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Interactive Radio Instruction in Haiti: An Enriching Experience

By Jhonny Célicourt
Haitian Foundation for Private Education (FONHEP)
  Since April 95, FONHEP, one of the most prominent institutions in Haitian private educational sector, has run a major distance education project through the Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) methodology. Inaugurated in the early 1974 in Nicaragua, this methodology, also called "multi-channel learning" in formal and non-formal education allows a continuing interaction between different channels (radio, teacher, printed materials, parents…) in the learning process for the benefit of the main target audience: the students. Improving the quality of teaching in the disadvantaged schools was the main objective of this project, which put together several organizations from both public and private sectors, such as the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports.
  Pre-pilot project: civic education lessons
  Through the technical assistance from Education Development Center (EDC), an American NGO, and the funding of USAID, the project has developed and broadcast 8 civic education series during an experimental phase. These programs targeted 13 schools from public and private sector into 3 geographic departments (West, North and South). Some probing results were laid out during the expost qualitative evaluation conducted on students, teachers, and parents. They were all very enthusiastic about this new interactive approach in teaching the basics. Furthermore, they all emphasized the importance of moving forward with this experience.

  Pilot project: mathematics and creole reading lessons

  Such results inspired both educators and the financing agency to continue their work through a larger pilot project, which targeted 40 schools from public and private sector located in 5 departments for a number of 2218 students. For this phase, experts in curriculum have chosen to broadcast mathematics and reading in creole. This choice was justified by the difficulties teachers and children encounter in those two subjects matters and is consonant with the bilingualism (Creole/French) situation of Haiti. Since IRI's launching in Nicaragua, that was the first experience of teaching reading in the mother tongue through radio. With the collaboration of the Ministry, the project has developed and broadcast 40 mathematics and 16 creole reading lessons in 5 radio stations around the country.
 Evaluation phase: encouraging results
   Both external and internal evaluations were carried out during this phase. Experts from Creative Associates International, Inc. with technical assistance from researchers of University of Massachusetts (USA) conducted external evaluation in mathematics and reading upon two groups of students through pre and post-test with the same content. They used a performing computer-assisted test for speed and accuracy. General results have shown that students from the experimental group gained more than those from control group. Besides, during qualitative evaluation, audiences showed a great interest for IRI methodology. Indeed, teachers told that this new way of teaching has deeply changed the learning process into their classrooms. Moreover, instead of substituting them in their daily tasks; the radio has helped them to better manage their classrooms. During the project implementation, the absenteeism rate has dropped particularly in rural areas. They have finally emphasized the importance of having additional training sessions in order to guarantee the success of the lessons. As to the students, they never had enough with the lessons. They identified themselves with the radio characters and the different scenic plays. One parent recalls that his child awoke much earlier than usually for not missing the program. Generally, he slept with his creole reading book (provided by the project) under his pillow fearing to lose it.
 Results from both qualitative and quantitative evaluation allowed educators and the financing agency realizing how important is the radio particularly IRI to reach the objective of improving quality of education. Apart from its capacity to facilitate uniform model to both teachers and students, it also allows the standardization of themes and contents to be thought in the schools. If this works out, the education system will become more structured and reinforced for the benefit of the whole country. In fact, this system is particularly stood out by a great inequality due to both constant non-application of official curriculum, heterogeneity in the schools by the training level of their respective teachers and finally the work environment. Obviously, this enormously influences the general output performances.
 Designing the future
  With this project, every morning, from Monday to Friday, thousands of students from disadvantaged school all over the country are tuning simultaneously to listen to and participate at mathematics and creole reading lessons, developed by the professional team of the project (educators and experts in mass media). They realize same learning activities and gain same academic skills. This is really something new in Haitian education system.
 Since 97, the project has been gradually expanding to more schools.. Through a new USAID project, Education 2004, located in Haiti and managed by three major American NGO's: Academy for Educational Development (AED); Education Development Center (EDC) and The Mitchell Group (TMG), 1279 teachers for 429 nationwide schools have been training to effectively use audio and printed materials. Supervisors have been dispatching all over the country to monitor the programs. From 40 mathematics and 16 creole reading lessons, actually, the project is broadcasting 84 maths and 63 creole reading lessons all along the academic year. Two grades have been completed (2nd and 3rd). The 4th grade is now on the way. This proves that IRI is strongly and surely taking shape into the educative system.
  From now on, FONHEP along with its partners could boast a very technical and motivated team: technicians, radio producers, evaluators, script writers ready to work for improving the quality of education into disadvantaged schools. Furthermore, the Institution owns a digitally equipped production studio facility to produce IRI or other educative programs in Haiti.
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