Home | 2011 Workshop


Radio for Hard to Reach Populations
August 18, 2009 – 3:30 p.m.

Presenters: Mike Laflin, Education Development Center
Inez Andrews, USAID Sudan
Steven Anzalone, Education Development Center
Cornelius Chipoma, USAID Zambia
Mitch Kirby, USAID Pakistan

Moderator:Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education

Using Zambia, Somalia, and Sudan as case studies, presenters discussed the benefits of Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) to improve student learning and teacher competence both in general and particularly as a means of reaching hard-to-reach children. Children are hard to reach in Zambia because they are out of school, in Somalia due to conflict, and in Sudan as a result of conflict combined with a lack of government oversight and stability.

IRI is no longer an experimental technology; in numerous settings it has proven to be quite a successful aid to student learning, especially in language arts, mathematics, and social studies for the lower grades. In India, it is now being used to reach 31 million students in seven states. Originally seen as a means of making the curriculum “teacher-proof,” IRI has evolved over time into a delivery system that sees the teacher as an essential partner.

Daily lessons, typically lasting 30 minutes per subject, seem to provide greater learning than intermittent classroom exposure. However, expansion of IRI to more grades and/or more subjects is hampered by the need for adequate access to airtime (although alternatives to the “radio” part of IRI, e.g., use of MP3 players, are being explored). As teachers are provided with well-defined guides describing what they should be doing and how they should be interacting with their students during the broadcasts, effective in-service training, even for instructors who may be barely literate themselves, can be highly successful. This information can be taught along with student progress along the subject curriculum, as these guides pace the instruction to ensure that the whole content of the curriculum is covered. This makes it particularly useful in contexts such as Sudan, where there are very few potential teachers available in the first place and where schools may have to close down for extended periods of time due to conflict. Teachers often become very highly motivated, and the structure assures significant “time-on-task” and learning outcomes in IRI schools are often better than in control schools.

Recurrent costs and costs per student can be quite low; however, program implementers should be aware that start-up costs can be high and programming cannot start instantaneously. Because IRI is still unfamiliar to many Ministries of Education (MoE), implementation typically needs champions at the Mission and at the central level of a MoE, which is often hesitant. Also, presenters shared that significant support infrastructure is often needed in terms of providing guidance and materials to classes that may be hard to reach.

Key take away points for this session included introduction of increasingly strong evidence that IRI is both effective and cost-effective, although investments in textbooks and other materials and in teacher training are still needed. Participants noted that programming needs to be more closely aligned with the national curriculum, and texts and programs more clearly linked to one another.


To view the presentations, please click on link below:
EDC, Laflin : Open




For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com