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Learning through TV and Internet in Mexico
By Diego Cevallos,
Inter Press Service
  MEXICO CITY, 10 March (IPS) - At the World Education Forum to be held in Dakar in April, Mexico will share its 32 years of experience in teaching by television and its more recent advances in the use of satellites and Internet in education.
  The Telesecundaria project makes secondary-level education available to students at 14,000 rural schools.
  For the past five years a government-owned satellite has broadcast educational programming throughout the country, and to other Latin American nations as well; and some 3,300 schools are linked to a new network over the Internet.

  Mexico is at the vanguard of several data transmission and broadcasting technologies for educational use, Sofialeticia Morales, director of international relations at the Secretariat of Education, told IPS. Morales will be one of Mexico's representatives at the Apr. 26-28 Dakar meeting.

  Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the World Education Forum will draw delegates from all five continents to assess the advances made in education since 1990.
  The Forum follows a two year exercise by governments to critically assess their progress and identify more effective and appropriate strategies. Preparatory meetings for the region included the Recife, Brazil, meeting of the nine most populous developing countries -- Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan -- and in the Dominican Republic..
  ''The progress made by each country in education will be presented,'' said Morales. ''Although special papers have not been called for, Mexico plans to share the work it has been doing with the new technologies.''
  Telesecundaria, the oldest project of its kind in Latin America, reaches one-third of Mexico's five million secondary school students. It is especially important in rural areas, where the number of students finishing primary school makes it unfeasible to build separate high school facilities.
  With a television set, a VCR and audio-visual material, high school students, in groups of less than 25, follow the courses with the guidance of a teacher.
 In 1995, Telesecundaria was renovated and extended to primary school and technical teaching as well, through the System of Educational Television Via Satellite (EDUSAT).
  Some 33,500 reception centres, with decoders and television sets, were set up throughout Mexico. They receive nine channels of educational programming, four of which are run by the government and five by the Latin American Institute of Educational Communication..
  The programmes, which are broadcast to some 30,000 schools throughout Mexico, contribute to teacher training, adult education and the development of educational curricula.
  ''For a large country like ours (100 million, with a 10 percent illiteracy rate), what we have is still not enough, but we are making great progress through the use of the satellite,'' Satmex 5, which belongs to the Mexican state, said Morales.
  Through various agreements, Mexico also broadcasts educational programming to several countries in Central America, as well as to the Hispanic community in the southern United States. It also has the as-yet untapped capacity to broadcast to the entire American continent.
  Satmex 5 broadcast 25,000 hours of educational programming in 1999.
  As part of the EDUSAT project, this year Mexico will set up Latin America's first library of educational videos, with some 100,000 videos, to which teachers and students will have access. In the future, it will be made available over a computer network.
  In the past two years, the Mexican government created the Scholastic Network of Educational Informatics, in an attempt to take advantage of the Internet to link schools nationwide and enable that technology, currently used by less than one percent of students, to be extended throughout the country.
  Some 3,300 schools are already linked to the network, said Morales, who added that the programme was being developed with support from the government, parents groups and private institutions.
  ''In the past few years, Mexico has made important strides in taking advantage of the new technologies and devoting them to the service of education, which means that in Dakar we can help other countries join in the effort,'' she said.
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