Interactive Radio Instruction
Martha Macwani Sitali
Ministry of Education, Directorate of Open and Distance Education
Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) is a teaching methodology in which a radio broadcast guides a teacher and learners through the activities of a lesson. While listening to the radio, learners actively participate in the lesson by singing, reading, writing, answering questions and solving problems in ways that ensure active learning. “Learning at Taonga Market’ is the name of the IRI program that was developed for Zambia. Learning at Taonga Market is a delivery of the Zambian Basic school curriculum that infuses methodologies such as New Breakthrough to Literacy (NBTL) and step into English (SITE) with the IRI methodology.
1. BACK GROUND
Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) is a teaching methodology in which a radio broadcast guides a teacher and learners through the activities of a lesson. While listening to the radio, learners actively participate in the lesson by singing, reading, writing, answering questions and solving problems in ways that ensure active learning. “Learning at Taonga Market' is the name of the IRI program that was developed for Zambia. Learning at Taonga Market is a delivery of the Zambian Basic school curriculum that infuses methodologies such as New Breakthrough to Literacy (NBTL) and step into English (SITE) with the IRI methodology.
Learning at Taonga Market lessons are written and recorded by Educational Broadcasting Services (EBS) of the Directorate of Open and Distance Education (DODE) of the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Education Development Center. Each lesson consists of a 30 minute broadcast, along with activities that the class completes before and after the broadcast. The activities for each lesson are described in a booklet called mentor's guide. There are 150 lessons at each grade level with 50 lessons in each term, plus five teacher/mentor training broadcasts at the beginning of each term.
The Zambian National Broadcast Corporation broadcast Grade 1 radio programmes in 2000 in a pilot exercise. Since then, EBS has been developing programmes for additional grades and in 2006 Learning at Taonga Market was broadcast for Grades 1 to 6 learners. Grade 7 programmes are still undergoing formative evaluation and will be offered for the first time beginning in 2007. The programme is designed to let learners complete seven years of education through the radio lessons and write the Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations. Those learners who pass the grade seven examination can attend upper basic grades in the government schools or enrol in the DODE Alternative Upper Basic Programme at distance learning centers.Learners who can manage to get a school place in a government school are free to join the mainstream at any level.
Following the pilot of IRI in 2000, a nationwide rollout of the programmes enrolled 7,782 students in 251 learning centers in 2001. Since then, learning at Taonga Market radio programmes have been utilized by an increasing number of schools, learners and teachers. In 2005,857 community schools and IRI centers were registered as using the radio programmes to teach more than 55,000 learners in all 9 provinces of Zambia.
In March 2005, the Ministry of Education approved a pilot to use learning at Taonga Market educational broadcasts in Zambian government schools. This took place at Grade 1 in schools that are understaffed, have untrained teachers or in which teachers are teaching more than one grade. The program led to greater learning gains in the areas of numeracy and English language, gave girls equal access to learning gains and boosted enrolment and retention in the Grade 1 pilot schools.
2. WHAT IS INTERACTIVE RADIO INSTRUCTION (IRI)
IRI is an active teaching methodology designed to make learning fun. Learners sing, play games, answer questions, read and solve mathematics problems in ways that ensure learners participate actively in the learning. IRI is aimed at:
- Increasing access to basic education for all learners of school going age
- Improve educational quality.
The programme in Zambia covers the basic school curriculum in the following Subjects:
- Zambian Language Literacy and English language
- Science and social studies
- Life skills and HIV/AIDS
The IRI initiative is a shared effort between communities and the Ministry of Education MOE) to ensure that every Zambian has access to basic education, whatever their circumstances. The Ministry of Education provides the means to learn such as learning and Teaching materials and mentor training while communities manage the learning through their support. They identify the mentor, determine how to support the mentor, provide a venue for learners and give a radio or blackboard for the center. However, these community obligations are met with difficulty because of their poor socio-economic conditions. Elements of the “Learning at Taonga Market” Learning system include the radio programmes, a classroom teacher called a mentor and printed materials (mentor's guides and learning posters) based on the national curriculum.
Mentor's guides that support the radio lessons have been developed for each grade. Guides are resources that link the teachers to the daily radio broadcast. They assist teachers in three ways. Firstly, each guide has a section that explains how to use the programme. Secondly, the guide provides teachers with the words of all the songs, instructions for making simple teaching aids such as puppets, and explanations to difficult concepts. Thirdly, each guide has lesson plans for each of the 150 lessons including what activities the learners should do before, during and after the radio broadcast. Pre-broadcast activities help the learners to review skill and information from previous lessons and prepare them for the lesson for the day. Since air-time is limited, it is essential that teachers follow up each broadcast with the post broadcast activities described in the daily lesson plan.
3. TARGET AUDIENCE
IRI in Zambia was initially intended for out- of-school learners of school going age, especially the orphans and vulnerable. In 2000, about 23% of children under 15 years had lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS. Many more children could not afford to attend school because of poverty or long distances. However, since the introduction of IRI, such children now have access to basic education and eagerly attend Taonga Market broadcasts.
Since the launch of the broadcast of the Learning at Taonga Market radio programmes in 2000 on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporations Radio 2, more and more children are listening to the programmes as part of their daily basic education activities. From the initial 22 IRI center s in 2000, the broadcasts were used by learners in 897 basic education schools located in all the 9 Provinces in 2005. The number of basic education schools using the IRI methodology from 2004 to 2005 grew by 38 per cent. The growth of the utilization of the Taonga Market radio programmes is a result of outreach efforts to establish new basic education venues like IRI centers but also because existing schools have seen the use and benefits from using the standardized and cost effective distance education methodology, and have started to use it. The Directorate of Open and Distance Education registered 338 Community schools using IRI methodology to teach their learners, which represents an 80 per cent growth from the 188 community schools registered in 2004.
Despite the successes the programme has scored over the years, it still faces a number of challenges:
- Mentor sustainability which leads to a high attrition levels
- Lack of meaningful support to centers by the communities
- Lack of adequate learning and teaching materials
- Limited support from cooperating partners who have rigid working time frames
- Erratic production of mentor's guides due to long tender procedures
- Untimely government funding delays implementation of planned activities.
As the Learning at Taonga Market programme expands, it will be scaled to all the basic schools so that learners have a choice of the mode of delivery that suits their need. It is also hoped that the Ministry of Education, through the Directorate of Open and Distance Education, would bring on board a lot of partners to see the radio programme succeed. In this way, many Zambians of school going age would access basic education and meet the Education for All (EFA) goals.