Teaching methods from New Zealand classrooms will soon be helping children in war-torn and tsunami-battered Sri Lanka pursue a brighter future through education.
Spearheaded by former Kiwi teacher come aid worker Sally Angelson and ChildFund New Zealand, the child-centred education programme ‘ATLAS’* draws on New Zealand’s own active learning techniques and is fast changing the prospects of children in developing communities around the globe.
Following a successful pilot in Zambia, which contributed to the selected schools’ pass rates rising from just 20% to 80%, ChildFund New Zealand is now focused on expanding a trial in the Batticaloa region of Sri Lanka where children’s education is suffering.
“Years of civil war and natural disasters such as the Boxing Day tsunami have displaced families and deprived many children of an education and the hope of meaningful future,” explains Sally Angelson, lead ATLAS developer and Programmes Manager for ChildFund New Zealand.
“The majority of primary school students here struggle just to read and write, and up to 90% fail core subjects – a path that only puts them further behind and even more at risk of a life of low paid work and poverty as an adult.”
The ATLAS project will set up a framework to upskill Sri Lanka’s dedicated and hardworking teachers in the same child-centered and active-learning methods that are so successful in engaging kids in Kiwi classrooms.
“The approaches we incorporate are about getting children to participate and take ownership for their learning. We promote involvement and inquisitiveness. Children become more excited and engaged in their schooling and the results speak for themselves in higher pass rates and attendance.”
The programme also involves parents and the community with the school and most importantly, provides a self-sustaining framework for continued teacher training.
“Once established, ATLAS will keep delivering long after the initial investment.”
The poverty-breaking power of literacy
Ms Angelson says literacy is a basic right that can be met with help from programmes like ATLAS: “Every child deserves to experience the joy of reading and have access to the opportunities literacy and education provide.”
Not only is being able to read and write essential to participating in everyday life, she says, it is also something that gives people great joy.
“Whether that’s the satisfaction of reading a wonderful book or the pride of achieving at school, we want children in Batticaloa to experience the same support for their literacy and continued learning as many Kiwis have.”
“Through ATLAS we can already see the direct results of succeeding in primary school. It provides a pathway to secondary and even tertiary education, and helps ensure these children don’t remain trapped in a horrible cycle of poverty.”
She says many children are also able to help teach their older siblings and parents how to read and write, further extending the benefits.
“The ATLAS model works because it uses tried-and-tested Kiwi techniques adapted to local needs and empowers children, teachers, parents and entire communities,” says Ms Angelson.
ChildFund New Zealand’s original pilot programme in Zambia not only contributed to a massive improvement in pass rates, but also attracted the attention of local governments, with the country’s Ministry of Education integrating ATLAS into its teacher training curriculum.
A brief 12 month trail in one district of Batticaloa has also delivered promising results, contributing to increased science pass rates from 20% to 50%, improved attendance rates by 15% and decreased dropout rates by 30%.
More Kiwi support needed
ChildFund New Zealand’s goal is to raise at least $96,000 to fund the training of 115 teachers across 23 schools in Batticaloa, directly supporting more than 4,000 children achieve greater success at school. It will also contribute to the nationwide programme which will see 850 teachers trained in active learning techniques.
“Kiwis can give children in Batticaloa this much needed boost through a small donation of $23 to ChildFund New Zealand. This reflects the vital teacher training costs per child.
Batticaloa is a dedicated programme area for ChildFund New Zealand, supported entirely by Kiwi donations and aid funding, and donations to the ATLAS project will further amplify the great work Kiwis are already doing for this community.
ATLAS = Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools