Despite the demonization of screen time, educational media is an inexpensive way to help children develop early learning skills and better prepare for school according to a new study of the Akili and Me program in Rwanda from University of Maryland (UMD) School of Public Health researchers.
The study, published in the International Journal of Early Childhood this March, “expands on recent efforts to develop and evaluate educational media in sub-Saharan Africa.” The research focuses on adapting a successful Tanzanian early education animated program, Akili and Me, to a Rwandan audience. An international team conducted this study; Dr. Dina Borzekowski of the UMD was joined by Dr. Agnes Lando of Daystar University; Sara Olsen, a UMD doctoral student in behavioral and community health; Lauren Giffen of the University of Melbourne; and an in-country team of data collectors from the University of Rwanda .
With a sample of over 400 children, ages six through eight, the researchers found that Rwandan children who watched the Kinyarwanda-language Akili and Me series had significantly improved scores for essential early learning skills including counting, shape knowledge, body part recognition, health knowledge and vocabulary, compared to those who watched popular children’s programs instead.
The researchers attribute part of the program’s effectiveness to Akili and Me’s use of settings and characters familiar to the children, which allow more focus on learning.
These findings show that locally-produced and culturally-relevant educational programs like Akili and Me are a cost-effective solution to bridging the learning gap faced by children in Rwanda and other low-income and middle-income countries.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on June 28