BBC to set up English courses for rural areas

20th February 1998 at 00:00

The Mexican government is collaborating with BBC Worldwide and the Cambridge examining board, UCLES, to deliver a distance-learning English course to 150,000 pupils and adults a year.

A pilot project, aimed at 7,000 student teachers and teacher-trainers, was launched on Wednesday to broadcast 30-minute programmes and provide video and written materials. The British Council is training 1,200 tutors for the accredited multi-media course, called Look Ahead, and has helped the Mexican government adapt the materials to the country.

Elisa Bonilla, director general for teaching methods and materials at the ministry of public education, said a key aim of the initiative is to provide continuing secondary education to some of the three million adults who dropped out of school, mostly to take up employment.

"Mexico has a 3,000-kilometre border with the United States," she said, "and with international business growing, knowledge of English is an important asset in finding a better job."

Mexico has adapted to the problem of a thinly-spread population in rural areas by setting up an education satellite station, Edusat, and installing 15, 000 receivers across the country. Many are sited in telesecundaria schools, where there is just one teacher per grade, and most of the materials and information for lessons is delivered by television - almost a million pupils are taught in this way. Other receivers are in academic institutions and 300 in-service training centres for teachers.

The distance-learning programme forms part of a package of reforms introduced in the past five years including a national curriculum, centres for in-service teacher training and the production of 150 million books.

Brendan O'Malley

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