Radio lessons support continuity of learning in Kiribati

Ministry of Education, with support from UNICEF prepares for future school closures

Sawa Iwakuni
Radio lessons support continuity of learning in Kiribati
22 December 2021

Five-year-old Tukati is curious about learning new things and has a never-ending list of questions! Tukati lives with her mother, Kirikara, her grandparents and her uncle in the Mauanako community in Bikinibeu village in South Tarawa, Kiribati.

During the school term break from 6 to 10 September 2021, Tukati really missed her class and teachers at Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Korobu Pre-School. Fortunately, although schools were closed, she was still able to continue learning.

As part of its planning for potential future school closures due to COVID-19 or other events, the Ministry of Education planned for the school term break in September to serve as a simulated school closure to trial remote learning systems in Kiribati. While the remote island country is currently free from COVID-19, the Ministry of Education, with support from UNICEF, has been working to ensure that schools are well-prepared to support continuity of learning for all students.

A recent MICS-EAGLE data analysis revealed that overall more children in Kiribati have access to internet than to radio at home, however it also showed that the opposite is true for children from rural areas and from poorer families. The Ministry of Education therefore targeted radio as one of the primary modes for remote learning in order to ensure equitable access to learning continuity for all children.

Tukati’s mother Kirikara heard that radio lessons would be broadcasted during the remote learning trial week through an SMS message sent to all mobile phone holders across Kiribati, a radio announcement, and through posters. Together, Tukati and Kirikara tuned in to learn.

“On the first day when we listened to the radio lesson, it was a bit difficult for Tukati to concentrate as it was the first time for her to learn through radio,” Kirikara remembers.

However, Tukati gradually adapted and found that the radio lessons were structured the same way as her class at school. “I know this - it is just like my teacher!” she exclaimed several times. Kirikara felt that the radio lessons were structured well, and the teacher provided clear instructions, as well as providing the right amount of time to do the activities.

On the second day of listening to the radio lessons, Tukati said, “Now the radio became my teacher. I am not missing my class anymore.” After seeing how engaged Tukati was, Kirikara encouraged other parents with children of a similar age to join the radio lessons as well.

While Tukati was happy to return to her class and her teacher at the end of the school term break, Kirikara feels confident now that if schools in Kiribati do need to close due to COVID-19, radio lessons will help her daughter continue to learn and develop from home.

In addition to the radio lessons, Kiribati’s remote learning system also includes a digital learning platform called Learning Passport, which was also piloted during the trial week. Furthermore, teachers have been trained on supporting students’ learning and wellbeing during school closures through engaging parents, developing worksheets and activities, and monitoring and providing feedback to students remotely.

Monitoring data collected through an SMS survey and interviews conducted with students, parents and teachers are now being used to assess the effectiveness and accessibility of the remote learning systems. This will ensure students like Tukati are better prepared for learning during any future school closures.

UNICEF Pacific would like to thank the Global Partnership for Education and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for their financial contribution to COVID-19 response in education in Kiribati