Abstract 8

Telesecundaria, Mexico

(Lower Secondary School Learning with Television Support)

Mexico is a large and diverse country of scattered communities and vast distances. Out of the 150,000 rural and far-flung communities, more than 100,000 have less than 100 inhabitants. Until relatively recently it has been impossible, in economic and human terms, to provide secondary education along conventional lines to these communities. The Telesecundaria project (lower secondary school learning with television support) has been instrumental in changing this situation and Mexico's communications infrastructure is now opening up to different forms of education and learning.

Telesecundaria was launched in Mexico in 1968 as a means of extending lower secondary school learning with television support to remote and small communities at a cost inferior to that of conventional secondary schools. The early model was pretty simple; lessons corresponding to grades 7 to 9 were 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 on what had been seen with the teacher. The system was inexpensive because the airtime was donated to the Ministry of Public Education by public networks and required one teacher per grade whilst the conventional system needed eight or nine.

The system has gone through various stages of improvement to reach its present level. 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. Teaching roles also had to adapt. Classrooms became more interactive places with the teachers becoming facilitators of pupil learning rather than just dispensers of information. The TV programmes moved away from the idea of "talking heads", towards 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. The programme writers particularly built on the way the students could use their products to the maximum whether it be alone or in group sessions. Textbooks serve to encourage individual study topics, homework and sound methods of studying. By the end of 1993, Telesecundaria was being offered in more than 9,000 schools throughout the country to nearly 600,000 students (some 15 per cent of the lower secondary school population). Each received 1 or 2 books per subject. 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 requires four main groups of people to function. These interrelated, yet independent, components can be briefly summarised as follows:

-the generators of educational content : selected from the various parts of the educational system, adult, elementary, secondary, higher and technical;

-the producers of videos - professional producers and script writers;

-the programming and transmission council: this group is made up of representatives of the audience. The council decides which television programme goes into which channel, the number of repetitions, and transmission time. It also develops programming charts for all channels;

-the users themselves - individual users, teachers, schools, families, work centres, homes. The programmes can, accordingly, be adapted to suit perceived or expressed needs. The success of the programme depends on this precise targeting of particular audiences at school level.

The curriculum takes its programmatic contents from the nationwide Study Plans and Programmes designed for the lower secondary school level. Three main didactic aids are schemed to support the television system. The Learning Guide is the textbook for the activities covering the main issues of the learning process. The student uses it to go through the different stages of knowledge acquisition from the very beginning of the session up to the evaluation phase.The Book of Basic Concepts is a thematic encyclopedia where the pupil can find information given during the television sessions and students may consult it at any stage during the programme. The Didactic Guide is a book with technical-pedagogical orientations for the exclusive use of the teacher, which he or she uses in the planning and facilitation of the learning process. The book contains information for dealing with learning problems which may arise in class, as well as alternatives or solutions which are useful in helping learners overcome their difficulties.

Today, Telesecundaria lessons contain twenty minutes of 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.

When the Ministry of Education announced a new study plan for basic education in the early 1990s, focusing on the needs of individual students, their families and communities, Telesecundaria responded by further developing its methodology. It decided to increase the interactivity between learners, community and teaching source. This approach required a new effort on the part of the programme developers, opening up to intergenerational learning and community action, but it also meant that teachers had the task of informing schools and communities. The aim was to link the community to the programme around the teaching method. The strategy meant combining community issues into the programmes 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). Within the actual teaching methodology this meant merging the three roles of the teacher, the printed materials and the TV programmes into a convincing whole for the students. Currently, Telesecundaria is building on the possibility of communities producing their own material, extending the concept of learning beyond the classroom.

Contact information:
General Coordinator, Telesecundaria
Ministry of Public Education. Fax/Tel: 95 594 96 83

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