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Kids at home: Why radio lessons may fail

COMMENTARY
By Brian George | March 17th 2020

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) has provided an on-air timetable that is expected to continue school lessons as students and pupils stay at home.

The content will be rendered via public broadcaster KBC Radio and TV. Edu Channel will also air the content.

The closure of schools came at a time when most of the schools were yet to finish coverage of their syllabi. It was therefore only fair to device a method to finish the coverage of the content.

Let’s face it, unless a pupil or a student is very serious studying at home as religiously as in school is equivalent to the biblical camel going through the eye of the needle.

However, how content is consumed today, among other reasons, pokes holes into the effectiveness of the intended method.

Radio lessons may have been effective in the previous century, but here’s how they may fail in meeting educational expectations particularly for academic purposes.

First, the mode of communication. The target audience being both primary and secondary school pupils and students respectively, radio is the worst of all forms of communication.

Today’s child aged between six to seventeen years, barely listens to radio. Just a handful may listen probably when their favourite song is playing and mostly it is passive listening that happens occasionally when they are in the bus or matatu going to school.

In middle class urbane families, the rest of the pack aged between three years to ten are watching Netflix, YouTube, and YouTube Kids.

For teenagers, it is not any different. The observation isn’t any different even for the less fortunate students who may not have access to Wi-Fi or Internet.

Meaning most of them prefer visual content to audial. So, for example, how will a teacher explain the concept of a mole and titration on radio for a form three student? How will formation of Block Mountains in geography be understood over the radio? Parts of the heart on radio, for a grade seven pupil are only but fairy tales that they will switch off after a few seconds of listening. Which ushers in the next reason, concentration span.

It is not easy to maintain the concentration span of a primary school pupil or a high school teenager listening to a lesson over the radio.

With the advent cellphones, internet search engines, newsletters, newspaper test papers and the normal recommended text books, it is in vain to glue students to radio for their academic needs.

Thirdly, how convenient are the conditions at home to guarantee a peaceful ‘study-listening’?

How long will a pupil listen to a lesson without being interrupted to attend to the visitors who just knocked on the door or run a few errands in town?

What of those who are unfortunate to witness domestic violence at home? How about those who ‘risk’ fulltime employment at home to help their parents push a few sales just to make ends meet?

Have you also factored in the total rebels whose joy is to the brim right now that the presidential directive came, and its Christmas come-early?

Four, there is no means of proving understanding, monitoring how the topics have been covered and any lose nuts that need a little more interaction with the spanner.

If no exams are being given at home and therefore no continuous assessment tests, then taking lessons on radio is as good as listening to music that is just good for entertainment.

Nothing much should be expected of it, let alone passing exams.

Radio, as a means of communication, is also very passive and a non-interactive mode of instruction, let alone learning. There will be no interaction between the teacher and the student.

Lastly, how many households still religiously own radios, as was in the 1960s towards the end of the 20th Century?

 If yes, how many faithfully listen to radios or radio lessons, just for perspective?

With the advent of cartoons, movies, documentaries and music that is readily available even on mobile phones, it will be irrelevant to tie syllabi lessons to radio with a target audience of pupils and students.

The media still plays a key role in educating the masses. However, there needs to be a feasibility study on what means are effective for various demographics, before engaging the media in educating students while they are at home. Times have evolved, and trying to use the same methods that worked in the 90’s today may be a waste of time and resources, if syllabi coverage is the intention.

The Ministry of Education should keep tabs with how much evolution has taken place to do a needs assessment, so that the most appropriate models are devised to teach students and pupils at home.

Any serious parent or guardian who means well for his or her child will go the extra mile to make sure the child has access to the best educational content, coaching, a touch of current affairs, access to controlled study groups and an enabling studying environment at home. Otherwise the move to have radio lessons is like chasing after the wind, a proposition that is dead on arrival.

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