Archive | teacher tuesday RSS feed for this section

Siti, From Indonesia who Teaches Children with Disabilities

6 May

Siti is both trained and experienced in inclusive education. Her classes are spread over the school though she focuses on year 4, 5 and 6. “There are 44 children with disability out of 672 across 17 classes in the school that I teach in. They are aged 7 to 13 years old”

Did you notice what was so wonderful? An inclusive class!

A classroom in which students with multiple abilities are taught in the same classroom by a specialised trained teacher.

This is not that common across the world at all. It is a sad fact that children with disabilities are often deprived of education. What is worse is that children who have parents with disabilities too suffer and are often left out of education. Take a look at some global statistics:

[Here are the fact sheets:  http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/pdf/Facts-Figures-gmr.pdf ]

But look here at the sad statistics across the world:

In Malawi and Tanzania, a child with a disability is twice as likely to have never attended school as a child without a disability.
In Burkina Faso, having a disability increases the risk of children being out of school by two and a half times.  
In Bolivia it is estimated that 95% of the population aged 6 to 11 years are in school, while only 38% of children with disabilities are – more than doubling the chances of not being in school.
In Ethiopia, according to the Ministry of Education, fewer than 3% of children with disabilities have access to primary education, and access to schooling decreases rapidly as children move up the education ladder.
In Nepal, 85% of all children out of school are disabled.
Girls with disabilities fare even worse than boys. In Malawi one study showed that more girls with disabilities have never attended school compared to boys with disabilities. This translates into lower literacy rates as adults: for instance, national statistics in Ghana show that the literacy rate for non-disabled adults stands at 70%, which reduces to 56% for adults living with disabilities, and this drops to just 47% for women with disabilities.
    Italy is the only European country in which almost all disabled pupils (over 99%) were included in mainstream schools.

(Source: http://www.campaignforeducation.org/en/global-action-week/global-action-week-2014)

These statistics are timely, as we at #teachertuesday join hands with educators all over the world to appreciate the work of teachers that deal with disabilities. This week we celebrate Siti from Indonesia as part of the Global Action Week for inclusive education for the Disabled student.
(More information on Global Action Week- http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/advocacy/global-action-week/)

Siti teaches in a school that has ten such specially trained educators. She arranges the class in a U formation, making sure that the slow learners are placed close to her. She sets group work, ensuring that each group has the right mix of abilities. This means that all students learn to work at a pace

West Java in Indonesia has invested in this, and Siti has a masters in inclusive learning which gives her the tools to deal with the class. But even so the only real training that other teachers receive is what has been organised by local experts and those who can share their experience. It is an informal teachers network. The systemic efforts are still at the pilot stage – funding, ramps, teacher education. The attempt is to change the attitude of teachers so that they include these children and not just send them off to special school. Even so, dropouts happen and few go on to higher education.

Her advice to teachers? Work out what exact learning barriers each child is facing so that they can help with their learning. She maintains an ongoing tracker – she calls it a working paper – for each of her students performance that she measures along the goals they had set for the semester or year. This individualised tracking helps course correct during the year and each student benefits from this – those with ADHD get more attention, those with Downs Syndrome get appreciated for their efforts in dancing and singing. Some have tantrums that need to be managed, others need remedial lessons. She tries to boost their self confidence.

Districts have designated inclusive schools that can directly receive students with disabilities. Siti’s wish? In her own words, “My hope for the future is that there will be no such label as special inclusive schools as instead all schools in Indonesia will be inclusive!”

Siti, From Indonesia who Teaches Children with Disabilities

6 May

Siti is both trained and experienced in inclusive education. Her classes are spread over the school though she focuses on year 4, 5 and 6. “There are 44 children with disability out of 672 across 17 classes in the school that I teach in. They are aged 7 to 13 years old”

Did you notice what was so wonderful? An inclusive class!

A classroom in which students with multiple abilities are taught in the same classroom by a specialised trained teacher.

This is not that common across the world at all. It is a sad fact that children with disabilities are often deprived of education. What is worse is that children who have parents with disabilities too suffer and are often left out of education. Take a look at some global statistics:

[Here are the fact sheets:  http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/pdf/Facts-Figures-gmr.pdf ]

But look here at the sad statistics across the world:

In Malawi and Tanzania, a child with a disability is twice as likely to have never attended school as a child without a disability.
In Burkina Faso, having a disability increases the risk of children being out of school by two and a half times.  
In Bolivia it is estimated that 95% of the population aged 6 to 11 years are in school, while only 38% of children with disabilities are – more than doubling the chances of not being in school.
In Ethiopia, according to the Ministry of Education, fewer than 3% of children with disabilities have access to primary education, and access to schooling decreases rapidly as children move up the education ladder.
In Nepal, 85% of all children out of school are disabled.
Girls with disabilities fare even worse than boys. In Malawi one study showed that more girls with disabilities have never attended school compared to boys with disabilities. This translates into lower literacy rates as adults: for instance, national statistics in Ghana show that the literacy rate for non-disabled adults stands at 70%, which reduces to 56% for adults living with disabilities, and this drops to just 47% for women with disabilities.
    Italy is the only European country in which almost all disabled pupils (over 99%) were included in mainstream schools.

(Source: http://www.campaignforeducation.org/en/global-action-week/global-action-week-2014)

These statistics are timely, as we at #teachertuesday join hands with educators all over the world to appreciate the work of teachers that deal with disabilities. This week we celebrate Siti from Indonesia as part of the Global Action Week for inclusive education for the Disabled student.
(More information on Global Action Week- http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/advocacy/global-action-week/)

Siti teaches in a school that has ten such specially trained educators. She arranges the class in a U formation, making sure that the slow learners are placed close to her. She sets group work, ensuring that each group has the right mix of abilities. This means that all students learn to work at a pace

West Java in Indonesia has invested in this, and Siti has a masters in inclusive learning which gives her the tools to deal with the class. But even so the only real training that other teachers receive is what has been organised by local experts and those who can share their experience. It is an informal teachers network. The systemic efforts are still at the pilot stage – funding, ramps, teacher education. The attempt is to change the attitude of teachers so that they include these children and not just send them off to special school. Even so, dropouts happen and few go on to higher education.

Her advice to teachers? Work out what exact learning barriers each child is facing so that they can help with their learning. She maintains an ongoing tracker – she calls it a working paper – for each of her students performance that she measures along the goals they had set for the semester or year. This individualised tracking helps course correct during the year and each student benefits from this – those with ADHD get more attention, those with Downs Syndrome get appreciated for their efforts in dancing and singing. Some have tantrums that need to be managed, others need remedial lessons. She tries to boost their self confidence.

Districts have designated inclusive schools that can directly receive students with disabilities. Siti’s wish? In her own words, “My hope for the future is that there will be no such label as special inclusive schools as instead all schools in Indonesia will be inclusive!”

Shape and Skills at School: South Africa #Teacher Tuesday

22 Apr

To get your students to score. Time and again. To get to 100%. This is what every teacher dreams of achieving. When it is year 12, and it is time for them to prove that they are worthy, we want our students to succeed. 

Shape from South Africa has done that and has received awards for it. As she says, 

“I was awarded the best teacher in 2012 for the whole province because of the dedication that I am displaying. This is my 21styear in teaching.” 

Experience does count. Teachers who have been in the profession longer not only understand the examination system, can navigate school systems better, but also have handled so many incidents, moods and motivations that they almost seem to feel their way through the minds of children effortlessly. It is not effortless. Making students high achievers regardless of their background is hard work. It takes technique and it takes time. I hear her, and every teacher who has invested in their students will nod in agreement when she says,

“In all my teaching I give 100% because I always take extra time. I give extra lessons after others go home. I remain with year 12 to teach them again, to make sure that those who did not understand, later do understand everything.Some of them are still struggling especially in terms of writing and pronunciation. That is why I am giving extra lessons. My extra lessons to help them catch up and to give them some things they have never been taught before.”

I repeat – as they never have been taught before. 

This is what good teaching is about. Teach the student according to their needs. Not according to what the books have prescribed. Ensure that the curriculum works for them, is understood and can be applied as required. If the task is the examination, help them work to ace the exam. If the task is to learn for life, then teach in that manner. Teach so that the student learns. Teaching is not about the teacher, it is about the energy and connect with the student’s goals. 

Shape teaches class 12, the last year of school. She knows that this is their examination year, but it goes beyond that too. 

“After grade 12, it is their final years and we need to prepare them to go to universities or colleges so I need to ensure they’re ready to face the outside world.” 

So how does she do that? 

I’m not only focusing on the curriculum. I’m also involved in the sports. I’m the technical official for the athletics in South Africa and I started the first choir for the school and for 3 otherschools. I make sure they have a holistic education.

I’m also involved in job/career experience. We invite companiesthat are the same as the career the learners, have chosen to come to our school and talk to them. They come to school and after we identify the children who can go to them and do some work to be familiar with the outside world. They go to work for a day as managers or whatever. When they come back they are able to tell us of the challenges, then the companies come again to give them more knowledge.”

When teachers look beyond the curriculum to the connect with the real world, they bring meaning into their classrooms. This is what Shape has managed to do. This, despite many problems including discipline issues and teen pregnancies in her class. As many teachers of her vintage do, she does agree that new regulations – and new times – make it difficult for her to impose discipline, but is also optimistic about new policies. She tells her students that they are the eyes of the community and teachers them to engage with the local community and work for them. 

The range of things that she does is immense – from home skills to business skills and community service. 

“We also teach the children home skills. We teach them how to cook and keep their houses clean, physical education, how to prepare for their futures” 

“I always tell them they are the eyes of the community. If there is someone struggling to fill in a form in a bank, you are the ones to help.”

“We teach them business skills, we have business projects. They learn how to write a business plan. We buy some products/stock and they sell them to other learners and teachers and take money. They need to learn how much money to take from people and how much to then save. People from banks come to assist them to open bank accounts so that they can save money.”

Shape clearly has an eye on the future. She works with them to figure out careers, pathways, money and more. Volunteering is a natural progression to careers for her and she invites students to come and work in the library to train for the future. 

As with every good teacher with a holistic view there is so much more to Shape and her world view. But these words resonate – 

“I chose myself that I would work hard. It’s not about where you are from. Ask yourself what is it you want to be, how am I going to change my family? You are the one who must reach out and change things.”

Teachers for change. Teachers can change the world. 

To get your students to score. Time and again. To get to 100%. This is what every teacher dreams of achieving. When it is year 12, and it is time for them to prove that they are worthy, we want our students to succeed. 

Shape from South Africa has done that and has received awards for it. As she says, 

“I was awarded the best teacher in 2012 for the whole province because of the dedication that I am displaying. This is my 21styear in teaching.” 

Experience does count. Teachers who have been in the profession longer not only understand the examination system, can navigate school systems better, but also have handled so many incidents, moods and motivations that they almost seem to feel their way through the minds of children effortlessly. It is not effortless. Making students high achievers regardless of their background is hard work. It takes technique and it takes time. I hear her, and every teacher who has invested in their students will nod in agreement when she says,

“In all my teaching I give 100% because I always take extra time. I give extra lessons after others go home. I remain with year 12 to teach them again, to make sure that those who did not understand, later do understand everything.Some of them are still struggling especially in terms of writing and pronunciation. That is why I am giving extra lessons. My extra lessons to help them catch up and to give them some things they have never been taught before.”

I repeat – as they never have been taught before. 

This is what good teaching is about. Teach the student according to their needs. Not according to what the books have prescribed. Ensure that the curriculum works for them, is understood and can be applied as required. If the task is the examination, help them work to ace the exam. If the task is to learn for life, then teach in that manner. Teach so that the student learns. Teaching is not about the teacher, it is about the energy and connect with the student’s goals. 

Shape teaches class 12, the last year of school. She knows that this is their examination year, but it goes beyond that too. 

“After grade 12, it is their final years and we need to prepare them to go to universities or colleges so I need to ensure they’re ready to face the outside world.” 

So how does she do that? 

I’m not only focusing on the curriculum. I’m also involved in the sports. I’m the technical official for the athletics in South Africa and I started the first choir for the school and for 3 otherschools. I make sure they have a holistic education.

I’m also involved in job/career experience. We invite companiesthat are the same as the career the learners, have chosen to come to our school and talk to them. They come to school and after we identify the children who can go to them and do some work to be familiar with the outside world. They go to work for a day as managers or whatever. When they come back they are able to tell us of the challenges, then the companies come again to give them more knowledge.”

When teachers look beyond the curriculum to the connect with the real world, they bring meaning into their classrooms. This is what Shape has managed to do. This, despite many problems including discipline issues and teen pregnancies in her class. As many teachers of her vintage do, she does agree that new regulations – and new times – make it difficult for her to impose discipline, but is also optimistic about new policies. She tells her students that they are the eyes of the community and teachers them to engage with the local community and work for them. 

The range of things that she does is immense – from home skills to business skills and community service. 

“We also teach the children home skills. We teach them how to cook and keep their houses clean, physical education, how to prepare for their futures” 

“I always tell them they are the eyes of the community. If there is someone struggling to fill in a form in a bank, you are the ones to help.”

“We teach them business skills, we have business projects. They learn how to write a business plan. We buy some products/stock and they sell them to other learners and teachers and take money. They need to learn how much money to take from people and how much to then save. People from banks come to assist them to open bank accounts so that they can save money.”

Shape clearly has an eye on the future. She works with them to figure out careers, pathways, money and more. Volunteering is a natural progression to careers for her and she invites students to come and work in the library to train for the future. 

As with every good teacher with a holistic view there is so much more to Shape and her world view. But these words resonate – 

“I chose myself that I would work hard. It’s not about where you are from. Ask yourself what is it you want to be, how am I going to change my family? You are the one who must reach out and change things.”

Teachers for change. Teachers can change the world. 

There is more on skills in sub-Saharan Africa in the EFA Report – charts, data and analysis.

Previous Posts on Skills:

Do Employers Know What They Want

http://forbesindia.com/blog/economy-policy/do-employers-know-what-they-want/

and more.

Teacher Tuesday – Russell, Australia

15 Apr

Australia has had a chequered history as far as its aboriginal policies are concerned and the children today are part of the journey back to restoring the dignity and economic worth. Their parents did not have it that easy, as Russell, a teacher in an aboriginal school acknowledges. He tackles the political influences upfront, knowing that only a proper understanding of his students, their histories and circumstances will make him a better teacher. Russell is an aboriginal too, and came to formal teaching rather late. For years he worked as a life guard, a swimming instructor – having turned down university in his youth. He studied to be a teacher later – and is the first graduate in his family. Russell does not mince his words when he says that the awful learning experiences of the previous generation of aboriginals do cause problems in current classrooms too – for example he says if one announces a test, it is likely to lead to lower attendance on that day. Some children are afraid to bring their problems to their teachers because this is not what they are used to – another example – if they eat their lunch on the way to school, they’d rather not share the problem with the teacher, or let the teacher inform the parents.

As usual, when I read of Russell’s challenges I think of the classes I have taught in or observed both in England and in India. The range in his class is large – and I can empathise with this completely. Many schools in rural India run with just one or two teachers, and have five year groups to deal with. Classes are multi level as well as being multi grade. Russell teaches year 6 at age 12. He has the training, and the resources to scale and scaffold both learning and assessments. Even the homework he assigns is calibrated according to the capacity of the students – both academic and personal circumstances. Often this is what gets left out of Indian classrooms. Despite acknowledging the range as a problem teaching continues as if one size fits all. The line of best fit is not always the best fit for each student – everyone finds themselves struggling to reach this golden middle. Russell’s efforts in creating a classroom where every child gives 100% of their input is what is commendable. Then, the output can be according to their ability  and is assigned so.

There are so many parts to Russell’s story that stand out as beacons of hope for educators, that I am tempted to list the top three. Here we go:

 

The teacher training and incentive system: Russell was able to start teacher training mid career via correspondence, was able to obtain a scholarship to become a full time teacher trainee and then obtain a full time teaching post via the government. There is a transfer points system, so a teaching job in the remote areas gets you 8 points a year compared to just 1 point a year in the more desirable (for most) coastal areas. While this does mean that many teachers work in these high incentive areas only for a few short years, at least it does take teachers to the tougher areas. The standard advantages of being a part of a government school system of course apply to all these teachers.
Flexibility in Curriculum: Often aboriginal children do not want to study till they are in their late teens, as Russell notes. Even in younger years they tend to get restless in class. Schooling is compulsory till the age of seventeen, and if a student wants to leave before then they have to have a job or apprenticeship in hand. The syllabus has changed to incorporate vocational training so that they have a blend of academic school (2 days a week), technical school (2 days a week) and work experience (1day a week) which helps them along a path to better livelihood.
Flexibility and Teacher Autonomy: Russell decides that creative lessons will be done after lunch, he has the resources to arrange for a didgeridoo player to work with rap to help his students through traditional and new music. Russell can decide on his learning materials, and the customisation required for each student. In his own words, regarding English…

“The syllabus didn’t suit their needs. It was too regimented. Thee boys were more creative not just mind wise. I got them to learn English through drama and role plays. They got up and acted it out as they didn’t like to be still. The new syllabus has better cultural references in it I’m pleased to say. It has compulsory Aboriginal perspectives in it. You don’t have to write in words, you can write in paintings now, for example. I’ve had my students pull a story apart about the drought of the basin – a big river system here – and I got them to paint it with Indigenous symbols rather than write it.”

Rusell and other teachers have a lot of work ahead of them, indigenous and aboriginal people still lag in educational attainments. The work is hard, and often seems to be full of failures along the way. There are challenges. But as Russell himself says – “Be willing to learn on the run.”

That I would say is the best advice ever for teachers – be willing to learn on the run.

Massammat’s Solar Floating School: Bangladesh

8 Apr

Posted on the Times of India Blog earlier:

 

 

 

Teachers from all over the world have stories to tell. Stories that are so different from each other, and yet so very similar. At the heart of the teaching and learning miracle lies the connect between the teacher and the student via the material. I have always maintained that teaching is a sort of energy transfer, where a teacher passes on the love for learning to the student. The rest is mere content.

 

For the past 7 weeks, thanks to UNESCO’s superb EFA team there has been a blogging revolution taking place. Each week we listen to, and talk to teachers from all over the world. Each week a different teaching challenge is observed and discussed. It has been a phenomenal ride, from the war torn Syria (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/mohammed-syria/) to the very organised Netherlands (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/on-teachers-and-systems-that-deliver-cees/)

 

We explored the universal problem of teacher shortages and how a teacher from Malawi understands the issues (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/teacher-shortages-malawis-tale/) to the challenges of bilingual teaching in the honduras (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/bilingual-teaching-dear-natalee-from-honduras/) all the way to the challenges of including more girls in education in Afghanistan, especially when schools had restrictions (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/nadiha-teaching-girls-in-afghanistan/) and then on to teaching in poverty in Africa (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/margaret-schools-in-poor-regions/).

 

It is not over yet. We are yet to meet more teachers, and authors all over the world read into their stories and share what struck them most. For me, the universality of the teaching experience despite challenges has been the greatest learning. And the fact that I learn to respect Indian teachers even more – each one of these situations is  reflected in some part of India. There are areas that are strife torn and have been for decades. How do teachers manage over there? Poverty? We have both government and private schools serving extremely poor communities, educating children often with little or no resources. Bilingual teaching is a reality that desperately needs to be acknowledged by Indian examination boards and of course pedagogical processes and textbook authorities. Most classes in the younger years are de facto bilingual (https://eduvichar.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/language-regional-or-global/) and the advantages are well known. Each of these challenges has a different solution in parts of the world. Some specific to the teacher, some systemic.

 

Sometimes solutions cannot wait for systems. And this week’s story is about one such school and teacher. She is Masammat, and she teaches in a solar floating school in Bangladesh. The school is owned and run by a philanthropic trust and is connected by internet to the rest of the world. Why is it on a boat? Because through a quarter of the year when the monsoon strikes this part of Bangladesh is flooded and children cannot reach school. Simple – if the children cannot come to school, let the school go to them.

 

Masammat has not received much teacher training but is an experienced teacher and gets support to improve her teaching practice. She teaches class 2, and has ten years of schooling and ten years of teaching experience. She teaches 4 hours a day – each class is 30 students and they do 3 batches a day. The school has 90 students, in three shifts. The boat travels from one village to another to give access to the students. Solar roofs, internet connectivity and monsoon resistant, this school provides education throughout the year to students who would have been left behind otherwise.

 

As I read her story I wonder – how do the teachers get support? How do they assess themselves and their students. In Massammat’s own words –

 

“All teachers attend a two-week long orientation training at the beginning of their work here. The

training covers the project overview, floating school, curriculum, parents meeting and reporting guidelines. Also, there are day-long refresher training sessions every month. They cover next month’s syllabus and teaching guidelines, parents meeting agenda and extracurricular activities. At

the monthly training, we discuss also about the school performance during the previous month, challenges, and required educational materials (we receive primary textbooks – grade 2 to 4 – from

Upazila Education Offices of the Bangladesh Government). We also share feedback received from

the parents.”

 

These are students in remote areas who would be left bereft of literacy if such initiatives and private schools did not exist. What is encouraging here is the public private partnership that we see – books coming from the state, the infrastructure from a trust. And the big story here is the technology that meets the gap – there is enough proof from around the world ( http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/GMR/technology_extracts_from_report.pdf) that show how technology in its various forms has helped bridge the last mile problems faced by children and communities in rural areas. Of course it can never be a complete solution to a perfect well trained and passionate teacher but in areas where teachers and teaching equipment is in short supply this goes a long way to bringing basic education to students.

 

One of the things I do is run a monthly online chat on education issues in India (called #EduIn) – an egalitarian discussion on issues that matter in education. The chat on technology in education had a clear outcome – technology was but a tool, it could never be a substitute for teaching. Yet, its value was immense and blended learning did improve learning outcomes. In remote areas like the place Massamat teaches at there is a more basic requirement for technology to be useful for learning – literacy. As the UNESCO report points out (http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/GMR/Literacy.pdf) both adults and children need to have the skills necessary to manage information in digital environments. Massamat and her school provide just that first link in a lifelong journey into learning, skills and employability for these students.

 

(Footnote: India too has some great stories about technology bridging the last mile. Too many to tell here. But the journey has just begun and there are many more who will grow into being denizens, and active citizens in this digital age)

 

The lesson for us teachers? Time to step up and be included in the digital age, by including technology in what we do. Demand more and better from your providers by telling them what works best in your classroom. Do tell us more – what helped your students learn better?

 

As for Teacher Tuesday? We still have a few more weeks with great stories from around the world. Join us on twitter for the chat (#teachertuesday) or follow the blogs to learn more about teachers around the world.

 

 

 

Link: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/educable/entry/teacher-tuesday

date: April 8, 2014

On Teachers and Systems that Deliver -Cees

1 Apr

 

 

Netherlands has consistently delivered learning outcomes that are excellent. This week we listen to a a teacher from there to find out what systems help teachers support these high learning outcomes…

We meet Cees, our teacher of History from Netherlands. Cees teaches teenagers and moved to teaching when some teachers he met when working to set up the educational wing of a museum told him it was exciting and challenging work. And most strikingly for many of us who teach in other countries – the teachers said – You are really free to design your own lessons’.

 

Cees is not an ‘academic’ teacher – they have two masters degrees, one in their core subject and the other, a yea long, in teaching. A masters is five years of university education. These teachers get paid more and they teach senior classes. Teacher pay does not really match up to many other professions Other teachers get a professional qualification for teaching – the certification is essential for a teaching job. But this is not as rigourous as the masters in teaching, easier to obtain and are seen as a quality assurance measure by the school inspectors. It is possible of course to upgrade to being a ‘first class’ or ‘academic’ teacher by acquiring the degree.

 

Teacher quality we know is probably the most important input into the progress of children – whether one measures it by learning outcomes (as most measures do) or by student wellbeing and long term progress. Cees notes that a significant  10% of his time as a teacher is allocated to professional development. Emphasis is placed on reflection and learnings from practice. This is in addition to teaching time – which again has time allocated for preparation and after work. Pupils rate teachers too and this puts teachers under pressure to perform better. Interestingly, he adds later – when talking about managing the range of students in the classroom – “We have tools for that. If there is a problem, you can always get training for that”

 

This, then is at the core of delivering good outcomes – supporting a teacher with training whenever gaps are identified. Clear goal setting and holding them to account in every academic cycle. Working on ironing out gaps, supporting them with peer learning, with time and money for improving themselves and giving them freedom in their lessons.

 

In his own words – what I think is special and must be adopted in every country for better teaching and learning –

 

“During the training we have supervision and mentors and I had two coaches – one for supervision on the psychological reflection and one for more general studies. Now when you’re new at the school you have a special coach. When you’re not new anymore, you don’t have a coach, but in every school you find five teachers who are equal and you share your experiences – what you can’t cope with and what techniques you use. You can reflect on that. It’s really helpful for things you can’t cope with. It’s done by our school. We got special training to lead such conversations. And now we do that as some sort of oral support. For example I had a personal clash with a pupil and I didn’t know what to do because there was tension that wasn’t getting better. I talked to the pupils’ parents and that didn’t help, so then I talked to the support group. It’s all classified and safe of course.”

Cees is now also a teacher coach. And the advice he gives new teachers? “Be yourself, Be consistent”

 

Advice we would be wise to take, and invest in ourselves to give our best to the students we nurture.

 

When speaking to teachers across countries, all have expressed the need for a mentor from time to time. A teacher mentorship network that has evolved online is new – and it is early days to judge it  – but early reactions show a positive impact on teacher morale and capability. Teachers often find themselves isolated in their professional worlds – even in places where team teaching is strong or where senior support is available in the areas they teach. Good school leaders foster an environment where mentoring is valued and nurtured.  Schools that can enable this are lucky – there are large swathes of schools and students that are small, remote and face a scarcity of teachers that a mentor network is not physically possible.

Before I leave, I have to ask the question – do these teacher training and support processes, including coaching and mentoring really lead to better learning outcomes? The evidence from the EFA Report certainly seems to indicate that this is so – countries with stronger teacher training systems and better support and governance mechanisms do seem to have better learning outcomes as measured by standardised tests.

Of course, learning outcomes are only a part of the story. But an important part.

Please join #teachertuesday chat on Twitter

 

Do come back here for two more links coming up – one, a broader discussion on learning outcomes; and two, a link to the UNESCO EFA project where there is much more on these stories.

Margaret, Schools in Poor Regions

25 Mar

Poverty does affect learning levels. In country after country the data shows that the poor are being left behind in terms of learning outcomes. Strangely, this is not always a function of investments in the education infrastructure – though of course it helps. In India, a six year longitudinal study just concluded by Prof. Karthik Muralidharan has concluded that learning outcomes across government and private sector schools were similar (though both rather low) though the private sector did manage to achieve these at one third of the cost. 

Margaret teaches in a school in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. Around 60% or 70% of the children in her school can read and write when they leave school, but according to her, “it’s a challenge teaching kids from poorer sections of the society. Teaching individual children is not easy; you have to teach in groups instead. The difficulty also lies in diversity among the kids. In her own words, ‘we have children of all abilities. We are quite supportive and responsive to the needs of children. We struggle sometimes – it takes longer – you have to have extra time for teaching”. But is this a disincentive to the teachers? Margaret would disagree, according to her that is what actually makes you want to be a teacher. She says, that in a slum we try to give quality but we cannot give the best because of the numbers. Because of the shortage of teachers, the school allow volunteers to come. We give them $80-90 per month that is all. Not enough, but they love teaching and that is all. She adds, “I have so many memorable students. Oh my goodness! There is a very big number of children who have done well. I’m so excited about all the children in my head! That is my joy”.

Teachers like Margaret also help the new teachers adapt to teaching under such challenging circumstances. The new teachers are trained on how to handle large groups. Especially, when you have a mixture or students of different learning levels, she says, give more work to fast learners and more attention to slow learners. Most of these children are first generation learners and hence one of the reasons some of the students who live in poverty aren’t learning is because their parents did not learn. The slum is made up of parents who are illiterate. In the slum community I think the literate make up maybe 20%. There are 80% who did not go to school or if they did they did not have a very good education. They don’t see the value of education so they don’t follow up. What stands out is that these teachers come from the same community as the children or have similar backgrounds. Some other challenges these teachers face are lack of parental participation because they believe the government should give everything for the child’s education and they don’t need to do anything extra, there are kids who are doing odd jobs at home – carrying water for people, going looking for papers to sell – doing odd jobs in the slum over the weekend, fending for themselves, some children that can’t do their homework at home because there’s no electricity or space at home etc. Then, what is the cause of such high levels of sustained motivation among these poorly-paid and under-resourced teachers who teach children with such diverse challenges? What stands out is that these teachers come from the same community as the children or have similar backgrounds. Margaret says that she grew up in a setting almost like slum and give herself to them as an example. In her words, “When you come from a slum, because my father was very poor, I know what it means to be sleeping hungry, struggling with education. It was our ambition that with school you can better yourself because that is how we became teachers, so we tell them that everything is possible with an education”.

On the issue of teacher training Margret says that there is no training for how to teach in slum schools! We’re given training to teach anywhere where there are children – not even in a school! Even if there is no school but there are children, you teach under a tree! But they do have in service courses, workshops and seminars, on new trends in education in addition to the peer-support from senior teachers.  

The government policy provides free education to all but more than just being a policy there is an active societal participation towards leveraging this provision. For example, children go out campaigning to get other children to come to school. We don’t turn away any child. The leaders, the chief, government officials will look for children in the slum to bring them to school, especially those who have special needs. And the local leaders around here try to bring the children to school too. But even with governmental support there are other micro level issues that needs to be addressed. For example, the government spends money for exercise books. But the books get filled up before the government can give more so the parents chip in. If they can’t chip in, it’s a challenge. We have identified those who are extremely poor. When they run out, we order extra for them and give those books. We provide sanitary for the girls because the school population is poor and because we want girls to come. Because of their maturity, the government gives sanitary towels every month. But sometimes their parents and older siblings take them from them. There are now even higher numbers of girls than boys in my school! 

Beyond all the challenges facing the provision of quality education to the poor, motivated teachers like Margret educate kids from poor backgrounds overcoming a spectrum of challenges. At the end of the day, it leads us to question the wisdom of spending more money on physical inputs to school than identify and provide the right incentives to teachers. Are there incentives that can create motivated and aspirational teachers like Margret and her colleagues at scale? Should we stop spending money on buildings and more on capacity building within the school ecosystem? These are the questions that Margret leaves us with when she says, “I am a mother of four. Apparently they didn’t want to become teachers (laughs). I shall be the last teacher in the family! I carry my bag, this work it keeps you busy, no, but it’s what I love”. 

Mohammed, Syria

18 Mar

I read the first line and freeze. The facts are stark.

“Mohammed now lives in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and has been there for 8 months. He has been teaching there for 4 months.”

No home. Food on charity. Nutritious biscuits for the children. The school attacked at night. Funds uncertain. And 25000 school age children in the camp. Of them 20,000 are registered in the school

“Our main problems are the shortage of text books, we need boards and markers. There’s a big deal of coordination with foreigners. There are problems as teachers are dealing with children who have become aggressive because of the situation and the parents are not following up with their children in the school.”

I hear the words. I try to take in the facts. But all I can hear is the staccato tone of Mohammed’s interview. As if that gunshot rhythm is the beat to their lives. I cannot hear anything but that beat. Think of the children. Growing up to that beat. Of snatching every piece of normal life – bread, vegetables, books, laughter. Every moment in peril.

This then is up to all of us. To give them their moments of childhood back. They deserve nothing less. And to give them a chance at a prosperous, dignified future. The pictures of the school hearten me. The face that bends over a child and his book, with care. It is moments, and resources like this that will rebuild the future. Sometimes, words can only do so much. I share some pictures – of hope.

        

But before I leave, let me share an anecdote… It was one of those airport lounges. In the middle of a desert. Educators from the world had gathered. And loads of flights were delayed. We gravitated towards each other, nodding hesitantly at first. Sharing stories of the fight for education for all. Sharon (name changed), who had run schools in three conflict zones over the past decade. Fatima (name changed) who spoke to schools in slum areas everyday. Sara (name changed) who brought learning materials to the deprived and the excluded – who would never have seen quality materials without her. All of us sat there telling our stories. We were bound – not by the moment, but by the love of learning, and knowing that everything we shared that day, we took back to the children. In that moment we grew again as teachers, learning from each other. And drawing strength. We need to keep these schools going – the small schools in slums. The conflict ridden schools in Kashmir, and in the insurgency areas in middle India. In Syria. And Crimea. In every place where there is a child. The tragedy of the present must not be allowed to become the future of our world.

Nadiha – Teaching Girls in Afghanistan

11 Mar

Being a woman in Afghanistan has never been easy. Afghanistan is a country of stark contrasts.  Beautiful and bountiful in parts, inaccessible unconquerable harsh mountains for the rest. A country where the cities and the provinces seem to belong to different worlds. And this is when it is at peace. Afghanistan has known little peace in its history, being the gateway to different civilisations and powers. Its passes control power – it seems. At least to those who play power as a game.

 

It is not a game for us teachers. Nadiha teaches girls in Afghanistan. In a war zone. She has it better than most do because her school is funded internationally. And has fewer students per teacher than most schools so each teacher can pay better attention to each student. She teaches in Kabul where safety is a concern but the provinces have it much worse – it is difficult to find teachers who are willing to go and teach in the interiors. If this is a challenge in most countries without war and trauma – consider the shades of meaning in the word impossible here. And yet there are some.

 

 

But there have been darker years. Years when teaching girls was banned. Boys could go to school but half of humanity was kept away from learning. A line drawn in the sand that could not be crossed. Because it was the law of the land. Nadiha did what she could. She opened a home school. Girls came home. She taught the Koran and more. And so these girls will not be left behind. When times changed, and a new government came into power they could start school again. But the school had been broken. They rebuilt the school. Got aid. Got training. And support. Nadiha herself has travelled to many countries to be trained as a teacher and school leader. Others are not so lucky. Nadiha’s students – all girls – benefit from the support received. But there are many others who have years of catching up to do.

 

Globally – and not just in Afghanistan – the world has realised that conflict zone education requires special attention. Conflicts now last more than a few months – they often last for decades. And there are many such zones even in peaceful countries like India. Others such as Syria, Palestine and now even Ukraine have entire generations denied an education. Without educated cohorts how can a nation pull itself out of a crisis? Who will rebuild for the future if they do not know enough? Teaching in a war zone is always difficult – one deals with fear, trauma, disruption and worse. War zone teaching requires special skills as does post war education. Nadiha is doing her bit in Afghanistan. Even as I write this, I am conscious of the little note that says – there are no pictures of Nadiha available this time because it is not that safe. That note says more than Nadiha ever can.

 

But the region has an even bigger hurdle. Girl education is not seen as a priority. Very gently, Nadiha herself says – she wanted to be in the Foreign Service but that was not appropriate for girls so she was nudged to become a teacher. Girls are denied their potential. They are not expected to – often not even allowed to explore their abilities. The word ‘allowed’ rules their lives. But we know the numbers – educating girls is proven to increase family income, national income, local health, the next generation of achievers and  of course the incomes of the individual. This has been proved. Holding girls back from education stunts the entire community and country. (And I have not even started speaking of human and personal rights)

 

It is foolish to hold girls back.

 

If only in self interest, educate the girl child.

 

Keeping education away from girls is an act of self destruction. Those who cannot see that will remain in their darkness. And it is women then who will have to show the light.

 

Nadiha and others light the way.

Bilingual Teaching: Dear Natalee from Honduras

4 Mar

Dear Natalee,

Bilingual Teaching is for some a post colonial issue – let us not avoid this part of the issue.

 

Or do, let us avoid it. Because that really doesn’t bother me anymore.

For most of us in the real and everyday being bilingual is a blessing – we connect with our roots and are mobile – opening up employment opportunities and a chance to join in the global conversation. Like this one. I write this sitting in India about a teacher in the Honduras. Natalee, I do not know you, but here is a teacher waving to another because we share a language. English is not my mothertongue, but it is my first language. And when I teach, I do realise, as you say in your story that children prosper with bilingual teaching.

I hear you too when I realise how you have invested in being a better teacher across decades. Learning how to teach in different ways, helping others become better learners and teachers. This commitment to continuous improvement is special, and if you ever come to India, I would love to tell every teacher you meet about how good was never enough – there is always more to learn as a teacher.

But there is another way your story resonates with India – the complexity.. When you say –

“The English speakers on the Bay islands are descended from Grand Cayman and

Jamaica and we speak English. The others speak Spanish or Garifuna language.

The Garifuna people have lived in Honduras for the past 216 years and have

become very important for the cultural framework. They live in the North

eastern sector of the island and we are trying to revitalize their language. When

people don’t know how to read or write, that’s how a language becomes extinct.”

India too has hundreds of languages, and tens of official languages. Children speak their local language at home and their community. Then, many of them join ‘english medium’ schools because they offer more mobility and access to jobs when you grow up. Many children here suffer because there are few classrooms that are officially bilingual. In reality,  our teachers realise that they must run bilingual classes because that is the best way for children to learn in their early years. But because we don’t have a comprehensive policy on that, most teachers are not trained in bilingual teaching.

The ones who suffer are often the poor, or those in remote areas. Like in your country. I completely understand when you say this:

“Some of the children who are impoverished are black minority people. Their first

language is English and their second language is Spanish. There are attempts to

help them, this is done by developing volunteer programmes where people send

or donate materials, books, pencils, colours, rulers, backpacks, uniforms.”

The attempts to help these children in India too are sincere and well meant. Some programs provide support with teaching, others with equipment. But the big gap in language teaching still remains – which uses tools that have been the same for many decades. Language matters, and we have seen in India how learning outcomes can be improved with local language teaching in early years. In fact the draft policy on this tells schools to teach in the local language. But then, wouldn’t the transition to English later be more diffucult?

I see that your country has the same issues. I am glad to hear you say this:

“Language definitely has an impact on how children learn and how they perceive

themselves as being part of the teaching-learning process. As a young child

growing up in the Bay Islands, there were many times in school when we were

not allowed to speak English. (Bay Islanders are English speakers living in a

Spanish country). To not be taught in your mother tongue, leaves a gap, and

makes you feel that your language is not important. Over the years you tend to

develop certain humps.”

That is true. There are gaps that we feel and this is why I certainly support bilingual teaching in at the primary school level. A bilingual classroom requires different teaching approaches. Yes, I agree – the mindset of the teacher must be more accepting. But the tools are important too. Your guideline on visual clues in teaching is crucial and I agree when you say –

“In classes with children who speak different languages, I tend to use a lot of

visual cues. I divide the class into groups, those who don’t speak the majority

language, those who are beginners, and those who are advanced. “

Do come to India sometime Natalee and see the lovely things we do in our rural schools with seeds and leaves – innovations that connect us to our roots. Come and hear our stories. Come and tell your stories about classrooms that connect with both where we came from and where we are headed.

With warm regards from a fellow traveller on the educator’s train,

Meeta