(597-SP11) Educational Radio

“Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI), which only requires a radio and an adult facilitator, reaches large numbers of teachers and learners who are isolated by distance and poor infrastructure. It can be used in almost any setting, from formal classrooms to community learning centers to outdoor venues.” -International Development Division

With advancements in newer technologies in the western hemisphere, conventional radio seems to be  to be relied upon less and less.  While people still listen to the radio, other mediums are used to enjoy entertainment or gather information. In less developed countries around the world there are  fewer options and therefore rely on one of the most sustainable form of ICT- the radio.

Chart 1

Referring to chart 1 and according to audiencescapes.org “radio is the most accessible and used medium in Uganda; 84 percent of those 15-44 and 78 percent of those above 45 have access to a radio at home…Although around 80 percent of respondents had radio access at home (chart 1 above), close to 95 percent of them from all age groups had listened to radio in the previous week.” (www.audiencescapes.org)  Communal sharing is common within rural parts of Uganda and the very fact that more people listen to the radio than own one lends itself to this idea.

As early as 1937, the idea of using radio as an educational tool was recommended in Uganda.  The report entitled ‘Educational Broadcasting in Africa: The case of Uganda’ states that:

Gathering around the radio

“Because educational facilities are not enough to satisfy the demand of the ever-growing population of school age children, the media (particularly the broadcast media) have been seen as a substitute for this formal education. This is more so given technological advances which have resulted in the invention of the FM technology and the low-cost transistor radio which can use relatively cheap batteries that have enabled mass communication to reach the most remote areas in the world. Since education has been linked to the creation of communication systems that can reach wide populations, educational broadcasting has been identified with development and nation building.” (Kiwanuka-Tondo, 1990)

Should Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) be a substitute for conventional classroom learning?  Sally D. Burman argues “that IRI can increase learning and improve test scores, and is useful in bringing rural children up to the level of those in urban schools who have access to better teachers and materials.” (Burman, 2008)  The conventional classroom is competing against a sustainable and cost-effective form of education.

IRI require fewer materials and spend less on teacher training, furthermore educational radio is delivered in many forms and I was impressed at the creativity that developing nations have shown in not only educating the youth but also in educating illiterate, under privileged adults in such topics as pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS awareness.  This is done through ‘entertainment-education.’  In researching the general subject of entertainment-education, it can be summed up by comparing it to an educational soap opera where a moral is always taught and where the listeners as a whole walk away with a new outlook. (Elliott, 2006)  Studies in both Tanzania and St Lucia provide overwhelming results in increasing understanding on both aforementioned topics.

The versatility and availability of educational radio has allowed for advancements in other such forms: radio-vision, radio/internet projects, radio forums, IRI, Radio language arts programs.  (Berman, 2008).  Radio-Vision, to me, seems a practical form of learning as the students not only listen to the radio for instruction but they have something tangible (for example a worksheet or book) that can reinforce their understanding.  What I am unsure of is how the materials are dispersed and updated to keep up with the radio broadcast.

There are thousands of successful examples of how educational radio has transformed the lives of people living in developing countries, however, the digital divide still remains.  If a developing countries infrastructure allows for only a few who can afford internet and television and relies heavily on radio as a medium of delivering information to the masses then obviously is the infrastructure that needs to be addressed. due to the success of the radio has the internet been ignored?  or is the internet just that impractical to use at this time?

In reflecting upon the last two weeks of research, the ideas presented show the need for some type of education, even though that type may not be ideal in western standards.  I personally found it difficult to create a broadcasting script, knowing that I had no way of using visual aids.  I could not imagine relying solely on audio as my only source of education and furthermore strongly believe that the few programs that have been adopted in some countries could be a platform for integration elsewhere.  Lastly, I am also a strong advocate in using broadcasters who are local to the area to enhance the listeners trust.  In doing so, I believe that culture sensitivity remains constant, local languages are not ignored and the intended audience benefit from a more personalized education albeit through the radio.


Burman, S. (2008). The return of educational radio.International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning9(2), 1-6.

Elliott, W. (2006). The audiocast diaries: reflections on radio and podcasting for delivery of educational soap operas. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning7(3), 1-9.

Interactive Radio Instruction. International Development Division. Retrieved 2/13/2011, from http://idd.edc.org/our_work/interactive-radio-instruction-iri

Kiwanuka-Tondo, J. (1990). Educational Broadcasting in Africa: The case of Uganda. Africa Media Review, 4(2): 46-63.

Uganda Demographic Analysis. Audience Scapes. Retrieved 2/14/2011, from http://www.audiencescapes.org/country-profiles/uganda/communication-habits-demographic-group/demographic-analysis-225

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