Dwight R. Holmes, Dibya Man Karmacharya and John K. Mayo
To satisfy basic educational needs and to provide ‘education for all’ by the year 2000, countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America are seeking cost-effective ways to expand access to primary education and, at the same time, to improve the quality of existing schools. However, in many nations the provision of even minimally effective primary schools continues to be an elusive goal, one handicapped by high population growth rates, insufficient physical resources and a lack of qualified teachers. To redress the chronic undersupply of trained teachers, ministries of education assisted by a variety of international aid agencies are relying increasingly on distance-training schemes of one kind or another.
The government of Nepal’s ongoing efforts to train primary-school teachers at a distance are documented in this case study. Prior to the inauguration of the Radio Education Teacher Training Project (RETTP) in 1978, only 63 per cent of Nepal’s primary-school teachers possessed a School Leaving Certificate or SLC, the minimum formal qualification required by the Ministry of Education. Fewer still (only 39 per cent) were graduates of existing teacher-training programmes. Furthermore, conventional teacher-training programmes were hampered by the lack of qualified candidates in many areas, inadequate incentive structures, severe manpower and logistical shortages, high drop-out rates and the problem of replacing rural teachers while they attended residential courses.
To combat what once seemed an intractable set of educational problems, Nepal’s Ministry of Education and Culture has developed over the past twelve years a multifaceted distance-learning system. Radio broadcasts designed especially for untrained primary-school teachers, supplemented by a variety of other instructional media, are at the heart of this system. In fact, to date no other distance-teacher-training system has relied so heavily on radio as its core medium of instruction. Accordingly, the ways radio has been used for teacher training in Nepal, including the selection and recruitment of participants, the balancing of diverse instructional methods, the level of effectiveness, and costs, are the subject of this chapter.