For years, EDC has transmitted radio lessons to communities in remote and volatile regions of the world.
And for years, these radio lessons have helped communities thrive.
But only now is there documented evidence that confirms the widespread academic success of interactive radio instruction (IRI) over the past 10 years.
“We had heard anecdotally about the success of these interventions, but this is the first compilation of EDC data in the past 10 years that supports IRI’s benefits,” says EDC’s Jennifer Ho, who co-authored the new study with Hetal Thukral.
The report—called Tuned in to Student Success: Assessing the Impact of Interactive Radio Instruction for the Hardest to Reach—compiled assessments of 15 EDC IRI projects that reached students in varying grades and living conditions in countries such as India, Pakistan, Somalia, and Haiti. In the majority of cases, students who engaged in IRI had an advantage over students who did not. IRI classrooms demonstrated learning advantages in approximately 80 percent of the 37 cases analyzed.
From the start, it was immediately clear to Ho that some IRI projects fared better than others.
IRI had the most noticeable impact on English language learners in Pakistan. There, the average listener outranked many of his or her peers in non-IRI classrooms. In Pakistan, the IRI program was implemented in a smaller pilot-type setting and monitored closely by EDC, likely contributing to its success.
The results also revealed that the Pakistan IRI program, which concluded in 2007, had commonalities with each of the most successful IRI programs, such as a focus on students in the lower grades.
“The strongest gains in learning showed up in the lower grades—that is, grades 1 and 2—in all subjects,” says Ho. “In fragile states, there was also a noteworthy impact, although this data is still preliminary.”
The study also considered factors such as gender and location.
“We found that the differences in assessment results between boys and girls participating in IRI were, on average, small,” says Ho. “We also saw that where urban students demonstrated gains, their rural peers did, too.”
While the results of the study were rewarding, the process of comparing such a diverse group of projects presented unique challenges. The breadth of the projects—so different in nature and context—made it difficult to create a simple bottom line.
“There were certain things that weren’t taken into account when assessing IRI’s impact simply because the data wasn’t available,” says Ho. “For example, we didn’t know to what extent projects were also affected by things like student attendance or whether radios got good reception in classrooms.”
But in the end, one thing was abundantly clear—radio education is truly an effective teaching tool for hard-to-reach children, including orphans and those living in conflict areas and extreme poverty.
And the timing of these results couldn’t be better.
EDC released this study amid a proliferation of radio programs worldwide, including the dozens created by EDC.
“This comes at the beginning of an important trend in implementing international radio programs to educate children in poor and war-torn countries,” says Ho. “In many places, radios are ubiquitous. People are turning to technology in education, and this is a technology many already have.”
Originally published on July 14, 2009