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The Frequency of Empowerment

Costa Rica boasts a 97 percent literacy rate, in part by utilizing the sometimes-forgotten radio system.

Christina Ausley
Alexander Richey
Alexander Richey

Utilizing reformed systems of technology, Costa Ricans of all ages can now further and complete their education without setting a foot outside of their own home.


Programs like Maestro en Casa, translated to “teacher in the house,” utilize distance learning to educate and engage the youth of countries like Panama and Costa Rica through basic radio systems. As a result, Costa Rica retains a 97 percent literacy rate within a country made up almost entirely of rural communities.


“The one thing about a radio that I think really works in rural areas that are trying to improve literacy is that it’s so cheap and versatile,” said Pat Duggins, news director of Alabama Public Radio. “Television takes a lot to make it work, you need a lot of electricity and infrastructure to receive the message.”


Maestro en Casa aims to extend education to all segments of the population, use distance education to reach people who live in remote areas or have mobility problems, give people who cannot attend a traditional school a chance to continue studying and empower parents to help their children with their education.

Additionally, the radio is easily accessible and provides education within the safety of home. Regardless of weather disruptions or class cancellations, education is available at the turn of a dial at every hour in Costa Rica.

from Costa Rica
Travel to the land of the indigenous Maleku people and hear how a radio station began in a forest on this episode of Dispatches. Translation may be required...

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Left: ICER prints textbooks in-house. ICER's Foley studio used to make sound effects for their educational programs. Vida Magazine | Alexander Richey
Right: Iris Moore is the Academic Director of ICER. Vida Magazine | Alexander Richey

“Some of these radios like the Red Cross radio even have these solar panels on it, so you literally just set it out in the sun and it’ll charge up,” Duggins said.


Organizations like the Costa Rican Institute of Radio Education (ICER), a distance learning program utilizing 15 different stations, have made their broadcasts available to individuals of all ages. The program encourages everyone, regardless of gender or age, to further their education.


“Recently we had graduation in December, and 1,300 students graduated,” said Iris Moore, Academic Director of  ICER. “And one of the honoraries was a man, 70 years old, that finally concluded his high school, which is something very appreciated by us.”

ICER dedicates itself to promoting the educational system and hopes to serve the community in whatever its needs may be, preparing educational material to broadcast to listeners across the country who have stagnated in their opportunities for a formal education.


“It might be young students who could not make it to a formal educational system, or the other part of our population is those adults who did not finish their primary or secondary studies and want to continue, so this is the option that they can move into and succeed.” Moore said.

ICER has been successful in providing high-school degrees of education to its students, passing many along to further universities and professional occupations.

Left: Around 1,300 students graduated last December with the help of ICER's textbooks and radio programs. Vida Magazine | Alexander Richey
Right: Iris Moore gives a tour of ICER's printing room. Vida Magazine | Alexander Richey

To help support, ICER has noted a worldwide effort to help further its goals and opportunities for those without a nearby school through a variety of visiting professionals and educators. Visiting from abroad, these instructors introduce new techniques and technologies that may benefit the system as a whole.


“They come here and do something similar to community work, and help us in creating better techniques or better technologies so that we can trigger all of the material better for the students,” Moore said. “They have been very helpful in terms of what we are today and what we are creating.”


Overall, institutions like Maestro en Casa and ICER hope to continue providing one thing: easily accessible education for all. As a result, it’s no surprise the literacy rate has risen to such a high standard.

“Believe me, it has been very very helpful nation-wide and individual-wide,” Moore said. “This is a way to help them move forward in society and get a better life.”

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