COVID-19 and the resultant school closures due to lockdowns being imposed by governments across many countries presents itself as an insurmountable challenge for many schools and students alike from an education continuity perspective. As much as it has been an adversity, it has presented itself as an opportunity for companies in the EdTech space around the world to showcase their utility by opening up their platforms for free for the period of school closure and ensuring that education continues.
Our ‘Technologies for School Resilience’ blog series is an attempt on behalf of Gray Matters Capital and our education finance entities in India (ISFC), Pakistan (Taleem Finance) and Nigeria (EdFin MFB) to curate some of these EdTech platforms that low cost private schools can avail free of cost and with less implementation hurdles to move their classes online in the event of extended school closures.
What’s moot is are schools lapping up their services or even attempting to give these services a try? Even if they do, are students having the means to access these services even if they are free?
Reality Check: Access to EdTech Creating Disparities
We tend to hide behind the comfort of statistics of mobile penetration in the 85-90% range, estimation of smartphone and internet penetration doubling due to availability of sub-US$ 50 smartphones and low cost data plans. COVID-19 has presented us with a reality check.
We recently chanced upon an article in The Times of India – No gadgets or 4G internet, rural kids miss e-lessons which brought to light a reality that many have either chosen to ignore or take for granted – the access to smartphones or laptops and internet connectivity; necessities in urban and semi-urban households, but a luxury that few can afford in rural and semi-rural parts of developing economies.
Giving a global perspective, UNESCO noted, “Half of the total number of learners — some 826 million (82.6 crore) students — kept out of the classroom by the Covid-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43 per cent (706 million or 70.6 crore) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.” (Excerpt from: The Print)
As a result, COVID-19 is seen creating greater disparities between the haves and the have nots, with those having internet enabled mobile devices, tablets or laptops at home with a good internet connection being able to access EdTech platforms for supplementary education or attend virtual classes, leaving out those with limited means (who’d either be enrolled in government run or low cost private schools) from education continuity.
In today’s blog, we will look to explore how non-internet-based technologies like broadcast mediums [Television and Radio (AM, FM and Community)] are being harnessed to reach out to students across the markets we support. Yes, we are talking about that very ‘Idiot box’ in your drawing room or your radio transistor that are used for entertainment or information consumption, to be used as a medium for education.
India has nearly 300 million kids in 1.4 million schools.
TV ownership as per the 2011 census stood at 47.2%, which is estimated to have risen to over 66% with 197 million households as per a survey by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, with TV ownership in rural India pegged at 109 million households (2018). Pay TV in the form of Direct-to-home (DTH) ownership is estimated to rise from 160 million households to 184 million by 2024 (Source: Statista). Broadcast radio (AM) reaches 99% of Indian households while FM radio is accessed by 65%. India also has 270 localized community radio stations.
India’s state-run public broadcasters – Doordarshan and AIR (All India Radio) are broadcasting curriculum-based classes for Primary, Middle and High School level students. Secondary School Leaving Certificate subjects and model question papers for 10th standard students are also being made available in some states. Check the schedules
Tata Sky and Airtel DTH will air three educational SWAYAM PRABHA channels run by the Human Resource Development Ministry.
SWAYAM PRABHA is a group of 32 DTH channels providing quality educational curriculum-based course contents covering diverse disciplines such as arts, science, commerce, social sciences and humanities subjects, engineering, medicine and agriculture to all teachers, students and citizens across the country interested in lifelong learning.
FM and community radio stations too have a social role to play during this crisis. Besides being credible sources of information for COVID-19 prevention, air-time should also be given for education.
Radio Mewat, a community radio station operating from the backward Mewat district of Haryana, too is engaged in imparting subject specific classes, which has resulted in improved performance in schools. Many other community radio stations too are engaged in similar exercise. (Source: Prof. K.G. Suresh’s article in Exchange4Media – Harnessing the power of media for the student community).
One of the portfolio companies of Gray Matters Capital based out in Odisha, India – ThinkZone has been able to harness the power of community radio to reach out to under-resourced families in rural hinterlands with Do-It-Yourself activities for parents to engage their kids during the current COVID19 Lockdown.
Pakistan has one of the largest population of out-of-school children in the world. Of a total 51.53 million children between the age of five and 16 of which 44% are out-of-school with more than 250,000 schools at present. Broadcast media can perhaps be the best bet for the country to reach out to and educate those children out of school in addition to helping school students continue their education amidst the COVID19 lockdown.
As per a 2017 Gallup Pakistan Media survey, 67% Pakistanis watch Television, with radio listenership only at 9%. It is estimated that households with television is above 60%. According to the PEMRA Annual Report 2019, there are 234 FM radio licences, including 177 commercial and 57 non-commercial (of educational institutions, government departments, etc) stations.
TeleSchool, a new educational television channel which was recently launched as an initiative of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the state-run Pakistan Television Corporation and local EdTech companies, including Sabaq, MUSE, Taleemabad and Knowledge Platform.
The channel will broadcast programmes for 1-12 grades from 8am to 6pm daily. The morning session with English, Maths, Urdu and General Science lessons is dedicated for junior students and the next with all subjects for seniors. Watch: How to access Teleschool | Download: Timetable
POWER99 Foundation, in collaboration with its partner organisation, The Communicators (Pvt.) Limited having a network of FM radios in Pakistan, has launched “Broad Class – Listen to Learn” Parahi Caro-Na, a distance learning initiative for children to ensure continuity of educational processes at home during coronavirus pandemic. This would be a stop-gap solution for equal and quality learning opportunities for young children and families confined at home.
This is a 12-week non-formal education program with 45-minute lessons to address specific learning objectives and include a series of activities, poems & games, etc.
Much like Pakistan, Nigeria too has a high population of out-of-school children estimated at 13.2 million. The total number of students is in excess of 25.6 million as of 2016 studying across public and private schools.
As a country, Nigeria is estimated to have 6.5 million households with access to a television set as on 2018 and estimated to touch 7.4 million in 2023. While data related to radio listenership was limited, we know that as of 2017, there were over 265 radio stations across Nigeria.
Lagos State has keyed into an existing TV/Radio broadcast arrangements on Wazobia Radio/TV and Naija FM through the South Saharan Social Development Organization.
Ogun State broadcasts education programmes through its Broadcast Corporation (OGTV) with Ogun Digiclass and Osun State too made some attempt. (Source: Dr. Rufai’s 3 part article In PUNCH – COVID-19 and the challenge of learning without schooling in Nigeria)
The Oyo State Government too has offered its distance education lessons in English Language and Mathematics for primary school pupils at different times on four channels namely Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), Oke Ogun FM, Oluyole FM, and Ajilete FM. (Check Timetable)
Multichoice Nigeria has recently launched a channel targeting students of nursery and primary school of grades 1-3 called Mindset PoP Channel that will be aired on DStv channel 317. The content will be aligned to the Cambridge curriculum and will cover literacy and numeracy skills as well as Mathematics, Natural Sciences, English. Life Orientation, Art and Physical Education activities.
Our Take – Broadcast for Edcuation
What Works for Broadcast
|Ensures school continuity maintaining social distancing and for students to complete the curriculum
|Dependent on the student’s house having a TV and Radio
|Offers scope for making education content visually/ aurally and orally more appealing
|While Radios can operate on batteries, TV sets will need reliable electricity supply
|One way – non personalized medium of instruction. Students will have to get used to a new instructor who may not be their school teacher for that subject
|Limited means of gaining feedback or conducting assessments
Can it be a worthy substitute for Internet-enabled EdTech?
- To make education imparted via broadcast channels a success, a lot hinges on how engaging the content is. ‘Edutainment’ is what will ensure that kids don’t start channel surfing and get distracted.
- What is imparted needs to be byte-sized (given limited attention spans) and focused on explaining concepts with practical examples that students can easily implement at home.
- There is scope for conducting quizzes in MCQ format, but every quiz needs to be followed by a detailed review explanation (preferably through animated imagery or whiteboarding) of how the teacher arrived at the right answer.
How can Low Cost Private Schools complement education via Broadcast during #COVID19 Lockdown?
As a school owner/ principal/ teacher, you will not be in control of what is taught and how a subject is imparted and neither be able to measure learning outcomes during the phase of the lockdown during the broadcast class. However, once the class is done, the school can look at sending students some exercises and quizzes via messaging services like WhatsApp (for those who have internet connectivity) or SMS (for those with feature phones) which can be supervised by parents.
We will look to cover other non-internet enabled technologies in our next blog. that schools can use to cater to students without gadgets needing internet connectivity to still enable them to continue their education.
If you have a child who has taken classes via broadcast channels, share your feedback on how the learning experience has been and whether such classes are more beneficial than EdTech learning apps in our comments section below. We are all ears!