The cost effectiveness of the Radio Programs in Karnataka
Centre for Budget and Policy Studies recently took the study namely Cost effectiveness of the Radio Programs in in the state of Karnataka. This blog has been written from experiences the author had while conducting the impact evaluations of the Radio programs in 20 schools of Karnataka.
Radio Programs (Interactive Radio Instructions) have been the chosen model of reaching the out of school children, marginalised students worldwide. Since 2004, the USAID funded Education Development Centre has been designing the radio instructions for the primary school curriculum for Karnataka. The whole idea behind the radio programs is to bridge the gaps in the education and improve the learning outcomes of the students.
The primary school students of Karnataka have been benefitting the radio programs in subjects like Maths, Kannada, English and Science. The difficult portions of these subjects are identified and then after conducting a full stakeholder analysis, they design the 30 minute radio programs for each subject following the school curriculum. The teachers are trained to handle the radio programs classes with the help of teaching learning materials. The radio is provided to all the schools by the Department of Primary education across state. The schedules for the radio programs are provided in advance so that the teacher can tune in with the right frequency at the appropriate time. A typical radio class of thirty minutes takes 15 minutes of prior preparation by the teacher and another 15 minutes post the radio program to handle questions and record the performance of the students. Well, the situation looks very ideal. The functional radio in place, the teacher trained to handle the radio lessons, the students excited enough not to miss the radio lessons, and all this makes a perfect radio class lively and interactive.
The CBPS survey in the twenty schools had both qualitative and quantitative aspects of analysis. The students of Class II, III and IV were subjected to oral and written tests in Maths and Environmental Science wherein one finds not much difference in the performance of treatment and control group. The cohort study is planned to be done for the same set of students for February 2011 and 2012. One must wait to see as to how the radio program has helped the treatment group in performing better in Maths and Kannada and how different is the performance of the control group who don’t seem to have benefitted from the radio programs. The mean test scores of the first cycle tests show that the mean test scores of the two groups are different. CBPS used the Independent T tests to see whether the difference was statistically significant. The difference is not statistically significant for all the classes in each subject. This leads to some doubts regarding the efficacy of the implementation of the radio programs. While the mean test scores of the two subjects in the two groups show a favour for the treatment group, yet one cannot say that the difference is statistically significant in all the classes and for both subjects. But there is no denial that the students were benefitting from the radio programs.
The benefits of radio programs were also evident in the behavioural analysis whereby the students were found to be very active and interacting with the teacher during the radio lesson. The feeling that the students were all part of a state level program, running simultaneously for all the primary schools seemed to have generated a good sense of belongingness. The full effect could be availed only once the implementation problems are taken care of.
The ground realities are never the same. The school survey revealed that not all schools had the basic facilities in place. Still schools did not have a functional girl’s toilet and drinking water facilities. Despite all claims made towards creation of school infrastructure, the field realities are not so good. The next important thing after the physical infrastructure is the presence of teachers. There was a clear case of deficit of working teachers in ten schools of the 20 schools visited by CBPS team. Further, the absence of trained teachers makes the implementation of the IRI program, difficult. The control schools had trained teachers and did not receive radio programs. But the treatment schools did not have trained teachers. This point towards the lack of ongoing teachers training programs in the state once the initial training was done in at the beginning of the implementation. Also the trained teachers showed little evidence of being trained in handling radio lessons. One actually feels what is the point of spending so much of time and money on any program when the execution is marred with so many problems? The holistic vision may be missing.
Counting the problems leads to no solution. Yet one needs to list all the problems so as to counter it. The two pronged strategy should be from the implementation side and the accountability side. The government department should be looking into the ways so as to improve the implementation of the radio programs. I suggest that the social accountability mechanism through the School Development and Monitoring Committees in the primary schools and through the Gram Panchayats in the neighbourhood should be active to make sure that the teachers teach and students get quality education. Only then can any innovation be worth the effort.
There is never any dearth of good ideas but there is always a dearth of people who can implement any program efficiently. For any program to be successful in any sector, one needs to be persistent so that an empowered (literate) society knows how to pull for inefficiency and make things work either through law or thorough social accountability systems.