After much build up and hype, the government has finally launched its long-promised “Educational Television Broadcasting Service” (ETBS). So we are now going to be educated over TV; over Channel 29/cable 80 to be more specific. After TV has been widely blamed for disrupting and destroying the study habits of the young maybe it is a case of “if you can’t beat them – join them” playing out.
On the surface, the rationale appears attractive. Books, which have been the primary medium for transmitting the information in the educational system up to now, have become increasingly irrelevant to young people.
If the information in the books can be articulated by telegenic and knowledgeable teachers and beamed via TV into classrooms then we have the best of both worlds. Not only would sub-par teachers be supplemented by high powered ones, but the materials in the books could also be supplemented by a plethora of audio-visual aids, that would be out of reach of even the best equipped schools.
Then again, every home, even the most humble hut in the interior, with the help of solar panels, now have TVs that transfix youths for hours on end. In fact if parents do not pull them away, most youths would not mind lying in front of the TV all day – and night. So in theory, we will have a captive audience that can be “educated” beyond the 9-3 school regimen.
But if things were so simple, we suspect that educational TV would have been far more advanced in the countries since the medium has been widespread since the 1940s. As a matter of fact, in those specific countries such as the US and Britain, the use of educational TV in classrooms has declined to almost zero, down from the same euphoric promise that has presently seized our educational establishment. Today, apart from a few successful innovations in early childhood education (such as “Sesame Street”) where the hyperactivity of the medium can keep up with that of its audience, there is not much explicit schoolroom type ETV. PBS and BBC are birds of completely different feathers.
Contrary to what some may want to believe, the reality of transmitting knowledge over the airwaves is not new to Guyana. All Guyanese over fifty would remember the “broadcast to schools” over the radio. And from this experience we can extrapolate some of the hurdles that would have to be overcome as we plunge into ETV.
Firstly, only a tiny minority of our schools have enclosed class rooms. So when a programme for the upper grades is being received, what do we do with the other students whose attention would be distracted?
Secondly, even with the best of TV teachers, how, when and by whom would the inevitable questions of the students be answered? Finally, we have already arrived at a consensus that it is specifically in science and technology that we need to raise the performance of our students. There is also a consensus that the only effective way to transmit these subjects is through hands on experience.
How does ETV deliver this? Aren’t we going to be travelling the old sterile road of passing on theoretical knowledge without the practical applications that engenders creativity?
This is not to say that we are not supportive of attempts to utilize newer technologies to optimize the delivery of education to our children. It is just that we have seen so many initiatives fail because we appear bent on seeking quick fixes for problems rather than taking time to re-build from ground up.
The basic problem with our educational system is that there are not enough incentives for, at one end, our teachers to teach and at the other end, for our students to learn. At the first end it is a matter of raising salaries and at the other creating jobs that demand specific schooling.
But then if all fails, we will at least be creating the opportunities to learn our neglected Songs of Guyana.
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