Nicaragua´s school year just recently took off for the 2013 school year on February 11th. For this reporting period Fabretto is happy to share the 2012 school years accomplishments and end results as well as share some of the upcoming highlight for the first quarter of the new 2013 school year.
The 2012 school year ended with greatest numbers of student beneficiaries served in its history. 8,789 primary school students participated in Fabretto´s Primary Education Enrichment Program. An almost 22% increase in the previously projected target thanks to the insertion of new schools within the scope and reach of Fabretto. This number of student equals to a 94% retention rate overall, up from 91% from previous year. This increase in the number of children staying in school reflects a greater importance placed by parents on the educating their young as a result of awareness campaigns, workshops and the quality of Fabretto´s programs in education and nutrition. In addition, an average of 80% attendance rate across the board was reached.Fabretto’s program for early and primary education program is focused on improving the quality of education for students, up through the sixth grade, the last year of primary school in Nicaragua. Program activities include teacher training, provision of teaching and learning materials, infrastructure improvements, and the implementation of after school, enrichment activities, such as: tutoring, computer classes, sports, art, and school gardens. Fabretto offers these programs in seven education centers, which are owned and operated by the organization, as well as in more than 90 public, primary schools. Parental involvement is critical in this program, which also includes the organization of community education networks, and workshops for parents on issues related to the preventative health, education and well-being of their children.
As an additional impact evaluation of Fabretto’s Primary Educational Enrichment Program, students from first through third grades were given Early Grace Reading Assessment or EGRA tests in August 2011 then again in July and November of 2012. The EGRA tests are used by USAID to measure children’s fluency and reading comprehension. Since the ability to read and understand is an important component to the learning process, the EGRA results are an excellent indicator to assess the learning process experienced by children in their early years.
The test results show considerable improvement from the initial assessment in 2011 to the test results from 2012. Test results are categorized into three different levels: reading “well”, “adequate”, and “at risk”. Fabretto’s test results show improvement with children reading well initially assessed at 27% of students increasing to 52%; students at the adequate level went down from 45% to 25%, and the at risk percentage went down from 28% to 24%.
These EGRA test results are the product of Fabretto´s strong emphasis in 2011-2012 on improving reading and comprehension. Some of the initiatives and activities that resulted in an improved pedagogical and learning environment attributable to Fabretto´s reading and comprehension endeavors:
What to expect in the months to come in the 2013 school year?
Fabretto has projected several promising pieces of data. For example, Fabretto estimates that this year, with the help of all our generous donors, the number of enrolled students will grow to 8,915. In other words, Fabretto will grow its primary education services by roughly 200 students. In addition, Fabretto expects to retain 88% of the students, however recent years has shown that Fabretto meets and exceeds this number by several percentage points.
In addition, certain activities are being planned and already underway. Strengthening primary education in 2013, will begin with recreational and mathematical Olympics to further enrich primary students in arithmetic problem solving. Training and workshops will be held to refresh and familiarize beneficiaries and teachers as well. In March Fabretto will start applying tests in language classes and math to track the performance of students during term 2013. Finally teachers will be receiving training for about 140 hours on active strategies participatory curriculum development MINED, will be taught by UNAN, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua a specialized segment for strengthening teacher nationwide.
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!