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McGraw-Hill to Provide English Instruction and Test Prep Through Cellphones in India

McGraw-Hill is building a mobile-phone platform to teach English and college test preparation to people in India, which the publisher hopes will help it tap into rapidly expanding cellphone use in emerging markets.

The platform, mConnect, comes as textbook publishers are jockeying to supply learning materials on digital devices. If the software is successful in India, McGraw-Hill plans to offer it in other developing countries in Asia and Africa.

The service will initially teach subscribers through text messaging and automated voice response, said Bruce D. Marcus, McGraw-Hill’s executive vice president. For instance, automated software will give Indians feedback on their English-speaking abilities, and a text-message service will offer test-preparation questions and grade the responses.

The platform is being built in parternship with Wipro, a Bangalore-based technology company, and will launch to limited audiences this summer. Mr. Marcus declined to say how many people McGraw-Hill intends to reach, and he said the details of how the software will be delivered have not been finalized.

The software could help teach millions of rural cellphone users who lack access to education, he said. And it would open up new audiences for McGraw-Hill and help it establish a broader reputation, he said.

“Once people get some exposure to our content and learn about what we provide, they’ll be more interested in using options from us,” Mr. Marcus said. “We think there’s an opportunity to sell to this market at very reasonable prices.”

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