Rapid Evidence Review: Radio

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Key findings

  1. Radio, and specifically IRI approaches, can be used not only to directly facilitate more child-centred and interactive pedagogical approaches in the classroom but also to mediate better pedagogical approaches for educators unable to access training opportunities. However, there is limited evidence on how IRI, or educational radio more broadly, might be used by students in informal contexts– such as at home during the present pandemic. The pedagogical strength of educational radio approaches in the classroom can, however, be assumed applicable, at least to some degree, outside the classroom as well. This may be especially true when engagement with radio broadcasts at home is made as interactive as possible, such as when supplemented by phone-ins and social media as available. Interactive, student-centred approaches should be considered when using educational radio broadcasting during COVID-19.
  2. Radio is most popularly used in teaching maths and language-related subjects. However, the evidence suggests that radio is likely to be more effective in teaching language-related topics than maths, and especially among younger children. The strengths that support radio instruction include radio’s affordability, portability and the access it gives to those who cannot read. Amongst the weaknesses of radio is it being audio-only and unable to be paused or replayed. Importantly, when using radio to teach any subject area at higher levels, it is worthwhile to explore how radio broadcasts might be supplemented so that teaching is more effective. This might be through the distribution of supportive print material to parents and students where relevant and appropriate, or, if feasible, the use of technologies with greater multimedia capabilities to supplement learning.  
  3. Educational radio is a relatively cost-effective option in the long term for delivering educational content at scale and especially in communities with limited connectivity, digital literacy and electricity, and with hard-to-reach students, such as those in rural areas. However, employing it may involve significant upfront costs and its comparative cost-effectiveness is likely to reduce when the target population is small. Its sustainability further depends on a liberalised broadcasting infrastructure, stakeholder collaboration and commitment to initiatives by successive governments, especially as more modern technologies become increasingly popular. There is, therefore, need to consider whether other technologies or even the distribution of print-based resources, might be more cost-effective and feasible than radio during the present pandemic.
  4. Issues surrounding data storage, privacy and consent need to be carefully considered for initiatives that involve online and mobile-based interactive radio applications. As radio is increasingly accessed through online and mobile applications, it will be necessary to critically consider issues of privacy, storage and consent with respect to user-generated data. This concern currently has limited relevance to many LMIC contexts as such data is largely not being collected, and a great deal of access to radio is done through traditional, offline broadcasts. However, since radio is increasingly moving online, critical reflection on this concern is needed in preparation.