Know Zone (KZ) is a locally produced TV series that aims to raise the educational standards of young Kenyans. It was first created by Mediae for Standard 4 students to support them in their transition to English. The series now has three separate programs: one for Standard 2, one for Standard 4, and one for Standard 6. Programs are broadcast throughout the year on a Saturday morning on Citizen TV, reaching audiences in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.
Mediae coordinates all stages of delivery including, but not limited to, pre-production research, script writing, filming, and broadcasting, show publicity and promotional materials, supplementary educational materials, monitoring tools and evaluation.
The series content is developed in conjunction with the current Kenyan curriculum. It seeks to complement lessons and act as revisions of the week’s work. Key focus is placed upon enriching numeracy, literacy, and life skills in a contextually relevant way, such that children in East Africa can relate to the TV characters and engage in learning in a fun and exciting way.
Key learning components of the TV program include:
- Drama: Every episode focuses on the adventures of seven children who represent a range of different Kenyan identities and work together solving mysteries and challenges. English, mathematics, and social issues are contextualized within the drama.
- Studio Learning Zone: Guests from the target age group participate in games and practical activities to explain and illustrate key mathematics principles and English principles in creative ways.
- Creative Zone: A section dedicated to encouraging creative activity through art, dance, music, or poetry.
- Out There: A trip to a place of interest such as a soda bottling factory or a traditional community. Different regions of Kenya representing different ethnic groups are visited. Such places may not be easily accessible to children but are relevant to the topic being taught as the focus of the syllabus at the time.
- Environment Zone: Dedicated to all relevant environmental issues including climate change adaption, delivered in an age-appropriate way.
- Holiday Episodes: During holiday periods the schedule is more flexible, allowing the program to address key social issues such as health or school dropout and developing 21st century skills, such as problem solving and creativity.
In support of the TV series, Mediae operates an SMS system, where the audience can text in to receive a termly workbook and learning leaflets and asking specific questions to Mediae team and teachers. The program is also linked to teacher training and shares resources with teacher training colleges as well as schools. To ensure that activities and games are designed with easy and practical duplication in classrooms around the country, a steering group has been established, comprising teachers, parents, and students. An online portal is currently being developed, which engages learning and interaction beyond the TV series. Episodes are hosted on the portal, and it has potential to host other relevant educational material extending from the early years through to university.
Research forms a key component of KnowZone. Usage is carefully monitored to understand which elements of the program are most enjoyable and which elements raise learning outcomes. This is then used to inform future script writing, content, and approaches.
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CEI approaches in action
Users require access to a TV (which may be through a neighbor or school if the user doesn’t own a TV). Accompanying printed resources are provided free of charge to children.
Approximately 3,000,000 viewers (active and passive) in 2014.
The TV series was initially designed for Standard 4 children to support them in their transition from Swahili to English; now, three separate programs run for Standard 2 (foundational learning), Standard 4 (transition to English), and Standard 6 (consolidation). The TV series has been enhanced to include a printed learning workbook and online portal. In addition, evaluations and research have enabled Mediae to refine KnowZone so it matches the needs of teachers pupils and parents alike.
While initially broadcast in Kenya, the program is now also being broadcast in Uganda. In 2014 a pilot began in Rwanda, which uses the KnowZone model to teach English to children and includes interactive quizzes and a teachers resource guide for each episode. The emphasis is on incorporating it into schools. The pilot will be completed at the end 2014, at which point there is intention to roll it out fully.
The online portal has been introduced to enable the program to grow. All TV episodes are hosted on the portal; in addition, Mediae seeks to include learning materials for additional age groups, covering ECD through to tertiary level. The portal will host a combination of academic materials alongside materials enhancing 21st century skills such as problem solving, technology, empathy, world knowledge, and creativity. There is also an opportunity to incorporate these skills into the holiday episodes of the TV series and have greater focus on enhancing soft skills in children.
Monitoring & Evaluation
Audience research forms the foundation of KnowZone. At the end of the series Mediae invites audience feedback through SMS and social media. A questionnaire is sent to viewers (who have approved on SMS and are given a small financial incentive to complete within a given timeframe). Questionnaires evaluate audience attitudes and satisfaction with the program, as well as market research to understand and what other programs appeal to the audience and why. KnowZone is modified according to audience response.
Alongside this research, Mediae has undertaken evaluation studies of learning outcomes. In 2010 and 2012, 22 randomly selected schools from across Kenya participated in a self-administered study. Standard 6 students (879 in total) completed an Uwezo test in numeracy, literacy, and environmental studies. In addition, data was drawn on whether they watch KnowZone, how often, which features and characters they like, and what they have learned from the program. Those who watched KnowZone regularly outperformed non-viewers (who own a TV) by at least 10%.
In 2014 Mediae partnered with the DFID-funded program PRIMR, which is evaluating learning in Kenyan primary schools. Questions will be incorporated into the existing PRIMR evaluation to identify if pupils watch KnowZone and how often, thus generating larger-scale results showing the learning outcomes of viewers as compared to non-viewers.
- Literacy: Mean test attainment score of KnowZone viewers was 51.3%, in comparison with non-viewers who average 37.9%. (This was then split to consider only those who own a TV, with viewers achieving a mean score of 52.7% and non-viewers 41.8%.)
- Mathematics: Mean test attainment score of KnowZone viewers was 71.2%, in comparison with non-viewers who average 46.3%. (This was then split to consider only those who own a TV, with viewers achieving a mean score of 73% and non-viewers 50%.)
- When the 690 KZ viewers were asked whether the program helps them in school, the overwhelming majority (96%) answered in the affirmative. (2012)
- A majority of the viewers (70%) have watched a KZ episode recently (within a week or so). (2012)
- A majority of the viewers (81%) identify KZ with fun and learning (based on a pre-determined prompt list). (2012)