A stage for the mind

ONE of my articles titled Excellent guide for teachers to develop students’ literacy and numeracy published in The Fiji Times on September 5, 2016 generated discussion on the role of a newspaper. This article will focus on the radio broadcast program in schools to further enhance literacy in our Fijian economy.

Radio is a powerful medium used in the education for disseminating information, imparting instruction and to entertain. It serves with equal ease in both developed and developing countries. It spreads information to a greater group of population thereby saving time, energy, money and manpower in an effective way.

Radio is a simple and cheap medium readily available as a small toy. Nowadays small and handy transistors are available to even the poorest.

A small transistor can carry the message to any place on earth. It needs very little for maintenance and cheaper production can be taken up with more and more resources.

Radio speaks to an individual as well as to millions at a time. Hence, any listener can think the broadcast is meant for him whereas when listened in group all think the message is directed towards them. Each student takes the broadcast as very intimate to him.

Because of its portability and easy accessibility, radio could find its place everywhere whether it’s a field, a school, kitchen or study room.

Radio is a blind man’s medium and is meant for ears only. It plays with sound and silence where the sound can be anything like voice or word, music and effect.

When one hears radio, simultaneously one can imagine happenings in his/her mind. So it is called a theatre of blind or a stage for the mind. One can listen to the radio while doing something else such as reading.

Our radio broadcast timetable is implemented by the Ministry of Education in primary schools for different times for different classes.

There are six different types of programs. We have broadcasts in English, i Taukei, Hindi, social studies and current affairs for students.

For primary teachers, we have Teachers’ World and for secondary school teachers, the program is based on “Focus”.

Teachers have explored the use of radio in classrooms almost since radio technology entered the mainstream of society, yet radio remains a relatively unused mode of instruction.

School broadcasting involves the provision of broadcast programming, not to substitute the teacher, but rather to enrich traditional classroom instruction (particularly where resources would not otherwise be available).

Often deployed with print materials, cassettes and CD-ROMS, school broadcasting is geared to national curricula and developed for a range of subject areas; teachers decide how they will integrate the materials into their classes. One can really treasure the discipline instilled by such programs.

I vividly recall my days, where the teacher ensured pin-drop silence and all listened to the radio attentively and responding to the teacher’s questions with confidence. It helps one to be a good listener.

At individual and the family level, listening is becoming a worry for our younger generation. Some children tend to ignore instructions by their elders.

However, radio can be used as an effective and interesting tool in formal and non-formal education. Where conditions have permitted, it has become well-established and wide spread; yet, it seems there has been insufficient educational use is made of this virtually universal method of distribution.

People often seem to have been deterred by the greater efficiency of other media which, however, have the major defect, compared with radio of being unable to cope with such widespread distribution or anything like it for a long time to come.

The very low cost and adequate reliability in all climates of miniature transistor radios mean that broadcasting should be recognised as a particularly suitable medium for educational purposes.

Radio in reality has been used extensively as an educational medium both in developed and developing countries with educational programs supported in a wide range of subject areas in different countries.

Educational radio has also been employed within a wide variety of instructional design contexts.

In some cases it is supported by the use of printed material, by local discussion group, and by regional study centres. It is sometimes so designed to permit and encourage listeners’ reaction and comments.

Evaluations are also carried out with the feedback received. Radio has been used around the world in different formats for educational purposes.

Radio technology was first developed during the late nineteenth century and came into popularity as an educational medium during the early 20th century.

Although often overshadowed as an educational medium via other technologies such as television, radio remains a viable medium that has proven educational worth in terms of both pedagogical importance and geographical reach.

Radio can deliver high quality educational programming to highly diversified audiences across broad geographical expanses — all at a low per unit production cost (Couch, 1997).

Studies conducted by the Open University UK have demonstrated that, when used as a supplementary learning tool, radio benefits weaker students (Tripp and Roby, 1996).

The Agency for International Development has shown radio to be more cost-effective and capable of exerting greater learning effects than textbooks or teacher education (Tripp and Roby, 1996).

Radio has the advantage of permitting the teaching of subjects in which classroom teachers are untrained or lacking certain knowledge sets.

Another benefit for multigrade classroom use is that radio can provide instruction for one group of students while the teacher is occupied with another. Radio can also bring new or previously unavailable resources into the classroom, greatly enhancing students’ learning (Muller, 1985).

As a medium that can be listened to in the privacy of one’s home or room, radio is often the preferred choice for those seeking information on culturally taboo topics such as HIV/AIDS or STDs.

To conclude, radio has made a comeback and clearly it influences the lives of people of all ages in many ways.

Radio enhances learning and provides information on various issues critical for making daily decisions.

It can even be used for entertainment purposes. Since it does not have the visual distractions of television, which requires one’s eyes and ears to both be engaged, low-cost educational programming can form an informational/educational background that can complement household, manual, and academic work.

In short, radio can complement more traditional forms of educational delivery. Radio technology offers a unique way for teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum.

Social studies teachers will appreciate shortwave radios as a tool for teaching global topics.

Science, physics, and earth science teachers can use radios to demonstrate the properties of electricity, wave energy, weather, and the earth’s atmosphere. English and language arts teachers will be able to use radios to reinforce listening, writing, and speaking skills.

With a shortwave radio, teachers can provide students with an opportunity to hear the authentic language demonstrated by native speakers.

Teachers without internet connections will find radios an accessible technology for bringing the world to their students.

* Ravinesh Prasad is a lecturer in education at the Fiji National University. View expressed are his and not of this newspaper. For comments, email prasadravinesh234@gmail.com.

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