Report 1st September 2014
This is a very tense time of year in the primary schools with the National Primary School Leaving Examinations on 10th and 11th September. All schools are thinking about nothing other than drilling their Standard VII pupils for the examinations. However, the schools have been happy to have our continued support by regular visits.
Pilot project mathematics
Throughout the last three months Barbara Kerr has been making regular visits to each of the six schools participating in our pilot project. In each school Barbara tackles problems faced by the teachers, and addresses those topics which her data analysis shows are causing problems. All the mathematics teachers attend her sessions (and even the school cook has been known to come and see what she can learn) and they are beginning to understand that mathematics is a progressive subject and that all teachers of all classes have an important part to play. Barbara has also concentrated on revision topics for Standard VII.
Many teachers have now found new and very simple ways to teach topics. Particular highlights have been Barbara’s visual ways of teaching the ‘real square in πr2’, teaching the circumference of a circle by using a string tied to a pole on the football pitch- steps out from the pole represent the radius and steps around the pole represent the circumference, negative and positive numbers using a basket pulled underwater by weights and lifted above water by birds and many other practical and hands-on ways to teach mathematics.
Many teachers have been told in their training that pupils should be taught the formula for a process in primary school and then what the formula means in secondary school. This has not been at all helpful to primary school mathematics teaching!
Many teachers were most surprised when Barbara showed them how to teach the area of a triangle by using ½ height x base. By teaching this way a triangle can be made into a rectangle and the pupils already know how to work out the area of a rectangle.
The teachers have said many times that they had only ever been shown one way to do anything in mathematics and that there was always only one answer. There has been great excitement and pleasure when the teachers themselves have seen and understood the mathematics they were teaching. Barbara has had many comments such as, ‘That is an easy way to add fractions’, ‘Oh, is that what it means?’, ‘Now I understand’, ‘ Is percentagereally out of 100?’, and ‘There really is a square in πr2’.
Many teachers have asked for further sessions after the standard VII examinations to continue their learning and understanding of the teaching of mathematics. These sessions will be conducted in October and November.
Pilot Project English
After four months in the UK Katy Allen was conscious of the English teachers having been left with very little support in their use of the new English course books. Working in Tanzania has many frustrations, set-backs and disappointments and it is not often that extremely pleasant surprises occur. When Katy went to visit the schools she was astounded by how the teachers were teaching from the books, getting the pupils involved, and how the pupils were demonstrating real understanding by their actions. Also the pronunciation of English words is much improved. In Standard I, using the new Language Awareness course, the children learn to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. This is introduced in nearly every classroom in Tanzania and is always heard as ‘heppy bathiday to you….’, and suddenly these pupils were singing a proper ‘happy birthday’!
The use of both of the new English courses, the Language Awareness course for Standard I, and the New Original English course for Standard III requires an enormous change of teaching style for the teachers and it is marvellous how they have adapted to this and how they are enjoying it. This is not to say that there are no problems at all, but now regular visits and meetings are in place and support and guidance can be given for further improvement. What is evidenced is that, after the initial training, the teachers were able to be guided by the books themselves and to give good lessons from which their pupils understand what has been taught. This is something that Tanzania has not seen for decades.
An evaluation meeting was held on 28th August with all the head teachers and English teachers and at that meeting it was reported from each school that the pupils are enjoying the courses and that real learning is taking place, and that the teachers are correspondingly encouraged to see their pupils’ enjoyment and participation. From using the Language Awareness course the teachers requested more guidance on writing activities for the pupils, and Katy will now revise the course books accordingly. Also the songs need to be recorded as some of the teachers have forgotten the tunes, and they cannot read music.
There are two primary schools which have put in a request to join the pilot project as they have heard how successful it is. We are now seeking funds to enable to expand the project to include those schools.
Seminar with Teacher Training College Tutors and School Inspectors
On 6th August Dr Anne Samson conducted a seminar with the 27 tutors from Singa Chini Teacher Training College, six District School Inspectors and one Zonal Inspector. This was a continuation for the previous seminars which considered the assessment of pupils’ work. This seminar started to address what is really meant by ‘participatory teaching’. All present accepted that they can ‘spout’ the theory but that they don’t know what it really is in practice. Anne started with the method of ‘think-pair-share’. First of all she set the room so that the desks were in a U shape, and then asked the participants to discuss the challenges of participatory teaching, but using the ‘think-pair-share’ method.
The participants then discussed the ‘think-pair-share’ method and how it could be used in a forty minute period. The participants were enthusiastic and the District Inspectors said that they would share the method with teachers when they inspect the schools. Anne made clear that there are other methods and that these would be looked at in future seminars.
One request was that in such future seminars the Ward Education Officers and Head teachers be invited as their experience in the schools would be valuable, and also as the tutors would value greater insight into what is happening in the schools.
Village Education Project Kilimanjaro is providing much-needed work in the primary education sector, and we are now making a real impact on the learning and teaching of maths and English and more generally on teacher development. This is essential work, and will provide evidence of what can be achieved and what can be replicated more widely. This is crucial as the primary education in Tanzania continues to deteriorate.
Village Education Project Kilimanjaro is grateful for the support of every donor. We run our projects as efficiently as possible with limited funds and new donations are always greatly appreciated as the more we have the more we can help.
The teachers on the pilot project are working against the odds in poor conditions and on low salaries, and it is heartening that they have the energy and willingness to work with us and to want to make things better for their pupils.
Thank you for helping Village Education Project Kilimanjaro and thereby helping the teachers.
Very best wishes
1st September 2014