Aug 21, 2012

Project Update - Elementary Education

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!

Reading Clubs in Action!
Reading Clubs in Action!


May 22, 2012

Primary Education 2012 1st Quarter Progress Report

Primary students at the Cusmapa school.
Primary students at the Cusmapa school.

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.

Primary students at Las Sabanas school.
Primary students at Las Sabanas school.
Feb 13, 2012

Progress Report on Primary Education Project

Students enjoying school in Las Sabanas
Students enjoying school in Las Sabanas

In December, Fabretto finished a successful school year with the Primary Education. At the close of the school year (the Nicaraguan school year runs from February thorough late November) a total of 7,657 children were enrolled in the early and primary education programs, equivalent to 93% of our target population of 8,200. With additional funding in 2012, the total population should be reached during the first quarter of 2012, when the school year begins.

This project is being implemented in the seven community education centers, owned and operated by Fabretto in: Managua (2), Estelí, Somoto, Ocotal, Las Sabanas and San José de Cusmapa. In addition to the Fabretto centers, the project is also implemented in more than fifty public, primary schools in the same municipalities. Fabretto works in close coordination with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, to improve the quality of education at all of the public schools. Children receive a nutritious lunch every day, as well as participating in enrichment activities that include: academic support, computer classes, ESL, sports, arts and school gardens.

Although final statistics for the 2011 school year are still being processed, the initial results are overwhelmingly positive. The preliminary reports indicate that the retention rate in 2011 was approximately 91%, while 95% of the students in the education programs passed their classes and were promoted to the next grade.

In addition to the children that benefit directly from this project, there were also 255 teachers that received training, an essential aspect of the project. With years of experience in community education programs, Fabretto understands thoroughly the importance of teacher training. It is the most effective way to improve the quality of education, particularly in primary grades. The teachers in the Fabretto project participated in training sessions that provided them with new tools and methodologies for teaching reading comprehension skills, mathematics, and classroom management. Workshops were also held for parents, to promote greater involvement in their children's education, as well as improving parent-child communication. Fabretto believes that parental involvement is also critical to helping students achieve greater success in school.

In 2012, this project will continue to focus on the provision of these critical services to early and primary education students. Thanks to the generous support from donors, thousands of lives are being transformed every day.

Reading comprehension activities in Quebrada Honda
Reading comprehension activities in Quebrada Honda
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