Photo: Mike Webb/Tearfund

From: Footsteps 71

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Access to education is often regarded as a human right, and achieving universal primary education is one of the Millennium Development Goals (Footsteps 63). Education has many benefits:

A key issue in many countries is to ensure that girls share equally in these opportunities. For remote and isolated communities, education can be a means of development, empowerment and social and economic inclusion in the wider society.

The Tseltal, Tsotsil and Chol indigenous peoples live in remote areas of Chiapas State, southern Mexico. Economically, socially and culturally, these groups are often marginalised. To provide these remote communities with access to education, the Mexican government uses television to provide secondary schooling. Lessons are broadcast daily by satellite to televisions in the local schools. Each class should also have a teacher to give further explanations and to distribute textbooks, although sometimes the lack of resources prevents this. There are about 16,000 tele-secondary schools in Mexico. This system has great potential to meet the needs of remote and marginal communities in other developing countries.

In 2006, a study was carried out to evaluate the impact of this system. More than 1,500 secondary school students, aged 12–16, in about 80 communities were surveyed. Many parents and community leaders were also interviewed. They reported many benefits from tele-schooling, for the students as well as the wider community:

However, such education can also bring some problems:

This study showed that the benefits of secondary tele-education spread beyond the classroom, but it also highlighted lessons to be learned about the content of such schooling and the way it is delivered. These include:

Dr Nigel Poole works with the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London – Wye Campus. Email: nanda@poolewye.freeserve.co.uk

Photo: Nigel Poole

Photo: Nigel Poole

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