Telesecundaria's strategies have evolved over the years, such that the paedogogy has reflected and responded to expanded technical opportunities presented by advances in satellite television and increasing emphasis on participatory and community-based learning.
Specifically, the early model featured lessons corresponding to grades 7 to 9 being transmitted live, through open public channels to television sets placed in distant classrooms where students listened and took notes in the presence of a teacher. These lessons were transmitted 6 hours per day, Monday through Friday, for the length of a school year. Each hour of class was made up of 20 minutes of television and 40 minutes of discussion, with the teacher, on what had been viewed. The system was inexpensive because the airtime was donated to the Ministry of Public Education by public networks and required one teacher per grade, while the conventional system needed 8 or 9.
The curriculum takes its programmatic contents from the nationwide Study Plans and Programmes designed for the lower secondary school level. Printed materials - 3 main didactic resources - have been developed to support the television system. The Learning Guide is the textbook for the activities covering the main issues of the learning process. The Book of Basic Concepts is a thematic encyclopedia; students may consult it at any stage during the programme. The Didactic Guide is a book with technical-paedagogical orientations for the exclusive use of the teacher.
As the system evolved, the design of television programmes was handed over to specialised teachers who had the sole and specific task of producing scripts and materials. Classrooms also became more interactive, with the teachers becoming facilitators of learning rather than just dispensers of information. The TV programmes moved away from the idea of "talking heads" toward more interactive modes with charismatic speakers and simple use of language. Student books also adopted a more targeted approach, corresponding precisely to the television programmes in detail and content, as well as a more flexible design whereby students could use the products alone or in group sessions. Textbooks serve to encourage individual study topics, homework and sound methods of studying.
In 1994, a more powerful and advanced satellite was launched, capable of covering further territory. The new system was named EDUSAT and was made up of 6 channels capable of transmitting 24 hours a day. Telesecundaria lessons now contain 20 minutes of what organisers describe as interactive, dynamic, and action-oriented learning. They can be watched live on TV or can be recorded on video, depending on availability of machines in schools. Each teacher follows a basic pattern but is free to adapt the TV programmes to his or her style, learner needs, or student characteristics. This flexibility to mould the programme to specific circumstances depends very much on the individual competence of the teacher, but the programme's materials encourage such use.
Telesencundaria has developed an educational methodology over the years that is designed to foster the active engagement of students within the community, as part of an effort to create a paedagogically sound balance among the visual power of televised images, demanding and intellectually invigorating learning activities that require reading and research, and the motivating influence of hands-on, project-based activities that relate to students' lives and communities. Concretely, the strategy involves offering children an integrated education, involving the community at large in the organisation and management of the school, and stimulating students to carry out community activities (poster campaigns, communal actions, meetings). Through these latter activities, students focus on understanding and working to solve local problems in areas such as hygiene, pollution, water accessibility, human rights. Special days are set aside throughout the year to promote health, arts and culture, or productivity, particularly in areas of local economic interest, by individual students, such as farming or animal care and production. In addition, 3 times a year, students present to their communities group projects intended to benefit the community; students both promote the projects and are responsible for ensuring that their parents are involved.
By 1998, 800,000 students in grades 7 - 9 were enrolled in Telesecunclaria in 12,700 rural communities. Telesecundaria constitutes 16% of the overall junior secondary enrollment, with traditional general schools accounting for 50% of the enrollment, and technical schools the remaining 34%. There are over 100 televised programmes for each subject and
grade. For example, there are 181 lessons in 7th grade mathematics, 105 in biology, etc. Almost 75% of the students who enter Telesecundaria at grade 7 successfully complete grade prior to entering the classroom, learning day-by-day 9. However, 1994 figures show that only 21% of Telesecundaria students continue on to high school, compared with 85% of grade 9 students in urban areas. (This is due largely to the limited number of secondary schools in rural areas.) It is estimated that another 15% of Telesecundaria students pursue technical careers.
On evaluator, Jose Calderoni, writes "All nations confront issues of limited educational resources in rural areas, but Mexico has successfully addressed these constraints through Telesecundaria. It is a project that has been paid for internally, sustained without external donor support, and thrived despite numerous governments, administrations, political assaults by teachers' unions, and other challenges."
Posting to the bytesforall_readers listserv on September 22 2005 (click here to access the archives); UNESCO website; "Telesecundaria: Using TV to Bring Education to Rural Mexico" [PDF], by Jose Calderoni, Education and Technology Technical Notes Series, Volume 3, Number 2, 1998; and "Telesecundaria: Students and the Meanings They Attribute to Elements of the Pedagogical Model" [PDF].