Teaching English by Radio 7,000 Miles Away

Dr. Ana Lado has invested herself in Marymount University’s mission of higher education for the last quarter of a century. She says she is extremely grateful for the partnership.

“Marymount has given me the opportunity to do things that are a little bit out of the ordinary,” she says appreciatively.

The education professor is a visionary who has worked to produce content for Broadclass “Listen to Learn,” an interactive radio instruction program in Pakistan that won an international award last year for sustainable development. Her expertise includes the study of and the ability to use picture books, including those without words, to convey ideas and teach lessons. That led to discussions about helping develop a program for use overseas.

She works with the POWER99 Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities for women and children across Pakistan. “Listen to Learn” teaches English to thousands of children in makeshift school settings in remote villages through what Lado calls “tellability.” Her concept flips the logic of traditional literacy programs, which require learning to read and write as the way to understanding a language. Instead, tellability uses stories and activities to help students understand what spoken words mean.

The radio program emphasizes four words per day taught through stories and songs Monday through Thursday. Friday’s follow-up program focuses on fluency by using the week’s 16 words. Lado writes lessons by using poems and stories written by Pakistani educators and through retelling well known stories, including Aesop’s Fables. She tailors lessons to be understood by children who are four to eight years old.

The effort is a “complex process” piloted through work with street children in Islamabad before being formatted for students. Once ready, lessons are transmitted to rural villages through radios built for around $50. A classroom is actually a rug on which the children sit, often after having walked miles to get to a village or central location.

Lado says the teams format lessons in such a way that students “interact” with the radio teacher, with pauses built in so the pupils have time to answer questions. A local on-site teacher is there to help ensure successful classes.

“I ended up going to Pakistan for a couple of weeks several times a year to work with the team and get a curriculum together,” says Lado. She hopes for a return trip in the fall.