The Tikwere/Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) project is a three-year activity funded by USAID under the School Fees initiative, an initiative to assist countries in developing low-cost strategies for improving learning outcomes and improving attendance and completion rates in countries which have abolished school fees. The Tikwere/IRI project is implemented under a Cooperative Agreement with Education Development Center (EDC), who partners with the Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE).
The project objectives are to develop, produce and disseminate interactive radio lessons for broadcast nationwide for Standards One, Two and Three (150 lessons for each standard) aligned with and supportive of the New Primary Curriculum (NPC) being implemented as part of the Primary Curriculum and Assessment Reform (PCAR) initiative of the Malawi Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST). The project began in June 2007. Broadcast lessons for Standard One began in January 2008 and lessons for Standard Two began in January 2009. Standard Three lessons are being produced now for broadcast beginning in January 2010.
The evaluation included direct observation of classrooms in all six Divisions of Malawi (21 schools and 49 classrooms), surveys of teachers (47 teachers), surveys of head teachers, primary education advisors and supervisors in the Districts and Division offices (44 surveys), seven focus groups of parents and community members and extensive interviews in the field (over 100) including the MoEST in Lilongwe, the Malawi College of Distance Education in Blantyre (where the project is based), the Malawi Institute of Education (which provides support for the PCAR/NPC curriculum) and with Tikwere/EDC project staff in Blantyre.
The main conclusions of the Mid-Term Evaluation are that the project is well-managed and is meeting its quantitative objectives in terms of material production and dissemination. Working relationships with the relevant MoEST Directorates, with MCDE, MIE and MBC appear good, collegial and professional, with effective coordination on most aspects. Though the quantitative objectives for production are being met, there is minimally adequate training and other technical and pedagogic support for teachers and head teachers on the effective use of Tikwere/IRI, due mainly to a) limited budget and staff time and the imperative to give priority to the production processes of producing three years of lessons in two years, and b) the fact that most responsibility for professional development and pedagogic support at the level of the schools, zones and districts is the responsibility of other MoEST Directorates rather than the MCDE, within which the Tikwere project is implemented. Further efforts are needed by the PCAR Coordinating Committee (PCC) and others to ensure the Tikwere lessons and IRI methodology are effectively integrated with PCAR, receiving training and support as part of a single program.
Evidence of the impact of Tikwere/IRI on learning outcomes and on enrolment, attendance and persistence rates is partial and uneven given the diversity of school contexts across Malawi and the limited data from the EMIS and school reporting systems, and due to the fact that the Tikwere/IRIprogram is only completing its second year and the second set of performance assessments for Standard 1 and 2 students is not yet complete. However, anecdotal evidence and the assessment of the team from interviews with teachers, head teachers and other education supervisors in the field do provide a basis for the evaluation judgment that there are positive trends and that there will be further evidence of improved impact as the program continues to be used and teachers gain experience with use of the IRI broadcast lessons.