With the school year in Nicaragua just weeks away from its end, Fabretto has some exciting highlights and details to share for this 2012 academic school year for the approximately 8,000 children participating in Fabretto’s primary education program. The scope and quality of education at the 88 Fabretto supported primary schools across Nicaragua reflects a consolidation of past efforts as well as great strides that have been taken and have led to this year´s achievements in the area of primary education.
With the primary educational enrichment program Fabretto seeks to increase access and improve the overall quality of education, increase attendance, and decrease school drop rates. In this way Fabretto increases their likelihood of securing a primary education. Additionally Fabretto trains teachers in new methodologies and reinforces their knowledge of math, literature, and grammar. At the same time by emphasizing the development of early grade reading skills amongst school children in the first and second grade Fabretto has established a significant advance in one of the most crucial skill-sets in life a child can obtain: reading and comprehension.
In the 2012 academic year, the students at Fabretto supported schools overall demonstrated slightly higher attendance and retention rates than students at non-Fabretto supported schools. Average attendance at Fabretto supported schools was 79% and as of this month and with current data, Fabretto is projecting a 95% average retention rate. This year, 224 teachers were trained in new methodologies and techniques to increase the impact of their teaching. These workshops also provided an opportunity for continued learning with math and language courses. This training also includes capacitation of teachers in classroom planning, reporting skills and teacher-student relations.
Another highlight this academic year has been the distribution of 3,000 children’s story books, the creation of two mobile libraries which use mules to transport books to remote rural villages, 5 libraries have been restocked, and two new libraries built. These libraries have a variety of books and items such as dictionaries, DVD´s for English courses, geography, mathematics books, didactic materials for both students and teachers, and of course, picture and story books.
Additionally, Reading Clubs have been organized in various schools to promote a culture of reading at the individual level and the group level. This initiative has had the effect of encouraging students to make use of the storybooks and other reading materials that are available at the schools and libraries. This particular activity has been carried out throughout the 2012 school year as a tool to strengthen and consolidate the organization’s efforts to improve the quality of primary education while creating conditions for promoting and improving the reading comprehension initiative.
December is an exciting time as the children continue to the next grade or graduate from primary school. Yet Fabretto is already looking forward to the start of next year’s academic school year in February 2013. With a projected increase in enrollment, this is a time of preparation and re-evaluation; the next few months will be spent working with center directors, educators and staff to improve and better organize the efforts in primary education. As Fabretto says goodbye to another successful school year, a special thanks to all of you who have kindly and generously supported both Fabretto’s efforts and more importantly supported the children of Nicaragua by helping them receive a better quality education.
Thank you all and have a wonderful holiday season!
Shaped by constant innovation and a desire to bring the best possible education to students, Fabretto strives to make learning fun by providing an interesting and interactive learning experience. When visiting the education programs, it is immediately evident from interactions with the children that they have a strong desire to be in school and learn. This motivation, complemented by active learning methodologies that emphasize "learning by doing" and engage children on multiple levels, improves knowledge retention and empowers children to create their own success stories. The real victories are achieved by engaging children and promoting learning as something more than passing the grade and taking notes.
Recently, Fabretto has been implementing innovative teaching methodologies from the Montessori Method and other active learning strategies. Fabretto's primary and preschool teachers have participated in a series of Montessori training sessions. The Montessori Method is unique because it invites children to develop their abilities through active engagement with their environment. This is achieved by allowing children to work independently while being guided through the learning process by their teacher. This strategy is successful at catering to the learning needs and capacity for each individual child. Most importantly, this form of instruction encourages children to take advantage of the resources surrounding them by applying their learning, using the learning tools are available.
As an application of some of the skills learned through Montessori methodology, many students participate in reading clubs at their school. Fabretto has been an active member of a national reading competition in Nicaragua for the past two years. Winners at the school level are given the opportunity to participate at municipal, regional and national levels. These reading clubs encourage reading as a recreational activity, promote the development of reading comprehension skills, and participation in the competitions provides opportunities to meet other children from other schools across the country. It is an exciting chance to encourage a love for reading and improve reading comprehension in a supportive environment. The development of reading skills is critical to helping students achieve success in all of their classes.
When conversing with the young students, the joy they gain from learning is readily apparent. One such student is Keyner, who is seven year old first grader who just recently learned to read. Since his family cannot afford to buy books, and Nicaragua has very few public libraries, Keyner spends as much time he can at school so he has more time to read—he even spends recess reading! His love for reading is contagious, inspiring other children at school to begin reading for pleasure too. This example clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of encouraging children to interact with their environment and to guide their own learning. These methods not merely teach children to memorize facts, but let children take charge of their own education.
As summer here in the United States comes to a close, students in Nicaragua begin their second semester of classes and are preparing for the examinations given at the end of the school year. Once the tests are given and the results are available, we look forward to sharing the results. As always, much appreciation is due to all the individuals and organizations who together help make all these successes possible!
Primary education is an essential building block in a child’s life. The 2012 school year in Nicaragua kicked off the end of February, and Fabretto´s Early and Primary Education Programs have reached another benchmark. More than 8,800 preschool and primary students enrolled in Fabretto’s seven Centers and more than 50 supported schools. This represents 100% of the projected enrollment rate for 2012 school year - a complete success!
In Nicaragua, only 30% of all students manage to complete their primary education due to complex social and economic barriers. In response to this problem, Fabretto´s Primary Education Program focuses on ensuring that all of the children that enroll, stay in school and receive the best quality education possible. Having projected enrollment match actual enrollment is a true achievement!
Another success point is that Fabretto’s enrollment increased in 2012, in the hopes of serving more children in both rural and urban communities, where students do not have access to quality nutrition and education services. The 2012 enrollment reflects an increase of more than 15% from 2011. This expansion has been possible through the generous support of donors who continue to provide vital resources that transform lives!
In 2012, one of the main focuses of the Primary Education Program is on strengthening reading comprehension activities. This entails considerable training for all preschool and primary teachers, as well as working to improve the reading clubs that are already organized at each center and school. In 2011, Fabretto had significant impact in this area and hopes to continue on a steady course of improvement. In 2011, when the reading clubs and other reading comprehension activities were introduced, only 30% of children entering into first grade could read words and simple sentences. At the start of the 2012 school year, after one year of implementing the new reading strategies, 48% of the children entering into first grade could read words and sentences, a substantial improvement!
Reading tests applied to children in the first through sixth grades had similar results. Fabretto uses the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) tool, which was developed by USAID and is used all over the world. At the beginning of 2011, only 30% of all students had adequate reading comprehension skills. But, with a year of intensive teacher training, and classroom activities to promote reading comprehension skills, at the beginning of 2012, 60% of the students tested at adequate reading levels. This result is of particular importance because in 2011, a national study was performed in Nicaragua, by the organization CIASES, one of the most prestigious organizations working in education in Nicaragua. Using the same EGRA methodology, CIASES determined that only 30% of the primary students in Nicaragua had developed the appropriate reading skills for their grade level. Undoubtedly, Fabretto’s comprehensive reading strategies are generating positive impact, and will help students to improve their academic performance in all subject areas.
In addition to educational activities, students in the Primary Education Program also receive a nutritious lunch every day. Because malnutrition rates are alarmingly high in the rural communities in northern Nicaragua, Fabretto’s Food Security and Nutrition Program continues to be of vital importance. According to the UN’s World Food Program, approximately 20% of the children in Nicaragua suffer from malnutrition. However, Fabretto’s health staff has determined that in many communities, malnutrition rates are as high as 40%. Fabretto works to improve activities in this program in coordination with parents, teachers, and students andhas been tracking nutritional data for the past several years, taking the students’ height and weight data every six months. In 2011, the statistics processed by Fabretto’s monitoring team indicated that malnutrition levels decreased by 4% throughout the year. Also, in cases of severe malnutrition, the most extreme cases, malnutrition decreased by 10%. Although food security and malnutrition are complex social and economic issues, Fabretto is clearly making dramatic improvements in both rural and urban communities.
In addition to serving lunch at all schools every day, Fabretto also implements school gardens at more than forty primary schools and has provided ongoing training on nutrition to families in more than sixty rural communities. All of these actions have contributed to greatly improved nutritional conditions for children and their families. Fabretto´s activities continue to increase and provide quality primary education and nutrition to thousands of children in impoverished communities. These efforts are only made possible because of the generosity of donors who are willing to give of themselves so that children in Nicaragua can have better education, better nutrition, and more opportunities.