Distance Learning in the Cordillera through Radio-A A +A
Monday, August 26, 2013
HIGHLAND communities survive not so much on what one gets but what we give to live. –CHARM2 Project SoA Field Learning Notes
Distance learning through radio is as old as the Republic of the Philippines.
The Philippine Educational Broadcasting started when the Japanese used radio to teach Filipinos the Japanese language during World War II.
Religious groups and missionaries also used radio to reach out to the populace in a manner that educates them and produce graduates with certificates of course completion.
In agriculture, the first Filipino-made programs began with university experiments in the use of radio in "distance learning" projects. These programs were designed to reach provincial farmers who could not afford regular school attendance due to lack of funds or the distance of their homes from schools.
In the late 1970’s, the Department of Agriculture (DA) maximized radio in reaching out to farmers with the messages and technologies of the government’s Masagana 99 Program.
Radio programs and distance learning intended for farmers in the countryside, in the form of "School on the Air" (SoA) started in the early nineteen eighties under the Masagana Farm Programs of the DA’s Agriculture Information Division (AID). The Masagana Farm program was a component of the nationwide information campaign for the Masagana 99 Rice Production Program with the SoA made as a segment of the Masagana Farm broadcast. “It was an efficient medium of informing the farmers about the modern technologies and strategies of the government’s rice program then.
In later years, the SoA was localized to suit the realities and conditions of intended audiences where it was to be aired. The SOA was very popular up to the mid-ninety(s), according to Ms. Inez Magbual (DA-AID Division head and proponent of the SoA Program during the Marcos years.
The SoA has since become a regular feature of the DA’s information and extension activities. In the Visayas and Mindanao areas today, the DA’s regional offices have renamed their SoA program into University on the Air (UoA) due mainly to the wider coverage and number of radio networks engaged in its implementation. The radio networks are paid for their air time services.
Today, through structural changes, agricultural distance learning and extension programs particularly the School on the Air broadcast was made a function of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). The SoA broadcast is carried out as distance learning on the complete package of technology of a commodity and other agriculture and fisheries related subject matter. It is a series of radio programs, presenting the subject matter systematically and in a progressive manner, aired for a period of not less than three months. It may include enhancing mechanisms or tools such as Short Messaging System (SMS), internet, telephone, among others. A certificate is given to the enrollees after completion of the course.
The ATI network of training centers conducts SoA in their respective areas on the banner commodity programs of the Department of Agriculture including the Organic Agriculture Program. The SoA programs are done in collaboration with the DA-Regional Field Offices, local radio stations and partner agencies.
In the Cordillera region of North Luzon, the first agricultural distance learning on radio was aired over Catholic radio station DZWT since the late 70’s and on to the mid-ninety(s). It followed a popular question and answer format. Farmers and listeners, using the snail mail, sent questions to the station and was responded to in succeeding broadcasts. The implementation of the DA’s Highland Agricultural Development Project (HADP) paved the way for the introduction of a more organized and comprehensive agricultural broadcast with the airing of the “HADP on the Air” radio program. The program was aired in a magazine format designed to inform the public on the updates of project implementation, news on latest highland agricultural technology developments, and daily price broadcast for important vegetable and other highland commodities.
The Benguet State University (BSU) also broadcasted an award winning agricultural program over DZWT under Professor Silvestre Kudan in early 2000.
The Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management Project sustained the radio program started under the HADP with the airing of the CHARM Project on the Air. Towards the end of the project, it implemented a CHARM Project School on Air on Natural Resources Management. The SoA was organized in partnership with the DA Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).
The SoA has the following elements:
1. A series of lessons specially designed and aired successively in a radio program over a certain period of time.
2. A specific subject matter area
3. Daily lessons on the air that usually last from 15 to 30 minutes
4. Listeners are enrolled
5. Quizzes are given after every lesson or set of lessons.
6. A pretest is given before airing the lessons to determine the level of knowledge of enrollees on the subject matter, while a post-test is administered after all the lessons shall have been aired to determine the knowledge gain of the listeners.
7. A graduation is held at the end of the course, where certificates are given out to the enrollees who have met the course requirements.
8. Research is conducted to determine the information needs and characteristics of the target groups or community and to evaluate the acceptance and impact of the SOA.
The SoA is as relevant today in the Cordillera as when it was first started in the 70’s by the DA-AID for the whole country, maybe even more, for a number of reasons. Agricultural and rural development, being participatory in character necessitates that technology and information on program and project implementation necessitate that these must be commonly shared to all stakeholders. Even with the implementation of Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Business Schools, the reach of these activities is still limited making the participants among the privileged in a community or district. The SoA’s advantage is that it has its enrollees for program monitoring purposes but the information delivered reaches the whole radio public and benefits all farmers who are interested to listen and follow the scheduled broadcasts.
Except in the Cordillera where our local government units have an average of 2-3 agricultural technicians per municipality, an agricultural technician in other regions of the country services an ideal 2 barangays.
In our case, an agricultural technician attends to office work and could hardly cope in servicing several villages in several remote barangays so situated under harsh accessibility problems and conditions. At most, what the field worker disseminates about a program, project, and development activities and/or technologies makes the few reached as the most privileged. And under the given circumstances, surveys determining whether local farmers are informed about government services have always proved to be negative all these years.
Radio is still recognized as the easiest way for development agencies to reach their target audiences. It remains as the most popular medium or source of information in the countryside. Sustaining radio as a distance learning tool for project implementation, the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management (CHARM2) Project continues to implement the CHARM2 Project on Air/SOA program targeting both public and specific target audiences who were enrolled to complete project prepared learning modules on priority commodities identified by the Project’s beneficiaries through their Project Investment Plans (PIP). Meanwhile, the general public are actively engaged as listeners on project implementation and technologies shared through the SoA broadcast.
The CHARM2 Project SoA has similar elements with the ATI SoA except in the formulation of learning modules, administration of the SoA, and inclusion of practicum as an evaluation and monitoring tool. Moreover, it puts emphasis on targeting project beneficiaries in its coverage areas as enrollees to the SoA courses. This is an extension of its knowledge management and participatory strategies in project implementation.
Overall, the SoA supports the project and its community beneficiaries in realizing project goals and targets.
The packages of technology and other related subject matter focuses on the identified priority commodities of the beneficiaries. The learning modules are prepared by local experts who are familiar with local conditions and understand the situation of the learners. The SoA is managed and administered by the project utilizing its Information, Knowledge Management Staff and field personnel particularly the provincial coordinating officers and community mobilization officers.
They are back staffed by provincial and municipal agricultural technicians who are detailed with the project.
As a form of distance learning, the CHAMR 2 Project SoA courses are delivered through the radio (modular), listeners are enrolled, the broadcaster serve as the main facilitator of learning the enrollees' learning level are assessed, and enrollees who satisfactorily completed all the requirements will graduate.
We have certainly trail blazed several strategies in administering appropriate SoA courses for marginal highland communities thanks to the support of the CHARM2 Project, Benguet State University, and ResearchMate, a research and development NGO based in La Trinidad. The CHARM2 Project Information and Knowledge Management Unit (IKMU) staff, the hardworking community mobilization officers and all the rest who support them in the field contributed to this learning and realization about our highland communities. These survive not so much on what one gets but what we give so that all may live.
The modules, knowledge and learnings evolved in the conduct of the CHARM2 Project SOA are simultaneously being documented by the CHARM2 Project IKMU for reference use and possible downloading to our sponsors and implementers of SoA as a distance learning tool for the Cordillera in the future.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 27, 2013.