This case study demonstrates the enormous potential of community-based radio broadcasting to provide the rural poor, including women, with knowledge and learning that responds to their everyday needs. The BBC-DZJO experience also depicts how community-based radio can be used to promote the use of new knowledge and complementary behavioural changes in support of sustainable agricultural development. Additionally, it illustrates the power of community-based radio as a creative and cost-effective tool that contributes to the empowerment of women, enhanced food security and well-being, and increased incomes at the household level. Furthermore, it provides an indication of the large numbers of people that can be reached with relatively limited financial resources broadcasting by radio-based educational as compared to other more formal types of education (see Annex 6 for a comparative analysis of the different costs of alternative types of education).
While the case study does not advocate radio-based distance education systems as an exclusive alternative to formal education, it nonetheless reveals that CBR-DLS has the capacity to facilitate and enhance learning among rural households where other more formal types of education often fail. Besides the obvious resource limitations associated with providing formal education for rural households in Asia, many rural women and men simply lack the time and/or basic literacy to participate in full-time formal education even where such opportunities exist. Similarly, formal academic education is sometimes seen as too theoretical and prescriptive for rural households. For the rural illiterate poor, formal education often fails to take into account their own knowledge base or to respond to their own needs. Table 1 below provides a summarised comparison of the nature of formal distance education and community-based radio distance education. This comparison illustrates why distance learning via radio has most potential to effectively reach rural women learners and to meet their information and learning needs.
Table 1: Mainstream and Formal Distance Education Versus Community-based Radio Distance Education
|Mainstream and Formal|
Three quarters of the world's 1.3 billion poor people live in rural areas of the Asia and Pacific Region (ESCAP, 1998). In this context, the importance of education as a means to improve both the status, incomes and well-being of the rural poor, both men and women, is not in doubt. What is doubted, is the capacity of formal education to reach the majority of these rural people to increase their knowledge and skills. The provision of formal schooling for just a portion of rural women in Asia would require financial resources on an enormous scale. These costs simply cannot be met by either the public sector or other voluntary/private institutions.
In the context of this challenge to expand rural women's access to educational opportunities, innovative initiatives in the Philippines have pointed to the potential of an alternative and affordable delivery option to promote rural education on a massive scale. In particular, they have underlined the potential of harnessing the power of mass media, especially radio, as a means to provide increased access to knowledge and learning to meet the educational needs of the rural poor.
The case study indicates the multiple benefits which rural households and women can reap through radio-based distance learning. More importantly, it provides a model for how community-based radio can be used as a valuable and practical tool in distance learning systems for the rural poor, notably to promote sustainable agricultural and rural development as a means to enhance food and livelihood security. The example and lessons of the BBC-DZJO experience for distance education programmes in other Asian countries are immense. In particular, the development of a conceptual framework for a community-based radio distance learning system and curricular reorientation of mass education for women and farm households can serve as a useful tool for the development and implementation of site-specific distance education programmes elsewhere.
Distance education via radio contributes towards the empowerment of women by increasing their access to opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills and by promoting a positive change in traditional attitudes. As the case study has illustrated, in terms of cost-efficiency and coverage, the financial burden of implementing a community-based radio distance learning system is significantly lower than the comparative costs of other types of formal and distance education. The case study also underlines the benefits of using a simple radio-based distance learning system to promote capacity building and community development at the local level. Equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and corresponding action brought about by their learning, communities are more likely to become self-sustaining and self-directing.
Community-based radio offers an inherently practical and creative solution to the massive educational needs of poor households and rural women in Asia. Distance education through community-based radio has the potential to take knowledge and learning to the doorsteps of women and farm households, overcoming geographical, cultural and economic barriers. In addition, it can serve to foster linkages and partnerships between governments, non-governmental and community-based organizations, and rural populations. The experience in Infanta has further illustrated the importance of these linkages as a means to facilitate and increase the participation of rural households in development processes that affect them and to foster action-oriented partnerships between different actors.
In this context, it will be essential that the public and non-governmental sectors join forces to meet the massive educational needs of the rural poor, including women, in Asia. The framework for a community-based radio for distance learning system developed in this study provides a useful model for this purpose. It should be used to plan and implement other similar distance education systems aimed at responding to the educational challenges of rural households and women who continue to be denied access to learning opportunities. While the objectives, outputs and structure of these distance learning programmes will obviously vary according to contextual factors and specific local needs, a sample proposal for a radio school is presented in Annex 8 by way of an example.
Education is the experience of life itself, and radio is the communication of life.