The Public Broadcasting Service is rapidly becoming the world's largest video school system, with programming ranging from kinderparten to continuing education for the elderly.All this in addition to its regular entertainment fare , much of which falls into the informative or instructional category as well.
Over 15 million students currently receive a regular part of their classroom instruction from television.Eighty percent of the public television stations in this country provide local schools with two to six hours of instructional television daily.
Together, these stations offer more than 200 TV series for all grade levels, and they cover just about every subject area.
PBS is involved in four basic educational services:
* Regular children's programming. This includes "Sesame Street" (preschoolers); "Electric Company" (7-10 age bracket); "Reading Rainbow" (primary grades); "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (preschoolers); "3-2-1 Contact" (8-12 Age brackete; "Why in the World" (high schoole; and "Powerhouse" (preteens and teens). In 1984 WETA in Washington will present "Spaces," an innovative science series for children. It will highlight the accomplishments of minorities and demonstrate the importance of science and technology in our daily lives.
* Instructional Television (ITV). This is basically for younger students. Nearly half the nation's teachers incorporate some aspect of ITV into their regular instructional planning. Some of the courses: "Community of Living Things" and "The Human Community," both award-winning science series; "Tuned In, " which helps children develop critical viewing skills; "Arts Express," which emphasizes the visual and performing arts.
* Adult Learning Service (ALS).This is a television education service for higher education. Some 245 public television stations work with more than 600 colleges and universities to offer television courses distributed by PBS for credit.
In the past two years over 130,000 people received college credit as a result of that collaboration. Probably millions more have watched for their own educational enrichment. The service is self-supporting. A current breakthrough: WGBH's (Boston) "Vietnam: A Television History" is being offered as both a part of the regular PBS programming and as a liicensed ALS television course. It was planned that way from the beginning.
The National University Consortium (NUC), a nationwide network of four-year colleges and universities, is not part of the PBS initiative.It has, however, linked with some PBS and cable stations to offer television-assisted bachelor's degree programs.
Right now at least 18 NUC member colleges and 23 stations in 14 different states are offering degrees in managment and technology, humanities, and behavioral and social sciences.
Last year more than 2,000 students took NUC courses. They ranged in age from 19 to 74, with a wide variety of racial backgrounds, an NUC survey found.
Adults interested in obtaining more information about NUC may write to Susan Garrett, NUC, University of Maryland, University College, College Park, Md. 20742.
* Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS). This is a microwave service for transmitting instructional TV. In the works is a national narrowcast service, aiming at specialized audiences.
The backbone of this service is the satellite interconnection of instructional TV fixed-service opeations at each public television station.
William Reed Sr., PBS vice-president for educational services, comments on the capabilities of the transmitting system:
"While stations ae serving their broadcast audience with television courses and regular general audience programming, they can simultaneoulsy deliver live programming from Cape Canaveral with astronauts talking to K-12 schools; a seminar on office automation to business leaders at work, the latest techniques in emergency prepardeness for firefighters and police officers at city buildings , and a review of current research for health professionals in hospitals. That's five different programs at the same time -- to different audiences with clearly different interests."
Mr. Reed says PBS has applied for or been granted licenses to operate ITFS systems in some 150 communities. When the facilities are constructed, public television will have, said Mr. Reed, "the nation's foremost educational delivery system."