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How Have Radio and TV Broadcasting Been Used in Education?

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In the interest of exploring how information and communication technology (ICT) can help transform the learning environment into one that is learner-centred, this article provides an overview of how radio and television have been used in education over the past 80 years. It appears on the UVaWeblearn website, described as "a resource and portal for technology-assisted education, distance-learning and online education."

Indicating that these ICTs have been "used widely" as educational tools since the 1920s (radio) and the 1950s (TV), the article lists 3 general approaches to the use of radio and TV in education and provides examples of how the approaches have been used over time. Specifically,

  1. Direct class teaching involves broadcast programming as a substitute for a teacher on a temporary basis.
    • With regard to radio, the primary example discussed here is Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI), which was first implemented in Thailand in 1980; Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal rolled out their own IRI projects in the 1990s. IRI has also been implemented in Latin America. As part of IRI, 20-30-minute direct teaching and learning exercises are provided via radio to the classroom on a daily basis. Developed around specific learning objectives at particular levels of mathematics, science, health, and languages in national curricula, these lessons are intended to improve the quality of classroom teaching and to act as a regular, structured aid to poorly trained classroom teachers in under-resourced schools. According to this article, "Extensive research around the world has shown that many IRI projects have had a positive impact on learning outcomes and on educational equity. And with its economies of scale, it has proven to be a cost-effective strategy relative to other interventions."
    • With regard to television, the primary example discussed here is Mexico's Telesecundaria. Launched in Mexico in 1968 as a cost-effective strategy for expanding lower secondary schooling in small and remote communities, this initiative involves the beaming of centrally produced programmes via satellite throughout the country on a scheduled basis (8 am to 2 pm and 2 pm to 8 pm) to Telesecundaria schools, covering the same secondary curriculum as that offered in ordinary schools. Each hour focuses on a different subject area, and features 15 minutes of TV followed by book-led and teacher-led activities. Students are exposed to a variety of teachers on television but have one home teacher at the school for all disciplines in each grade. The design of Telesecundaria has undergone many changes through the years, shifting to more interactive and dynamic programming that involves integrating the community into the school, and vice versa. The article notes that assessments of this initiative "have been encouraging: drop out rates are slightly better than those of general secondary schools and significantly better than in technical schools."
    • The article also explores a few examples in which radio and television have been combined in a direct class teaching approach. In Asia, the 44 radio and TV universities in China have made "extensive use" of both of these ICTs to reach more of their respective large populations. For these institutions, broadcasts are often accompanied by printed materials and audio cassettes. And Japan's University of the Air has broadcast various TV and radio courses, each of which consists of 15 45-minute lectures broadcast nationwide once a week for 15 weeks. Courses are aired over University-owned stations, with students also receiving supplemental print materials, face-to-face instruction, and online tutorials.
  2. School broadcasting involves the provision of broadcast programming - not to substitute for the teacher but, rather, to enrich traditional classroom instruction (particularly where resources would not otherwise be available). Often deployed with print materials, cassettes and CD-ROMS, school broadcasting is geared to national curricula and developed for a range of subject areas; teachers decide how they will integrate the materials into their classes.
  3. General educational programming involves providing non-formal educational opportunities for all types of learners over community, national, or international stations. This programming could include news programmes, documentary programmes, quiz shows, educational cartoons, and so on. Examples provided here that use this approach are the children's "edutainment" television show Sesame Street, the television channels National Geographic and Discovery, the radio programme Voice of America, and the Farm Radio Forum, which began in Canada in the 1940s.
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Uses of Radio and TV in Education, in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s ICT in Education e-newsletter, June 18 2007 (click here to access the archives); and the UVaWeblearn website.

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