The previous posts on the recruitment and utilization of Teaching Assistants brings us to highlight the unfulfilled promises that have been made globally to ensure that all children have their right to (quality) education safeguarded.
The right to education for minority communities and groups is the theme of the first United Nations Forum on Minority Issues which took place in Geneva on December 15-16 -2008.
The Forum, “Minorities and the Right to Education”, aims to provide an annual platform for dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to people of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
Worldwide, minority children continue to suffer disproportionately from unequal access to quality education which perpetuates the cycle of poverty leaving them unable to later fulfil their potential in employment and society. The international frameworks on equal access to quality education for minorities was discussed during the first forum.
The Forum, which was organized by the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Professor Gay McDougall, and the OHCHR, in collaboration with UNESCO, was attended by a number of experts and human rights activists and prepared a Recommendation to go before the Human Rights Council.
Unesco organised a thematic debate as a side event on “Overcoming Inequalities in Education: the Importance of Inclusion.”
“[…] I have personally committed myself to making it a priority, for education is a fundamental human right, set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Human Rights Covenants, which have force of international law. To pursue the aim of education for all is therefore an obligation for States.”
(Koïchiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO, “Education for All: the Unfulfilled Promise”, 21st Century Talks session on education for all).
UNESCO survey finds under-privileged children also disadvantaged in the classroom
30-05-2008 – A new study by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) highlights the strong effect of social inequality on primary education systems in many countries and the challenge to provide all children with equal learning opportunities.
Entitled ‘ A view inside primary schools’, the report presents the results of a unique survey undertaken in 11 countries in Latin America, Asia and North Africa.
0-12-2007 – This publication is a joint UNESCO and UNICEF framework for the realization of children’s right to education and rights within education.
The result of intensive collaboration between UNESCO and UNICEF, the publication brings together the current thinking and practice on human rights-based approach in the education sector.
It presents key issues and challenges in rights-based approaches and provides a framework for policy and programme development from the level of the school up to the national and international levels.
This post continues from “7020” (now called Teaching Assistants in Vietnam) which described how 7020 Teaching assistants in Vietnam were supporting ethnic minority students gain access to education and help them to attend school regularly.
Teaching Assistants have two main roles -working with families to encourage students to get to school and to attend regularly and to support students when they are in school. They help ethnic minority students and others who have barriers to their learning to understand the lesson (e.g. by using the mother tongue) to gain confidence in using Vietnamese language and to develop social skills through pair work,small group work and the use of games,singing and dancing.
In this post we look at how Teaching Assistants support students when they arrive at school.
As many ethnic minority students do not speak the language of instruction (Vietnamese) and some do not have access to pre-school education the need for some sort of school readiness program to prepare students to start grade 1 and learning in their second language.
Teaching Assistants run a 2 month school readiness program along with the grade 1 teacher. Although language is the focus the school readiness program is steeped in pre-school approaches of using games, singing,dancing and drawing to provide context for second language learning.
The School Readiness program acts as a transition program so students can easily move from pre-school to primary school with their grade 1 teacher as well as the bilingual teaching assistant who already knows all the parents,lives in the same community and speaks the same language as the parents and students.
The mid term results of a longitudinal study, following students from school readiness through to grade 2,has shown that students’ language ,maths and social skills are more advanced when compared to students from similar communities but who have not had the benefit of school readiness or a teaching assistant. Here are some quotes from the report of the longitudinal study:
Headteachers and teachers agree that TAs cooperate with the PTA and community to mobilize students to VSR class.They also visit students’ families and support parents to take care of students.
Regular attendance: “The most noticeable change during the last 2/3 years. is the increase in the number of students going to school and the maintenance of regular attendance. Teaching Assistants call for and encourage students to come to class, check and maintain students’ attendance The number of students going to school regularly is higher than in previous years due to the continuous monitoring of TAs”. (p. 30 ).
Reduced drop out rate:“Compared with previous years, the issue of drop-out students has nearly finished”.
Achievement: Improved use and understanding of Vietnamese Language
“Due to SR class, students can understand some Vietnamese, which is the foundation for their understanding of teacher’s basic sentences, so that they don’t feel scared when coming to class. The TA can use students’ mother tongue when necessary so as to improve their understanding of concepts”.
In terms of reading skill: in Ha Giang primary schools, in satellites with TAs, students read better. Students in classes without TAs cannot read fluently, even at the end of the first semester The difference in correct reading, writing skills of students in satellites with TAs and without TAs is greater .
There are differences in using Vietnamese to express themselves with students with SR and students without SR.
Achievement: Improved use and underatanding of mathematics concepts
Mathematics learning results of students supported by TA are better than those who are not supported by TA
Students with TAs could easily identify shapes such as circle, square, triangle, number and quantity .
Students with TAs have better calculation skills.
Mathematics problem solving skill is rather good for those with TAs. (P.36):
When students understand lessons, they are more interested in attending class. (p.32)
In early Grade 1 days, students are supported by TA in the class (TAs interpret meaning of words and sentences in mother-tongue), even some TAs come to students’ houses to help them learn in the evening, for example – TA Đinh Văn Nguyên (Gia Lai). (p.51)
Attitudes:100% Grade 1 teachers and managersconfirmed there is an increase in confidence of students compared with the summer period and Grade 1 students of the previous years.100% of teachers and managers confirm there is a remarkable, positive change in attitude towards schooling of Grade 1 students with TAs (p 31).
PEDC will continue to monitor students with and without Teaching Assistants to see if the improvement lasts into grade 2.
Watch this space!
The Teaching Assistant (on the left) has achieved grade 12 and now would like to enter Teacher Training College and try to become a qualified teacher.
PEDC will try and support her entry by providing a small allowance to help her take the entrance examination.
Lets hope that these students have a better future!
7020 bilingual Teaching Assistantshave been recruited from isolated and rural communes to support more than 100,000 ethnic minority students in Vietnam. They can be found in 32 provinces from the far north of the country bordering on China to the very South , bordering on Cambodia. Teaching Assistants are a PEDC project intervention and are proving, through external evaluation, to provide exceptional results !
This intervention is not the only one from the Primary Education for Disadvantaged Children project, but is part of a package of interventions to support the improvement of learning achievements, particularly for children from different ethnic groups.
Lets start with the problem before moving to solutions.
There are 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam. The language of instruction, from day 1 in Grade 1 is Vietnamese.
But for the 53 ethnic groups other than Kinh (Viet), making up 14% of the population, Vietnamese is not their mother tongue. Some students will live in heterogeneous communities and will be exposed to plenty of Vietnamese language at the markets, in the media and are able to cope when they arrive at school. Other students who may live mainly in 100% single ethnic minority communities, and taught by a Kinh teacher, will have serious problems accessing school and the curriculum.
As you can imagine many of these students start to attend less regularly, do not make much progress, fail their grades, have to repeat and finally give up and drop out. Repetition can put serious financial burdens on families. Added to these obvious difficulties many of the students are needed at home to look after younger siblings while the parents do their farming, or they will look after the buffaloes, or just live so far from the school that getting to school is a hazardous journey (crossing streams during flood season for example). When the teacher cannot speak the language of the students and their parents then the school cannot persuade the students to come to school as the parents rarely understand the benefits of education, particularly as many may be illiterate (in Vietnamese).
One solution to these pressing issues, which are common in many countries, is to recruit bilingual teaching assistants. They have two main roles. The first is to work with families so that they have confidence that the school can provide benefits for the children, the family and the community, as Teaching Assistants often have responsibilities within the commune such as youth leader, chair of women’s committee or even village leader.
This role means that they visit families, often collect students and walk with them to school (sometimes even carrying them on their backs across streams/rivers) and ensure that they arrive home safely after school. They even have help students with their learning at home so that parents understand a little more about what happens at school.
12 students are ‘collected’ and walk to school….
…. and that is 12 students who arrive home safely!
Parents are happier to enrol their children and send them to school regularly as they know they will be safe and that they have someone to talk to in their own language about the education of their children.
The second role is to support students when they get to school.
Teaching Assistants are one solution to supporting ethnic minority students to access school,improve attendance and achieve. This intervention of providing bilingual Teaching Assistants will help the Government of Vietnam achieve Education for All targets as well as Millenium Development Goals.
Ever wondered what happens to children and young people in the face of human and natural disasters?
When teachers have been killed and volunteers are asked to step in and teach 100 children in a refugee camp – who guides them?
When teachers, during war, are trying to support students who are traumatised from seeing their parents murdered or have have been raped by soldiers – who helps the teachers provide psycho-social help to them?
INEE is an open, global network of practitioners and policy makers working together to ensure all people the right to quality education and a safe learning environment in emergencies and post-crisis recovery.
The INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction are both a handbook and an expression of commitment that all individuals – children, youth, and adults – have a right to education during emergencies. They echo the core beliefs of the Sphere Project: that all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of calamity and conflict, and that people affected by disaster have a right to life with dignity.
INEE’s Minimum Standards are founded on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Dakar 2000 Education for All goals and the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter. The Handbook is meant to be used as a capacity-building and training tool for humanitarian agencies, governments and local populations to enhance the effectiveness and quality of their educational assistance, and thus to make a significant difference in the lives of people affected by disaster. They will also help to enhance accountability and predictability among humanitarian actors,improve coordination among partners,including education authorities. The core document includes the following:
Developing INEE Guidance Notes on Teaching and Learning in Situations of Emergency, Chronic Crisis and Early Recovery
Teaching and Learning: The Issues
Since the Dakar World Education Forum in 2000, there has been increased attention to the educational needs of populations affected by conflict and disaster. However, while progress has been made in recent years to ensure that all children and youth affected by crisis have access to educational opportunities, the content of what is taught, the teaching methodologies and the evaluation of learning outcomes is often not adequately addressed. Quality and relevant education in times of crisis can be life saving and life sustaining, providing protection, psychosocial support, and a basis for social and economic development and peace building. Helping communities, education authorities, and aid agencies collectively determine what quality and relevant education entails and how to monitor and evaluate key learning outcomes, is a huge challenge still facing many working in the field of education in emergencies.
Teaching and Learning: The Vision
It is essential that quality teaching and learning is at the core of emergency response education programming. The Guidance Notes and accompanying Resource Pack will identify realistic mechanisms, approaches and tools to help relief agencies, teacher colleges and education ministries address the complex issues surrounding curriculum assessment, development, monitoring and evaluation in contexts affected by crisis, in order to enable learners to develop core competencies in literacy, numeracy and life skills. The Guidance Notes will not be designed as a prescriptive solution or a blueprint response to the challenges of teaching and learning, but will instead provide a framework for planning an appropriate strategy for specific local contexts in ways that help to establish and institutionalise good practice and avoid negative consequences.
Building on the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crisis and Early Reconstruction the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) is working with a wide range of partners to develop Guidance Notes and Resource Pack that will provide:
Key principles of quality, relevant and inclusive teaching and learning practice
Suggested issues to consider when planning and implementing quality education programmes
A collation of resources including sample tools, teaching materials and case studies.
Guidance Notes for Teaching and Learning: The Process
The Guidance Notes and Research Pack will be developed through a consultative process involving input from an expert resource group, as well as virtual and face-to-face consultations and peer review. Education stakeholders including representatives from UN agencies, international and national NGOs, teacher organizations, and Ministries of Education will be engaged to ensure not only sound technical input, but also that the tool is practical and user-friendly. Research into current good practice and innovative curriculum development and assessment approaches will be undertaken and existing tools and resources will be edited and collated. Once finalized, an advocacy campaign will be launched to raise awareness and encourage use of the Guidance Notes and Resource Pack among governments, operational agencies and donors. This broad-based and collaborative development and implementation process will contribute to improved accountability and coordination, providing guidance on issues of teaching and learning in times of crisis and supporting the strengthening of capacity to ensure that the right to quality education is upheld for those affected by crisis.
If you have worked on projects local to global, you may be enthusiastic enough to share your knowledge so as to benefit future projects and more importantly the project beneficiaries. You may also be cynical enough to get the feeling that sometimes people are unwilling to listen!
Perhaps the development of online communities can help a lot with virtual knowledge sharing – so to get you started try this link in relation to Monitoring and Evaluation:
Virtual Knowledge Sharing is on the UNICEF site where you can find M&E guidelines as well as examples of good project evaluations.
UNICEF CEE/CIS, WHO/PAHO and DevInfo, in partnership with IDEAS and IOCE, are pleased to announce a series of live webcast KSE on country-led M&E systems.
Where: Knowledge Sharing Events are free and open to interested people. You may attend virtually from your personal or work computer anywhere in the world. In addition to watching live presentations, you will have the option to ask questions and provide comments. These rvents enable the sharing of good practices and lessons learned on designing and implementing national and local M&E systems. Global-level speakers will contribute international perspectives.
Working in Vietnam where there are 54 ethnic groups, language is a common discussion point with those involved in education.
A new report from Save the Children UK highlights the difficulties students face when they enter school where the language for learning is not their mother tongue and where there is no bilingual support.
STEPS TOWARDS LEARNING
In many countries of the world, large numbers of children start school, only to find their teachers are speaking to them in a language they don’t understand. In other places, teachers start by communicating with children in their own language, but as soon as written words and numbers are introduced, teachers use a language children don’t understand. This is especially true for students who have been displaced because of conflict or natural disaster.
This guide summarises and explains what is known worldwide about the difficulties that children experience with unfamiliar school language. It offers evidence, arguments and practical steps to help stop language preventing children from learning. The guide focuses on developing countries, as this is where the majority of children who do not speak the language of school live. It offers strategies to help improve children’s chances of doing better in school, even when it appears very difficult to change the way language is currently used in education.
For access to the full Save the Children report please visit:
In Vietnam, one initiative is to recruit local bilingual teaching assistants who can speak the mother tongue of the ethnic minority children, as well as the language of instruction which is Vietnamese. More about this in my next blog post.
As more and more ‘hard to reach’ areas are able to access the internet through community based centres, online training can provide real opportunities for building capacity.
training at a distance
Local Livelihoods designs, prepares and delivers training for not-for-profit organisations and public sector bodies. The training ranges from one year accredited training apprenticeship and advisory programmes to one-day introductory seminars. The content covers both standard and innovative subjects relevant to community based economic regeneration. Local Livelihoods uses Training Needs Analysis for assisting clients identify training needs.
The web site itself is well designed and easily navigable which gives confidence to those wanting to learn online. Their philosophy also reminds you that active and participative approaches to learning is the effective route. From their site Local livelihoods describe their style
Learning Style – The style moves away from the traditional teacher-student relationship to more involved peer-based learning through an emphasis on teamwork, it is participative and based on action learning through which groups of participants can learn together using their own situations as practical case study. Local Livelihoods brings reason through procedure and method, participants bring reality based on their situation, and workshop exercises and participation leads to new rationality and ways of operating; this is our learning style.
And what else can they do?
Local Livelihoods services are focused on the development and social economy sectors and span policy formulation, implementing practical mechanisms, institutional strengthening and capacity building, undertaking studies and providing live software systems for programme and project management.