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The Practicability of Educational Television in the Philippines

PROGRAMS > ICT > Educational TV (ETV) Program

In any culture, entertainment is the most influential of forces. Television is a form of entertainment, and thus, it has educational properties. Television teaches all the time, doing even more educating than schools, according to Marshall McLuhan. Television delivers highly persuasive and instructive content. For this reason, the concept of "Educational Television" or "ETV" was developed in the United States in the 1960's.

The Concept of ETV

ETV is advertised as television that people watch "on purpose", with intent on selecting programs based on their educational content. ETV is television that expects participation, just as a teacher would. It encourages viewers to reflect and act on what they have learned - to apply the lessons by reading, discussing, drawing and the like. ETV is a community effort, and its main motive is to form a public out of its viewers. It attempts to stimulate the concern of people and to invite viewers to join their community instead of to merely dwell in it. The subjects provided on ETV are typically Art, Foreign Language, Math, Science, Social Science, Technology, and Parents and Teacher Training. These subjects cater to different age groups, and the programs they offer can be viewed in a school setting, under the supervision of a teacher, or at home, unsupervised.

ETV was a success in the United States, and it continues to be one of the major teaching media used there, for it has many benefits for students and teachers alike. As David Mare says, "Television, ...not education is the most effective purveyor of language, image, and narrative in American culture," so it is an asset for the educators, who constantly struggle to grab the attention of their students. The question is: would ETV be an advantage to the Philippine middle class and masses?

ETV in the Philippine Setting

According to Leo Larkin, who performed a study on the possibility of having ETV in Manila and in the Ateneo de Manila, the quantitative nature of television instruction has helped foreign institutions handle more enrollments without having to build more classrooms or hire more professors. Converting existing facilities like libraries, auditoria, or cafeteria into classrooms, as well as judiciously scheduling teachers, has made this possible. If it has worked for America, perhaps it would also click here.

Larkin believes that ETV gives teachers more opportunities to help individuals. He says "teachers have been freed for extra class preparation or further duties such as guidance counseling, teaching special groups of slow learners or gifted students, or taking extra curricular activities." Shramm agrees with Larkin, saying the teacher is given the freedom to devote his time to more productive things, like helping individuals. He is able to use his time for the kind of teaching that has more rewards, satisfaction and excitement than the kind attained from routine group instruction.

Another benefit of ETV, adds Larkin, is that larger classes sometimes result in a saving large enough to raise the teachers' salaries. Shramm adds that ETV is effective in maintaining a certain teaching standard. It can supply the best teaching demonstrations. Its self-instructional materials can conduct lessons professionally, and they can give the student the freedom to work at his own desired pace. Television can display an event or activity that would otherwise be spoiled for direct observation. This is especially true for Science classes, which deal with many fragile specimens. (Shramm 5)

The Limitations and Complications of ETV

When it comes to experimentation or hands-on work with specimens and the like, however, ETV has its limitations. ETV cannot conduct effective seminar discussions. It cannot offer specific and direct personal help. The ETV system is believed to detract from student discussion. As a result, the student does not have the opportunity to ask questions on the spot. He cannot receive feedback.

Another problem with ETV is that prolonged TV viewing weakens the left-brain hemisphere. The left hemisphere of the brain controls the actions of the right side of the body and it focuses on controlling the language and speech functions. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, controls the actions of the left side of the body and focuses on the perception of spatial and nonverbal concepts.

As the Center of Educational Priorities (CEP) says, "the eye and brain functions employed in TV viewing are likely to put demands on different parts of the brain than those used in reading, causing incalculably different kinds of cognitive development. " The CEP also quotes Neal Postman in his argument that when watching television, we are largely using the right hemisphere of the brain, the left possibly being somewhat a burden in the process. Thus continuous watching over centuries could conceivably have the effect of weakening the left brain activity and producing a population of 'right-brained' people... in other words, people whose state of mind is somewhat analogous to that of a modern day baboon.
ETV also has side effects on behavior. Many charge that it promotes passivity and indifference because of the lack of required response. Also, it makes people lax thinkers, since all the information they need is conveniently available and entertaining.
Leon Botstein recognizes that the effect of television on education in the long-run is the deterioration of language:

The simplification and standardization of language... restricts the range of expression and thought, even silent internal remuneration. In this sense, eloquence and even originality, from the perspective of the classroom have become superfluous... The oral tradition has triumphed over the written.

Professor Lois DeBakey of Baylor University has a similar concern. He thinks that ETV will create a semi-literacy and breakdown in the manner that people communicate with each other. Neal Postman adds that the imagery of television moves quickly. It is discontinuous and alogical, and it triggers emotional responses instead of conceptual processing. Therefore, even if the curriculum of an ETV show is difficult, the nature of its presentation could result in deterioration in learning instead of an improvement. This would pose a serous challenge not only for school performance, but also for civilization because intelligent communication is vital in man's progress.

Sure enough, Harper's magazine shows the alarming drop of the average 6-14-year-old-child's vocabulary in the United States. From 25,000 words, it has dropped to 10,000 within fifty years. Symbols and icons are replacing words and phrases.
These statistics go to show that ETV must be integrated with other teaching media for students to have balanced brain development:

The basic question is not simply how to use television alone, but rather how to combine it most effectively with other learning experiences and resources...Television is not the only teaching resource, so you can combine it with other media to teach properly... Experience indicates that the most effective uses of Television have been in situations where it has been combined carefully with other activities in a total learning situation... The modern teacher has books, guides, periodicals, films, tapes, slides, records, laboratory equipment; some have language laboratories; and soon many of them will have programmed self-instructional materials. (Shramm 5)

The Practicability of ETV in the Philippine Setting

In the Philippines, the above-mentioned media is not at all easy to come by. Would it be wise to introduce ETV to the Philippines in full-scale? For starters, the country is poverty-stricken. The masses can barely afford to buy food, and they survive by the day. The Philippine government does not allot much money for education either, so schools can barely afford to pay teachers. The Filipino students face the dilemma of not having the appropriate media or money to afford higher learning despite their eagerness to learn. As stated by Leo Larkin, Manila, like all other large metropolitan areas, has many educational problems. Among these are a shortage of qualified and certified teachers, a dearth of science and mathematics courses, and insufficient and ill-adapted audio-visuals... These problems coupled with the large concentration of schools indicate that televised instruction might help educators in Manila to solve some of their problems.

Larkin believes ETV would be good for the Philippines. His studies show that an initial and modest educational television project does have potential here. At this point, it is useful for one to note the difference between the limited and the full-scale implementations of ETV. A limited implementation refers to devoting only a couple of channels for ETV. On the other hand, a full-scale implementation refers to "a nationwide interconnection of educational stations and a new system of production, evaluation, and exchange of instructional television materials." (Shramm 6)

A modest or limited ETV project may be the key to improving education in the Philippines. However, if ETV were to be put into practice in the Philippines, it would not guarantee educational progress. This is because the Philippine masses would not have the proper guidance to watch the programs vital to their education if they watch educational channels at home. Studies show that the members of the mass are likely to watch "utility programs", like those on personal and family relations. The masses are least likely to become viewers of other programs, like social science and culture, art, aesthetics, and history, natural science, education, and humanity. This shows that even if the Philippines had ETV in full force, the most in need of education would not be instructed properly. Therefore, with the unsupervised self-study form of ETV, the ignorant Philippine masses (they, who can afford televisions but cannot send their children to school) would remain ignorant. (Shramm 103)

Aside from this, the costs for ETV are high, making ETV even more impractical for the Philippine setting. Larkin has listed the different costs to worry about like the equipment, installation, and maintenance, operating personnel, instructional personnel and overhead, administrative and miscellaneous costs, and if ETV were the main teaching media in the Philippines, or if ETV were to be implemented "in full force", then these costs would be way out of the country's league. (Larkin 31)

The Philippines is not financially equipped to properly integrate ETV with other teaching media, so it should not pursue ETV in full scale, lest it hinder learning. "Until we do have a nationwide interconnection of educational stations and a new system of production, evaluation, and exchange of instructional television materials, educational television will not be able to work at its full strength for the public good." (Shramm 6)

The Philippines cannot implement ETV in full-scale due to poverty, so it will not be in danger of relying too much on ETV. Besides, even if the masses may be in danger of relying alone on the little ETV available, since they cannot afford anything else (or since their priorities are wrong and they'd rather pay for a television than to send their kids to school), some education is better than none at all.

Current ETV Stations in the Philippines

The Philippines does have "The Knowledge Channel" on local Television at the present, which does people no harm. It has Math and Science programs during the day, and it is much like the "Lifesyle Network" on cable TV at night, offering tips for raising families properly or for cleaning and arranging the house's interior with style. An example of a program on "The Knowledge Channel" is "WHY," the tele-dyaryo, which features different parts of the Philppines, much like the Discovery Channel. To give you a clearer idea, "WHY" has done a documentary on Quiapo, wherein the show displayed the Filipino's fusion of their forefathers' beliefs with other cultures.

Another local television channel, "ABS-CBN", also offers its own educational programs like the Tagalog version of "Sesame Street," wherein they try to teach children the English language.

Perhaps a couple more stations of this sort would do some good to the homes of the Filipino masses, even if they may be incapable of teaching them mathematics (This would be because the math programs are too fast-paced for some people.).

On the other hand, the members of the middle class may be able to appreciate the few channels dedicated to ETV. The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic already offer various educational programs for students. If a couple more channels were to be dedicated for ETV, complete with a strict schedule that schools could follow when assigning shows for their students to watch, then ETV could benefit the Philippine middle class. Of course, this would be extremely difficult and not very practicable. To begin with, there would be no way of guaranteeing that all the students will have television sets at home. Students may not arrive home in time for the required show. They may have other engagements to attend to. Aside from that, requiring TV shows would lengthen the school day by more than it has to be, and it would eat up precious family time or time for extracurricular activities.

The Verdict

In conclusion, although educational television could benefit teachers and students by improving the quality of instruction in schools, the Philippines is far from being financially equipped to integrate ETV with other teaching media properly. Therefore, ETV should not be pursued in full scale, for it could hinder learning and eventually lead to the deterioration of communication. This is attributed to the effect prolonged television viewing has on the brains of its viewers. While television caters to the right brain hemisphere's perception of spatial and non-verbal concepts, it fails to address the left side's need for developing a person's language and speech functions.

Delegating a couple more local television channels, aside from the "Knowledge Channel" and "ABS-CBN", to education would be a harmless act, which would probably benefit the middle class Filipinos. They would have more sense when it comes to choosing the educationally rich programs, as children could rely on their parents to guide them as they select shows.

The Philippines has been doing surprisingly well where ETV is concerned, considering its economic situation. Perhaps a little more pushing for ETV stations could make more of a difference in the literacy of the Filipino masses.

Larkin, Leo H. Educational television for the Ateneo de Manila: a preliminary study. New York: Fordham University Press, 1960.

Larkin, Leo. H. Towards Educational Television for a Greater Manila. Auriesville, N.Y.: [s.n.] 1960

Powell, John Walker Channels of learning: the story of educational television. Washington D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1962.

American Council On Education College Teaching by Television.

Shramm, Wilbur Lang, 1907 National Educational Television and Radio Center The impact of educational television: selected studies from the research sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Urbana: Universitiy of Illinois press, 1960.

Center of Educational Priorities http://www.cep.org.problems.html

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