My Radio Book
Audio Content as a Lifeline for Nomadic Children's Education
Tsolmonbaatar Davaajav is a 5-year-old boy from a nomadic family living in Ulziit soum of Bayankhongor province, Mongolia. His family owns over 600 livestock and moves 4-8 times a year, traveling 10-100 km to engage in animal husbandry. Ulziit soum is located 610 km from Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, and has a population of over 3,700 people, with children aged 3-5 accounting for more than 10% of the total population. Despite having only one kindergarten in the soum center, 30 children, including Tsolmonbaatar, participate in a home-based early childhood education (ECE) program. The ECE program provides him with an exercise book, an audio player with audio contents, school supplies, and a mobile teacher, Nasanbayar B., who comes to him once every two months. Nasanbayar follows a learning plan and assesses the child’s development progress using a checklist during the 2-3 hour learning sessions. Parents are also given advice on how to support their son's development and learning at home, such as discussing developmental milestones and receiving information on the learning plan for the next two months.
According to Ariunbolor N., a preschool specialist at the Education Department in Bayankhongor province, “the audio content acted as a teacher and became the most important learning tool for children of nomadic families during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were not connected to the Internet”. Although Tsolmonbaatar and his family move frequently throughout the year, Davaajav A, Tsolmonbaatar’s father states that they regularly contact the mobile teacher, who has visited them four times since last September. When he goes to the soum center to purchase food, he visits the kindergarten to meet with the teacher and receives new assignments and distance learning guides.
“Because my parents were herders, my siblings and I never went to kindergarten. Only now have I realized how important kindergarten and preschool education are in developing a "good person". We eagerly wait for the mobile teacher Nasanbayar, and when she arrives, we talk for hours, which is nice" says Davaajav A., Tsolmonbaatar’s father.
As the program provides an audio player called the "Radio Book" to teach children, nomadic families use solar panels to charge the audio player. Tsolmonbaatar said, "I like my radio book. I know all the fairy tales. I learned a lot from the radio and exercise books. I learned about communicating with friends without hurt, protecting nature, and loving and caring for animals, colors, numbers, and letters. When I soon go to school, I will present the radio to Ayalguu, who is my neighbor"
Ochir-Erdene T., the mother of Tsolmonbaatar, expressed her appreciation for the radio book as a valuable educational resource that teaches them things they may not know and cannot explain to their son. She noted that modern children are more drawn to technical devices such as cell phones and audio players than traditional paper books and learn quickly from them.
Since 2021, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science collaborated to improve access to distance learning in remote areas with no internet access. The project involved disseminating learning tools and introducing innovative technologies in line with the education transformation framework. To align with the national preschool education curriculum, UNICEF modified the curriculum's five main pillars - language, health and hygiene, mathematics and numbers, natural and social environment, creativity, and arts - into audio content using the teaching-by-storytelling method. 90 stories and fairy tales were recorded and paired with exercise books, which were distributed to over 7,800 children through audio players.
Tsendsuren.T, Education Officer at UNICEF Mongolia, highlights the potential of a home-based ECE service model to promote the inclusion of young children from nomadic pastoralist households in education and development programs in remote communities. This model can contribute to achieving transformative education goals and objectives and enhance the quality of education, particularly in circumstances where children's living conditions impact their learning and education. She expresses her gratitude to the Korean National Committee, UNICEF, and School for Asia initiative for giving educational opportunity to children and their teachers and parents living in remote areas.