New research by the Learning and Skills Development Agency revealed that 16 to 24-year-olds were enthusiastic about using games on mobile phones to brush up on their education.
In a survey of their use of mobile phones, almost half said they would use a mobile learning game to help with reading or spelling while 44 per cent expressed an interest in maths games.
The research is part of a three-year pan-European project called m-learning, which is looking at the possibility of using mobile phones and computer games to encourage young people to learn. The project, which runs to 2004, aims to develop prototype learning materials for mobile phones and other inexpensive portable devices.
Jill Attewell, LSDA's m-learning programme manager, was "pleasantly surprised" by the interest shown by young people in the games. "One of the things we wondered about at the beginning of the survey was whether they would think the idea was irredeemably sad," she said.
The educational games could be particularly attractive to those with basic skills needs who are hesitant about doing conventional courses at a FE college.
"Like e-learning, this is rather more discreet than learning in a classroom environment if you are embarrassed about your skills in certain areas," Ms Attewell said.
"There appears to be potential for using new approaches to engage and motivate those who may be disenchanted with traditional education - hopefully encouraging some to progress to more substantial learning."
Girls, 16 to 19-year-olds and young adults educated to level 2 or 3 (GCSE, A-level or equivalent) showed the greatest interest in using mobile phones for improving skills.
Those who were interested in mobile learning games stressed that they had to be attractive, fun and even addictive if they were to sustain interest.