The uses of television broadcast-based distance education : a case study of Liberty Learning Channel programme.
Education is considered as an essential tool for the long-term development of most countries. The provision of education to only part of a community or part of the world reinforces relative deprivation. To counteract such an effect, South Africa, a geographically large country, in which the population is scattered, where economic disparities are aligned to race, where qualified teachers and specialists in certain subject areas are scarce, and where there is an illiteracy rate of 29 percent, hope has been expressed that television broadcast based distance education may be a viable alternative to expanding formal education provision extensively and quickly. This study investigates the role of television broadcast-based distance education in South Africa as a possibility for extending the provision of formal education to large numbers of learners and how the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the country 's Department of Education fulfils the promise of extending education. This objective was addressed by first giving a critique of conventional education systems and why distance education is an alternative option for provision of education. Further, the study traces a general picture of education in Africa and the educational situation in South Africa, highlighting the distance education scenario in South Africa , and investigates why distance education and particularly television broadcast-based distance education is crucial in the provision of education in developing countries in the face of the globalisation of mass communication and new information technologies. The study also investigates the complex issues involved in the production, distribution and consumption of Liberty Learning Channel Programme (a television programme which offers remedial support for matric (grade 12) and grade 10 to 11 students) by examining whether the producers and partners of the programme created a text which connects with the multi-cultural reality of teachers, learners and other viewers in South Africa; the role of the programme in the service of growth, reconstruction and development; why the programme is not popular among the youth; and what can be done to make it effective in enhancing teaching and learning; and the intertextuality, production and distribution of the programme. Information on the above aspects was gathered through the scannmg of relevant literature and by the use of ethnographic research procedures which included focus group interviews, in-depth interviews and participant observation. The study established that conventional systems of education and current educational practices have fallen short ofpreparing citizens with a strong foundation of general education. The study therefore offers distance education not only as an alternative to conventional education delivery at secondary and higher levels of education, but also as a low-cost alternative to expanding education. Constructivism is suggested as an alternative set of values that may significantly influence learning and that can help develop the kind of citizens who can be able to function successfully in real-word contexts. With regard to effectiveness of television broadcast-based distance education in teaching and learning, the study established that television is an effective means of achieving traditional educational goals, and that television broadcast-based distance education remains important especially in the developing countries in light of the need to increase access to education, redress the disparities caused by globalisation of mass communication and by lack of information and communication technologies. With regard to distance education in South Africa, the study found that there is both significant policy commitment and actual use of broadcast-based distance education in solving many of the country's education problems, but that there is an urgent need to improve the quality of that provision, particularly in formal education. On the complex issues involved in the production, distribution and the consumption of Liberty Learning Channel programme, the study found that the programme (aired live since 1993), is a production of Liberty Learning Channel, an independent company based in Johannesburg, in partnership with the Liberty Life Foundation, and that the SABC is not involved in the production but provided the airwaves. Each subject presenter prepares his or her own lessons, and therefore no services of producers, scriptwriters, or editors are employed in the production of the programme. The programme is then distributed through television, newspapers (the Sowetan), videocassettes, the Internet and in future through CD-ROMs. Additionally, the study found that Liberty Learning Channel relies on audience feedback from audience rating and occasional feedback from comments down the streets or letters from viewers thanking the presenters. This study argues that this kind of monitoring is not sufficient as rating only tells advertisers how many viewers were exposed to a specific programme content on a particular television channel in a certain time slot. Regarding the consumption of the programme, the great majority of the focus group participants liked the programme and used it during revision and in dealing with large numbers of students with different abilities and difficulties. A great majority of the students liked the programme because of the way the presenters explained clearly. However, a great majority of the participants watched the programme sparingly partly because the time slot was ' inappropriate ' and due to a lack of awareness about the programme. Several suggestions for the improvement of the programme were put forward, amongst them: to change the time slot; to have multi-racial presenters ; to give detailed timetables to schools in advance, and to advertise the programme more directly to schools. However, a reluctance or unwillingness to consider some of the audiences ' suggestions for the improvement of the programme, was shown by the manager of Liberty Learning Channel, William Smith. The above results are reported and discussed in detail in chapters 2 to 3, and general conclusions and recommendations presented in chapter 4.
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