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The findings > Applying new technologies in basic education > Part 3
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To interpret the achievements and setbacks of the last decade, we look first at educational development generally and secondly at the way other social and economic changes have influenced the use of technologies in education. Then we look, in turn, at developments in computers, broadcasting and distance education over the last decade examining the ways in which they have been used to support or provide basic education.


These are the theme of other papers but form a necessary backdrop to this one. Much of the story is gloomy. The setbacks to education in subsaharan Africa and Latin America in the 1980s were still affecting education well into the 1990s while, towards the end of the decade, the Asian financial crisis was taking children out of schools just as it was taking people out of jobs. The most depressing figures come from subsaharan Africa where, 'since the Jomtien conference, a group of 16 countries in the region, accounting for half of all 6-11 year olds, have suffered a decline in net enrolment rates' (Watkins 1999: 12). In much of the world, the pleas of the international conferences from Jomtien (1990) to Rio de Janeiro (1992), Cairo (1994), Beijing (1995) and Copenhagen (1995), have not resulted in the expansion of basic education that was looked for in 1990. Absolute levels of world illiteracy have changed little, with between 850 and 900 million adults unable to read and write. While gross enrolment ratios at primary level in developing countries as a whole have been between 90 and 95 per cent for girls and 100 and 105 per cent for boys, they remain below 65 and 80 per cent respectively in the least developed countries.

But a world summary should also take account of the real advances that have been made. Illiteracy, for example, has fallen dramatically in Europe, East Asia and Oceania since 1980. Despite the static ratios, ministries of education have, within the severe constraints on their work, managed to increase the numbers of students, at most levels of education in most parts of the world. Even in the least developed countries, there were in 1996 171 children in school for every 100 who were there in 1980 and 134 in 1990 (UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1998). Education has expanded, even while lagging behind the Jomtien targets. The figures suggest, too, that there may be one more trend that, while as yet least pronounced in basic education, may have profound implications for it in the future. In many parts of the world, including the least developed countries, female enrolment has been growing more rapidly than male at all levels but especially at tertiary and secondary levels (see table 3.1).

The figures start from a lower base but show a consistent pattern. In subsaharan Africa, for example, female enrolments in tertiary education increased by over 250 per cent between 1980 and 1996 (against an increase of 80 per cent for male students); there is a similar pattern in south Asia - a common feature of two regions facing the severest educational difficulties.

Given what we know about the effects of female education, this shift deserves attention alongside the gloomy overall record. It may affect basic education in several ways: by increasing enrolment as the process feeds back from tertiary and secondary levels; by providing role models that support education for women and girls; by expanding the number of potential women entrants to the teaching force and raising their educational background; and by influencing family attitudes as better-educated mothers insists on better education for their daughters.

Table 3.1: Educational enrolment trends 1980-1996 ( Not available)


Particular trends within the last decade are creating a new, more complex communications environment. Major trends include the general development towards digitisation and digital technologies, the fragmentation and de-regulation of the communication sector, new participatory methodologies in development communications and the new mainstream status of open and distance learning

This new environment is making an impact on the ways technology is used in basic education and has opened up both opportunities and disparities within basic education.

3.2.1 The development towards digitisation

The exponential expansion in new information and communication technology is one result of the general process towards digitisation (the digitisation of images, sounds and data; digital data compression and new developments in electronic components). What is emerging is the capacity, for the convergence of telecommunications, computer and audio-visual technologies 'previously separated by techniques, legislation and modes of distribution' (UNESCO 1997).

The convergence between, previously distinct, forms of communication has organisational and technical consequences. At the functional level, the once distinct communication media - radio broadcasting, telecommunications and computer technology sectors - have the potential to offer a more hybrid range of services. Radio broadcasting services, for example, will be able to transmit signals other than information or entertainment programmes; the telephone industry will be able to transmit entertainment in addition to conventional services of dialogue and data transmission. At the technical level, old distinctions within the transmission infrastructure (terrestrial broadcasting, cable, satellite) could become obsolete. Where information is processed in digital form, then distribution systems become multi-purpose. This will undoubtedly have a significant impact on isolated communities and will open up the potential for new and more regular basic education opportunities.

The use of new information and communication technologies, and especially of the Internet has expanded dramatically within the decade. Increasingly, as new technologies are becoming integrated into educational settings, there are new learning opportunities for learners and intermediaries (teachers, health and agricultural extension workers): there is the potential for communicating across geographical distances and time differences with ease; for accessing new pools of information and resources and for participating in new learning networks and partnerships.

In communications, as in every other sector, these developments have been unbalanced. 'Overshadowing the utilisation of the new information and communication technologies in education are worldwide disparities in access to these technologies' (UNESCO 1998: 79). Most developing countries lack the basic infrastructure and training needed for gaining access. This 'digital divide' compounds existing inequalities between people within and between countries: the disparities in access are not random but correlate strongly with income, education, ethnic origin, location, and gender (Novak and Hoffman, 1998; NTIA 1998). But access alone will not be enough to create a level playing field:

Knowledge is the new asset: more than half of the GDP in the major OECD countries is now knowledge-based. With such importance placed on these technologies, the new rules of globalisation - liberalisation, privatisation and tighter intellectual property rights - are shaping their control and use.. (and) have set off a race to lay claim to knowledge.. the global gap between haves and have-nots, between know and know-nots, is widening. Tightened intellectual property rights keep developing countries out of the knowledge sector. Patent laws do not recognise traditional knowledge and systems of ownership.

(UNDP 1999: 57)

Learners from developing countries therefore face additional risks: the concentration of the ownership of communications systems; the dominance of western educational models and market leaders; exposure to what may be seen as new forms of political, cultural and linguistic colonialism. The English language dominates. It accounts for 85-90% of Internet messages, 80% of websites ('and in the common user interfaces - the graphics and instructions') and 80-85% of all scientific and technical information in abstracted, published or computer-stored form (UNDP 1999: 62; Kaplan 1993). The consequences may be to downgrade other languages. But, at the same time, the use of English, already the key international language, means that those with some capacity in it have their access to learning widened by the new technologies.

The development of the Internet therefore poses difficult ethical challenges. These may bear particularly on aid agencies. There is a danger that funding to support Internet development may only nurture an illusion of egalitarianism while differences in access to computer communication in fact shore up existing inequalities. Agency investment in this sector has also been criticised as principally helping the communications industry penetrate new markets and set up new dependencies. Aid for Internet development might divert funds from more traditional forms of development; the balance between funding for books and teachers and funding for technology is not easy. At the same time there is an obvious downside to decisions against funding Internet growth.

One response to the demand for investment in communications technology for education has been the pooling of resources between bilateral and multilateral aid agencies in the form of large-scale, collaborative and sector-wide, capacity-building and training initiatives in telecommunications. Examples include the InfoDev programme (World Bank), the International Programme for the Development of Communications (UNESCO), the Intergovernmental Informatics Programme (UNESCO), BellaNet (CIDA, IDRC, UNDP), the Telecentre Fund (ITU, UNESCO & IDRC). Emphasis has also been placed on innovative ways to develop rural communications including the notion of developing public access points and resource centres such as community access centres, multi-purpose rural telecentres, and public communications booths.

The ground statistics, however, remain salutary: in Africa as a whole, radio covers 75% of the population, television 40% and the Internet 0.1% (Panos Media Briefing no 28). 62% of all telephones lines in the entire world are installed in just 23 countries (15% of the world's population), one quarter of all countries in the world have less than one telephone per 100 people, 84% of mobile phone subscribers, 91% fax machines and 97% of Internet host computers are in industrialised countries (Communication for Social Change). 63% of users are male and 37% are female, a ratio that has remained consistent over several years (Panos, op cit).

3.2.2 Media liberalisation and fragmentation

The heyday of neo-liberalism means that much of the communication sector has been deregulated and privatised. The decade has seen the end of some state monopolies of media, a rise in commercial media and a growth in satellite and community broadcasting. These changes have ushered in an increasingly fragmented media environment and, in some countries, regulatory and legislative bodies more favourable to pluralism. All these developments have influenced the use of communications technology for basic education.

One is that, in some developing countries, there have been new opportunities for commercial and small community radio stations to develop educational programming. For example, in some countries of francophone West Africa - Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Senegal - the move away from an exclusively urban-concentrated, government monopoly has resulted in a new wave of community radio programmes for non-formal and adult education, targeted to particular communities and often in a range of African languages.

Another development is that audio and video technologies have become cheaper, smaller, more reliable and easier to use. This has made them usable in a wide variety of contexts and by a broader, less professional range of people. Needs-based assessment, discussed in the following section, has given rise to much wider use of audio and video equipment for recording interviews. The media have thus become more accessible to more organisations and individuals working in basic education. Part of this trend can also be seen in the emerging and innovative private sector in rural communication - video rental shops, video recording services for weddings, photocopying, local and long distance telephone shops, fax services, photo-taking, film processing, newspaper and magazine kiosks, bookstores, pre-recorded audio-cassette outlets.

One downside of the privatisation process is that many educational bodies that once had free access to satellites or airtime on national government stations no longer do so.

3.2.3 Participatory methodologies in development communication

Since the Jomtien conference, most energy and most attention has been given to the expansion of schooling through government action. But this is not the whole of the story; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in particular have played a number of roles in the expansion of education and in rethinking approaches to expansion and change.

Although it is difficult to quantify, it seems likely that NGOs have increased their involvement in basic education, alongside governments. Their work has benefited from their inherent advantages: modest scale, an ability to respond quickly to emergency situations; local knowledge and continuous presence in particular regions. All these have enabled them to make small-scale interventions and target specific, often excluded, populations such women farmers. One consequence of this is a new pattern of cooperation between government agencies and NGOs in basic education.

Many NGOs have brought to their work, and to these cooperative developments, a commitment to a participatory style of working, arguing that:

Self-determination is an important characteristic of development. People's participation in their own empowerment is critical to foster a sense of dignity and self-reliance. Small and short-term projects may work better than long-term and big projects. Also projects that begin small and then expand carefully have better chances of success

(Singhal 1996: 10)

This emphasis on the participation of rural and urban communities in decision-making has led to a proliferation of grass-roots initiatives, community-based, non-formal education programmes and has influenced the choice and use of technologies within them. Participatory approaches fit more easily with small-scale, locally developed projects than with those that are centrally planned and rely on broadcasting on a large scale. There is, therefore, a tension between the demand for a participatory approach and attempts to use mass media on the large scale which their technology allows and from which their economic benefits flow.

While much NGO attention has gone to general programmes of basic education, many have also given particular attention to the needs of marginalised basic education groups - girls in some societies, special needs, war children, displaced communities, travellers, street children, adolescents, remote, excluded, religious and ethnic communities. Here, too, in contexts where conventional approaches to basic education have been least successful, the more imaginative projects have benefited from NGOs' freedom of activity and commitment to participatory methodologies.

3.2.4 Mainstream status of open and distance learning

During this decade, open and distance learning has moved firmly away from its status as the poor relation and begun to be regarded as a legitimate part of mainstream education to be used separately or in combination with face-to-face education. There are now closer links, at all levels, between conventional education and open and distance learning. Another drive towards legitimacy has been the professionalisation of open and distance learning - the proliferation of specialist international, regional, and national agencies, organisations, interest groups, professional journals and conferences. As noted above (2.7) two intergovernmental agencies, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and the Consortium International Francophone de Formation à Distance (CIFFAD) have come of age and are now putting open and distance learning squarely on to government agendas. As Nielsen (1990: 21) predicted a decade back , they have 'moved from early mobilisation to a phase of consolidation during which research, publication and international networking are becoming more prominent'.


Our context, therefore, is one in which technological change is making it easier for the world to share information. In principle, this should provide opportunities to build on earlier experience of using technology to support basic education, and to harness new techniques to its expansion and improvement. At the same time, appropriate use of the technologies is likely to be shaped by changes in the regulatory framework of telecommunications and by insights from new approaches to education that have gained prominence in the last decade.

There is a wealth of experience in using technologies to serve the needs of various audiences for basic education. Assessments are difficult as the documentation is scattered and good evaluations are rare. Before looking, in section 4, at the ways in which technologies have been used for different audiences, we examine here the current state of development of the technologies and identify various strategies that have been adopted for their use.

Although a theme of much recent discussion of informatics is the convergence of computing and broadcasting technologies, major differences remain between them, at least from the perspective of an educator. Both sets of technologies can be used either to make incremental changes to regular education or to provide access to resources that are not conventionally available to the classroom or to the individual learner. But the ways in which they are used, the challenges they offer to the educator, and their different cost structure mean that it makes sense initially to consider them separately. We do so in sections 3.4 and 3.5. We look in section 3.6 at the application of technologies to distance education.


New information and communication technologies have attracted much recent attention among educators. Computers have been used in an attempt to change, strengthen and improve basic education in a variety of different ways and for a variety of different purposes. We start by looking at the rationales for using computers in education and then at strategies for making them available to learners.

3.4.1 Rationales for the use of computers

It is worth distinguishing between various different rationales for using computers in education so that policy decisions can sensibly reflect educational purpose. An analysis by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which drew on reviews of Commonwealth-wide practice, usefully distinguished four rationales for introducing computers to education; the development of Internet communications means that we now need to add a fifth.

Rationale 1: To build a resource of people who are highly skilled in the use of information technology. Where governments see information technology as a means of strengthening the economy, and want to develop a workforce with vocational skills for computer-related activities, computer-education programmes have been set up to develop a cadre of people with specialist skills.

Rationale 2: To equip all students for a future in which technological awareness and basic computer skills will increasingly be important for greater numbers of citizens. Countries have adopted this approach as they see that, whether or not the country is likely to be a producer of computer hardware or software, their citizens need to be in a strong position to take advantage of technological developments as they arise.

Rationale 3: To use the technology to enhance the existing curriculum and to improve the way in which it is developed. Computer-assisted learning programs, in which the computer takes over some of the activity of the teacher, fall within this rationale.

Rationale 4: To promote change in education by moving towards a more relevant curriculum and a new definition of the teacher's role. Some computer projects have been designed to shift the curriculum in the direction of practical learning of information-handling and communication skills rather than concentration on memory.

Rationale 5: To allow learners to seek information from databases, especially through the Internet, and use computer technology to communicate with other schools, colleges and learning communities. This rationale opens up new learner-initiated opportunities. This fifth rationale has been developed in the last five years.

(First four rationales adapted from Commonwealth Secretariat 1991: 8-12)

Of course the rationales overlap and national policies may embrace more than one but their curricular and cost implications are different.

The first rationale leads to investment in courses at the upper end of secondary education, in vocational training, and in tertiary education. Whole-hearted adoption of the second rationale, concerning the education of all future citizens, suggests that computer-related education should be at the upper end of the universal stage of education. It is likely, too, that educational content will rely on generic software - allowing children to develop basic skills in wordprocessing or the use of databases and spreadsheets for example - rather than the use of subject-specific computer-aided learning. The third rationale has been the subject of the most severe criticism; early computer-aided learning proved to have high unit costs and, in many cases, simply offered an expensive way of offering drill and practice, with keyboard and mouse instead of pen and paper. The fourth and fifth rationale both suggest that, if computers are to be used in school, it is necessary to think through their consequences for the curriculum; changes in the curriculum will not occur through technology alone. The fifth rationale presents new opportunities for reshaping the curriculum but demands not only that schools should have access to computers, but also have, and can pay for, access to the Internet.

No matter which rationale dominates, the use of computers in the classroom presents significant demands to ministries of education. Computer equipment - hardware - needs to be provided and accompanied by appropriate software. Staff using computers need training. Where computers are used mainly, or even partly, for access to the Internet then reliable telephone access and an agreement with an Internet service provider are also required. We look at the costs involved in para.

5.2.2 and turn next to the strategic issues involved in getting access to computer technologies for schools, and in some cases for getting access to the Internet.

3.4.2 Strategies for getting access

The use of information and communication technologies in education has been constrained by economics. At present, few low or middle-income countries have been able to develop nation-wide programmes for the use of computers in the classroom. Where there are programmes to develop educational capacity in information and communication technology, they tend either to concentrate on tertiary education or to be limited to a small number of, usually, urban, schools in a pilot project. These initiatives may form the first stages in an overall government strategy or be piecemeal developments dictated by budgetary limitations, political interest and serendipity.

Throughout the world, there is a clear pecking order when integrating communication technologies into the formal educational system - tertiary downwards and with primary education low on the list. This situation is changing mainly in OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries and NIC (newly industrialised countries) for various reasons: national communications policies; increased governmental funding; the integration of the technologies into all levels of national curricula; generally far cheaper hardware and software and increased private ownership. These governments are now funding nation-wide initiatives to build up hardware, software and accompanying skills at all educational levels including the lower secondary, primary and even nursery levels.

As a result, a variety of different approaches have been adopted to enable schools to get access to computer hardware and software. Five approaches can be identified.

1. direct provision of computer hardware and software to existing schools

2. building new customised schools or computer suite annexes

3. bringing resources to schools via mobile units

4. providing access for children via a variety of community-based resource centres, e.g. libraries, technology access community centres, non-profit organisations

5. mediated access - where someone with access to a computer and Internet helps children who do not

Examples of these appear in table 3.2. The first three strategies bring computers to individual primary schools. The fourth takes children out of school to computers off-site. In the fifth, the child does not have actual hands-on access to computers but benefits, directly or indirectly, from someone who does.

Strategies one and two put computers into individual primary schools enabling pupils to have permanent and regular access to them. But heavy demands accompany computer supply. In some cases, mainly in industrialised countries and where it is difficult to adapt existing buildings, strategy two has been favoured with the building of new annexes within schools.

Where it is not possible to equip every school, strategy three involves the development of mobile units equipped with satellite and computer equipment. Units can then visit schools on a regular basis, thus offering limited access to a number of schools within a whole region and on regular basis. They are also a means for bringing technology to marginalised learners such as girls in segregated schools and unemployed youth with no access to formal schooling.

table 3.2 The fourth strategy to enable children is making use of computers somewhere outside the school. A number of countries have developed telecentres, or public access points to computer facilities. These have parallels to the 'early days of telephones. In those days, only the elite had their own telephones, so society evolved the concept of public telephones, which anyone could use, paying only the cost of their actual use' (Fontaine and Foote, 1999). Similarly, telecentres are public places where people can come to use computers. Telecentres exist in a diversity of forms. Some are commercial while others are not-for-profit; some are free, while others charge. They can operate on an appointment or drop-in basis. Some offer training in software applications and provide induction to new users while others operate on a solely self-access basis for experienced users (wanting email, on-line distance-education courses, Internet access and computer games). Some are highly equipped, staffed telecentres offering a wide range of other technological facilities such as reprographics, television/video, fax, telephones. Others are unstaffed kiosks. In some, the telecentre is part of a wider community education centre catering for different target groups, including school children, and offering classes and meeting rooms. Telecentres exist in range of locations including libraries, bus stops, cafés, shopping malls and voluntary sector premises.

The fifth strategy provides more restricted access to computer facilities. It assumes that, even without direct access, the schoolchild can benefit, directly or indirectly, from someone or some institution that does have access to information and communication resources and, in particular, access to the Internet. This type of strategy is a new development, set to expand, and we are beginning to see innovative initiatives, large and small.

We can see examples of the five options operating in low- and middle-income developing countries but usually with restricted coverage. Strategies three, four and five hold particular significance to developing countries for overcoming access problems created by economic, infrastructural and geographical challenges. The pooling of resources, through community networks, resource centres, and telecentres has been seen as an important way forward and an 'eminently sensible social and political approach' providing the road to wider and more equitable technological access (CTC Review, 1998).

In high-income countries, the first four strategies commonly operate at primary and junior secondary levels. Provision of computers to individual schools is widespread and it is increasingly the norm to find upwards of one computer per classroom in state primary schools. At the top end, we can see primary schools with classroom computers as well as dedicated computer suites with one computer per two children. Strategies three and four are often an extension of well-established regional library service systems. Increasingly, well-supported national library services have expanded from books to include the lending of commercial or educational CD-ROMs and video- and audiocassettes. In addition to computerised self-access centres for adults, many libraries have a dedicated children's section with computers and software, to be used on a school visit, after-school club and drop-in basis. Many children also benefit from privately owned computers to which they have access at home. In combination these strategies create a range of educational opportunities for school children.

These initiatives are led by an increasingly wide number of drivers often working in collaboration - governments, multi- and bilateral donor agencies, NGOs, trusts, the communications industry, companies via tax benefits, computer recycling and donation schemes. Most of the initiatives, particularly the high-tech ones, are in a pilot stage, especially among least developed countries, and have, understandably, tended to prioritise learning opportunities for teachers, extension workers and people operating small businesses rather than for young learners.

Alongside acclaim for the educational strengths of information and communication technology there is a widespread concern that access to it tends to entrench existing inequalities not only between but within countries. Within low- and middle-income developing countries, for example, a very clear divide in access to computers exists between private and public schools, urban and rural areas. Similar disparities are reported from OECD and NIC countries despite the much higher level of resources they can devote to the technologies.

3.4.3 The Internet for professional support

Improved telecommunications may have implications far beyond formal schooling of the kind which has dominated our discussion so far. We look below (4.5) at the significance of improved communications in health and medicine, with potential benefits for health education. Telecommunications have, for example, the potential to help countries with limited medical expertise and resources. Telemedicine and telehealth are health delivery systems that increase the medical and health resources available to medical practitioners for diagnosis and treatment between two or more locations using technology-assisted communications. The technology can vary between basic telephony, digital land line, cellular/wireless, satellite and broadband networks such as ATM.

Telemedicine services include access to remote expert systems (teleconsultations) and remote sensing (telecardiology, telepathology, teleradiology). It is suitable for long-distance, emergency patient treatment in areas without a sophisticated health service such as at sea, in remote or war-torn areas. The consultations, for example, can take place in real time by radio, telephone or videoconferencing or off-line via email exchanges. Telehealth, more the domain of health workers, is to do with preventative health care or the provision of health services to those who are at a distance from the service providers but who are not necessarily ill. This includes access to remote national or international telehealth resources concerning the prevention and identification of serious diseases -documentation centres, databanks, information networks, electronic conferences, on-line medical journals and courses. Databank examples include INFOLEP, MEDLINE, AVLINE, BIOETHICLINE, and TOXLINE. Documentation centres include CANCERLIT and web versions of leading medical journals such as the Lancet.


Both radio and television have long been used in education, to raise the quality of education within school and to extend teaching to audiences outside. Work of this kind continues. Many countries, of all income categories, continue to offer schools broadcasts. Radio is widely used for public and adult education, often as an auxiliary to the work of other extension agencies.

Developments in broadcasting have been influenced by the social and technological changes identified above (3.2.2). The shift of emphasis away from public-service broadcasting to a deregulated sector, increasingly dominated by small stations and transmitters, has been accompanied by technical changes. Many of the newer stations are broadcasting in FM only; the move away from medium-wave, AM, frequencies are reducing national coverage. It is possible that direct satellite broadcasting may, again, bring extremely wide broadcast coverage. At present, however, direct broadcasting by satellite exists on a trial basis only, and requires relatively expensive and specialist receivers.

With these caveats, radio and television broadcasting remain an important means for supporting existing formal education. Three approaches have been followed in using broadcasting to support basic education: first, direct class teaching which substitutes for teachers on a temporary basis; second, schools broadcasting and third, general children's programming on mainstream national and commercial radio and television stations). The first two are used directly within schools while the third operates outside in the more general public domain. The strategies are set out in table 3.3. One variant of the first approach - interactive radio instruction - has attracted much international interest, and is discussed below (3.5.1). It is distinguished by three main features. It is designed for direct teaching, rather than enrichment; broadcasts demand frequent responses by children as they listen; projects have generally devoted significant energies and investment into curriculum development so that their development costs have been higher than those of conventional radio.

3.5.1 Direct class teaching: Interactive radio instruction

The first approach has been dominated by a series of Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) projects. These bring ready-made 20-30 minute direct teaching and learning exercises to the classroom on a daily basis. The radio lessons, developed around specific learning objectives at particular levels of maths, science, health and languages in national curricula, 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. Children interact with the radio presenter by answering questions, singing or performing practical tasks in carefully timed pauses in the audio script. Teachers can prepare or integrate the lesson in their own way or where available, according to suggested extension activities in printed teachers' notes.

Successive evaluations have demonstrated the educational effectiveness of IRI: the children consistently perform as well as or better than control groups in tests; it can narrow gaps in achievement between rural and urban children and between boys and girls; where teaching quality is low, it promotes greater standardisation of teaching in schools; the methods and models in the programmes can contribute to a teacher's professional development.

We look at the extensive case-study evidence on interactive radio below (4.1.3)

3.5.2 Schools broadcasting

The second approach is schools' broadcasting. Unlike IRI, schools' broadcasting is not intended to bear the main burden of direct classroom instruction. Instead, the aim is to provide teachers and learners with complementary resources and learning experiences not locally available. Teachers can choose to slot them into their class work. These programmes, geared to national curricula, are available in a range of subjects and often with back-up resources (print, cassettes, CD-ROMs). Typical strategies include story telling, dramatisations and interviews. They can be used according to broadcasting schedules or, where technology permits, the teacher can get them recorded for later use at more convenient times. In the latter case, broadcasting stations are used to disseminate educational materials. Schools' broadcasting materials give greater control to the teachers than IRI, particularly when in cassette form, and help teachers draw on a wider range of resources and use a multi-media, multi-channel teaching approach. However, it is a strategy that depends very strongly on the ability of the teacher to integrate the materials into their classroom. The lesson here, as with IRI, is that educational broadcasting cannot afford to skimp on teacher and producer training.

We can see radio and television schools broadcasting in a range of countries and in a variety of organisational patterns. Some, in high-income countries, are based within large broadcasting corporations, have extensive programming (BBC table 3.3 Education Radio and Television, the NHK Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) and can broadcast over several national radio and television channels, sometimes (eg. NHK) on dedicated educational channels. Others are units based within the Ministry of Education, and part of collaboration between the Ministry of Information (where the broadcasters are located), Curriculum Development Centres and a book production and materials resources unit. The latter is typical of lower-income developing countries. They tend to have a far smaller output that is restricted to certain slots within national or local broadcasting schedules. Regional or community radio stations can often reach only modest numbers of schools but may be able to extend their influence if they can supply programmes in cassette form or arrange to share material with other radio stations. Within industrialised countries, school broadcasters can expect schools to be equipped with recording facilities and therefore freer of broadcasting schedules than in poorer countries where recording equipment cannot be assumed.

3.5.3 Non-formal children's programming

The third approach - non-formal children's programming - consists of radio and television programmes on community, national and international stations which are aimed at children in or out of school at the primary and junior secondary level. These may provide general and informal educational opportunities and exist in a variety of radio and television forms, including popular culture quizzes, story-telling, and educational cartoons.

Mainstream children's programming has been gaining increasing attention in the shift towards sophisticated, intergenerational and multi-channel communication strategies and growing recognition as an undervalued educational resource. An emphasis on the need for links between formal and non-formal education, the recognition that learning is an intergenerational phenomenon and that children play a crucial role in teaching each other have all led to an increased concern with informal and nonformal opportunities for learning both in and out of school. Mainstream children's programming has a role to play here. We can see this development most clearly in recent types of health campaigning which are no longer conceived as one-off projects but highly planned long-term campaigns based on extensive formative research. Generally, these combine popular, prime-time radio and television programmes with a wide range of supporting activities directed towards different target groups the community. Increasingly schools are taken into account in these campaigns.

One major stumbling block here is that children's programming is particularly vulnerable where market forces rule: advertisers, marketers and managers see less profit in children's programming than for other target groups; children's programming (e.g. USA's Sesame Street and the UK's Tele Tubbyland) is neither an easy nor a cheap option compared to other programming. Where it does exist, rampant commercialism has entered children's programming. It is therefore not surprising that in many countries, particularly low income, there is very little home-grown children's programming, educational or otherwise, and instead a predominance of imported foreign-origin programmes, often cartoons.

A variety of strategies have been adopted to stimulate the development of children's programming. First, a small number of countries have developed and followed well-articulated national policies for the development of television for children backed by government support in the form of public-service broadcasting on government stations or quota demands on commercial broadcasters. A survey of nine Asian countries, for example, found that China, Vietnam and Japan had developed policies of this kind (Goonasekera 1998).

Second, where children's broadcasting depends on imported children's programmes, then international agencies have sometimes played a role in funding the making of good programmes or funding their distribution. An international consortium of 70 animation studios, for example, was funded by UNICEF to produce broadcasts spots for 2 200 broadcasters in 160 countries based on different articles in the Convention for Children's Rights. These are intended for both children and adults.

A third strategy is to produce programmes that can be used in a range of ways. For example, popular health and children's programmes can be broadcast at prime family times but can re-broadcast as schools broadcasting and exploited in more child-appropriate extension activities.

A fourth strategy is the using of commercial children's and family radio and television programmes as educational resources in themselves and the basis for children's media education.


Programmes of distance education themselves use a variety of different technologies so that they may embrace, even rely upon, broadcasting as well as print and associated face-to-face study. At some levels of education, they are beginning also to use computer communication.

As noted in our retrospective view (section 2) distance-education programmes have been set up to offer an alternative, out-of-school, form of primary schooling for both children and adults. They are, however, the exception and have not proved transferable across cultures: the radiophonic schools of Latin America, with considerable achievements to their credit a generation back, have not proved a replicable model for other parts of the world. There is wider use of distance education for those who have reached the top end of primary schools. The open schools of India and Indonesia, for example, offer an alternative form of junior secondary schooling and may be a growth point for the future. Their use of technology tends to be simple, relying heavily on print with only a modest use of broadcasting or cassette technology.

The other major use of distance education, discussed in section 4.7, is to support the work of intermediaries, a blanket term to include both primary-school teachers and extension agents and health workers. There is widespread, successful, and continuing use of distance education for teacher training, using a range of technologies and reaching both large numbers and significant proportions of the population.

Much distance education has used modest and relatively simple technologies: radio and print have been the staples. There are now the beginnings of the use of the Internet both to distribute teaching materials to students and as a means of providing a tutorial service but these are mainly confined, so far, to higher education. Within francophone Africa in particular computer and satellite-based technologies are beginning to be used for the inservice education of teachers and school administrators, with a number of projects initiated by CIFFAD. We may expect new forms of distribution to be of growing importance, especially for professional upgrading programmes where they may be of particular value for isolated professionals in small states and states with low densities of population.


To summarise, while there are major national and geographical differences in the pace of educational change, there are a number of common features which are marking the adoption and application of communication technologies to education.

Despite severe checks in many countries, and in some cases, especially in subsaharan Africa, an actual decline in enrolments, the last decade has been marked by educational expansion, within which enrolments have been growing faster for girls than for boys. Expanding demands for education have been accompanied by developments in communications technology which have prompted interest in the use of technologies both to extend education and to raise its quality. At the same time, political changes have led to an increasing acceptance of a private-sector role both in education and in the management and control of public communications.

These trends can be exemplified by the arguments for, and development of, the use of computers in education. A variety of strategies for enabling schools to use computers and get access to educational resources through the Internet have been adopted and a range of experimental projects set up in both developing and industrialised countries. At the same time broadcasting - including direct teaching, enrichment programmes for schools, and informal programmes for use outside school - has continued to play an important, if less attention-grabbing, role in the education of children and adults. New and old technologies alike have been used within programmes of open and distance learning, addressed to individual learners and to groups of professionals, including above all teachers, seeking professional upgrading.

In the next section we look in more detail at recent international experience before moving to an assessment of its significance in section 5.


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