Philippines, so these devices are not regarded as a viable option either.


Filipino telco Smart recognized that the prevalent tech in the Philippines is feature phones, used mainly for SMS texting. To help address the above issue, the agency developed the Smart TXTBKS programme which recruited textbook publishers, teachers and examiners to adapt existing English, maths and science books into a format suitable for reproduction in the 160-character SMS format. Programmers then pre-loaded SIM cards with the educational information, which was distributed in schools where book use had become a real issue. The initiative also helped to reinforce the telco’s mission to make text ‘light and easy’ for every Filipino.

Results: With school bags becoming 50% lighter thanks to the info-packed handsets, class attendance reached 95% in participating schools. Grades also improved: students using the TXTBKS scheme averaged 90% in test scores. The scheme has been so successful that Smart is now creating further iterations of SMS study aides across more subjects, and the programme is being rolled out nationwide.

Why I’m curious:

It’s not the most technologically advanced innovation, in fact, it’s a little bit backwards. But what’s I like the most about this is the notion of relevant innovation that empowers people by enhancing their everyday life that’s represented in this campaign, and the simple and powerful solution it provides.

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