For those working in emergencies – Global launch of four major INEE tools!

Those working for education in times of crisis and emergency need all the help they can get -and often very quickly. Four tools are being launched and information about this global launch, as well as the regional and virtual launch events is on the INEE website:

The four new tools which  have been developed by hugely committed groups of individuals working across agencies, disciplines and locations. The immense amount of work and expertise that these documents represent is a clear reflection of the unique community that INEE represents.

INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery
The INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery express a commitment that all individuals – children, youth and adults – have a right to education. The standards articulate the minimum level of educational quality and access in emergencies through to recovery. They can be used as a capacity-building and training tool for humanitarian agencies, governments and affected populations to enhance the effectiveness and quality of their educational assistance. They help to enhance accountability and predictability among humanitarian actors and improve coordination among partners, including education authorities. The INEE Minimum Standards are founded on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Dakar 2000 Education for All goals, and the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter.

INEE Secretariat and Working Group on Minimum Standards facilitated a highly consultative process that engaged national authorities, practitioners, policy-makers, academics and other educators around the world to develop the Minimum Standards in 2003-2004 and to update them in 2009-2010. The updated 2010 edition of the INEE Minimum Standards Handbook:

  • reflects recent developments in the field of education in emergencies
  • incorporates the experience and good practices of the users of the Handbook
  • is more user-friendly than the 2004 edition of the Handbook.

The 2010 edition of the Handbook is currently available in English and French and will soon be translated in Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages. To request a hardcopy of the document, please email with your name, address, and the number of copies requested. For more information about the update process, and for details of what is new in this edition, please see the INEE website here.

INEE Guidance Notes on Teaching and Learning

The INEE Teaching and Learning Guidance Notes provide a framework to identify and address critical teaching and learning issues to ensure all people the right to quality and safe education in emergencies through to recovery. Building on the INEE Minimum Standards, the Teaching and Learning Guidance Notes articulate evidence-based good practice on critical issues related to:

  • curricula adaptation and development;
  • teacher training, professional development and support;
  • instruction and learning processes;
  • the assessment of learning outcomes.

Accompanying the Guidance Notes is a Resource Pack of vetted resources, including sample tools, teaching materials and case studies, which can be used to adapt the good practices within the Guidance Notes to one’s specific context.

The good practices contained within these Guidance Notes are designed to help governments, NGOs, UN agencies, and other education stakeholders plan and implement high quality education programmes. 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 teacher training and teaching methodologies, and the evaluation of learning outcomes are too often inadequately addressed. The Guidance Notes reiterate the importance of focusing on learners, learning outcomes, and access issues and provide guidance to help achieve the quality goals of EFA by promoting quality education that indicates measurable learning achievements for learners of all ages, but particularly children and adolescents.

The INEE Guidance Notes on Teaching and Learning is currently available in English. To request a hardcopy of the document, please email with your name, address, and the number of copies requested. For more information about the process to develop this tool, please go to

INEE Reference Guide on External Education Financing

Developed by the INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility, theINEE Reference Guide on External Education Financing is a resource that explains donor education funding strategies and mechanisms. It focuses on external education financing in low-income countries, including those in fragile situations (i.e. crisis, post-crisis or the risk of crisis associated with conflict, natural disaster or challenges to government legitimacy) in which governments typically face challenges in delivering core public services, including education. The Reference Guide is organized in three parts, which provide:

  • An exploration of how donors view the education needs of low-income countries and fragile situations, and a review of donor goals and strategies in the education sector, as well as “good donor practice”;
  • A overview of the variety of organisations that fund and deliver education;
  • A summary of the principle funding mechanisms for education, their objectives, how they are funded and how they work.

A range of brief case studies and additional resources and reading are also included in the annexes of the document. The Reference Guide is available in English and French, and will soon be available in Arabic and Spanish. You can request hardcopies of the Reference Guide by with your name, address, and the number of copies requested. You can access much more information about the document on the INEE website here


INEE Pocket Guide to Gender With the input of many INEE members, the INEE Gender Task Team has developed this quick INEE Pocket Guide to Gender to help practitioners make sure that education as part of emergency preparedness, response and recovery is gender-responsive and meets the rights and needs of all girls and boys, women and men affected by crisis.

The INEE Pocket Guide to Gender outlines useful principles for a gender-responsive approach to guide all education programming, and provides responses to some of the most common misconceptions and arguments against gender mainstreaming in the education sector. It then gives concrete strategies and actions for putting gender equality into practice in the major domains of education. Finally, key gender terms and a selection of resources are listed at the end of the Guide.

The INEE Pocket Guide to Gender complements the INEE Minimum Standards for Education and the IASC Gender Handbook, and is intended for anyone working to provide, manage, or support education services as part of emergency preparedness, response or recovery.

Click here to download the INEE Pocket Guide to Gender – Gender Equality in and through Education. You can also order hard copies of the pocket guide, which will be available from early July. To request hard copies please email with your name, address, and the number of copies requested. Please click here to access the INEE Gender Task Team webpage for more relevant tools, resources and training materials.

TEACH UNICEF – new site , new resources for teaching and learning

Check out  the newly redesigned TeachUNICEF

The new site provides free topical units, lesson plans, stories, podcasts, and videos. Each topic has a portfolio of resources which allow an educator to choose a resource which best meets the needs of their classroom. Some of the other unique site features are:

  • Downloadable videos and podcasts;
  • Take Action section  – activities to engage youth in addressing global issues;
  • Links to a variety of UNICEF resources; and
  • An advanced search.

The day the Berlin Wall came down – children’s mediation of the news

On November 9th 1989, an email message arrived at the Tynings primary school in Bristol,UK. It was from a 9 year old  girl living in East Germany who had to travel, daily, through the checkpoints to get to school in West Berlin. She was complaining to her ‘friends’ in Bristol  (by email, which was quite innovatory in 1989 for schools) that it took so long to reach school because of the crowds trying to get through the checkpoints.

checkpoint Berlin checkpoint

This is how the Bristol children, and their parents, learned about the reality behind the news that would later unfold before their eyes.


Before and after the fall of the wall

During the next few days, the ‘spark’ of the email message from their friend in East Berlin set off another ‘chain reaction’ of interest in the news by the children in Bristol. Their teacher , Keith Johnson, did not have to find ways of interesting the children in learning about what is going on in the world,they were ravenous to find out why the news did not provide ‘a child’s view’ of the world. They had some knowledge of European  cities, from curriculum topics, and something about history and Germany (of course an anglo-centric view based on stories of WWII), but these topics never excited them or developed the enthusiasm that was apparent now, and Keith was a great teacher.

What was to unfold during the next few days was even more momentous, to Europe and the World, but it was happening in the classroom in Bristol.


Keith wondered why anyone would want to send the school a piece of drainpipe!

On opening the ‘parcel’, pieces of concrete dropped out of the pipe and with it, a large poster. Of course the concrete was painted and was in fact  a part of the broken Berlin Wall. The poster was a carefully drawn picture of the Brandenburg Gate with comments, ‘graffiti’ , by the children in the school in Berlin.


As the Bristol children saw the pictures on television of people breaking down the wall they could actually handle pieces of the wall and read the comments made by the children in Berlin. A wonderful way to learn about the world, the news , differing perspectives, media bias and history in the making!



25 years on and those children in Keith Johnson’s class must be watching the 25th anniversary celebrations of the wall coming down with some interest, thinking ‘we were there’ in spirit at least.

berlin wall


More news breaking – Finland and Bristol 1986

On the same theme, children’s understanding and mediation of the news, 3 years earlier in April 1986, I, (as a Bristol primary school teacher!) also received an email message, addressed to the children of my class. It was from a school in Finland with which we had been corresponding, finding out about reindeer and life in the Arctic. This time the message was a bit more serious, but curious. The children were saying that birds had been dropping out of the sky on to their school. They did not know why.


Later we found out about the  tremendous explosion at a huge nuclear power plant, followed by a gradual meltdown of the reactor No. 4. in Chernobyl, in the Ukraine. Of course we were ahead of the news because the explosion was kept a secret for some time.

As was stated in the Times (May3rd 1986) “In matters nuclear, one thing is certain: there is no protection in an iron curtain”.

aerial Chernobyl

Aerial view of Reactor no4 ,Chernobyl nuclear power pant,1986

The nuclear fallout which was to cover much of Europe and even effect sheep farming in North Wales, had hit the birds in Finland and this was one of the first signs of the large scale effects of the explosion.

As a teacher,like Keith, I did not have to develop a lesson plan on environmental issues or understanding the media, or geography, or politics or health education…the children were diving in to the atlas, reading ,listening and watching the news  and asking all sorts of questions of their friends in Finland.

kindergarten in abandoned visllageCHERn
remains of Kindergarten in abandoned village,near Chernobyl

My students wanted to design a newspaper of their own so that they could express what they have been finding out and to report on something that was really ‘breaking ‘ news. As a teacher, you can only marvel at the depth of understanding, cooperation and motivation to learn, from children as they find their area of interest.

By the end of the week we had our newspaper, every child had participated, some had been journalists, some designers, some graphic artists, some sub editors and editors (suddenly there was a real reason to look up a dictionary,check spelling and punctuation, and measure distances on a map!). Their enthusiasm was infectious  – the whole school was now interested to follow the news, know about Finland and the Ukraine, about nuclear contamination, about children and cancer and much more. Of course their parents were also ‘educated’ about new aspects of the news.

monument in ChernobylMonument in Chernobyl to those killed during the ‘close down’ of nuclear reactor No 4 Chernobyl.

after treatment 1997,Ukraine after treatment ,Ukraine 1997

I am sure those students from my class, 23 years on , with children of their own, still watch the news of children in the Ukraine suffering from Leukemia and other cancers , and think to themselves that they know the real story behind these devastating stories.

011smKseniaand her doll 2005 Kesmia and her doll 2005

and now, as they watch further devastating news about Ukraine, those same children from my class, as parents themselves, will be taking an extra special look at the news and how it is reported. As an aging Gorbachev speaks at the Brandenberg Gate, those adults will understand a little more when he mentions ‘a new Cold War’.


build up of troops in Donetsk , Eastern Ukraine 2014

Refugees in the news, then and now.

Schools in Bristol and the Sudan were linked together via the good auspices of Dr Teame Mebrahtu, at the University of Bristol, who organised the links when Eritrean families fled to Sudan.Children exchanged news and questions and supported the schools in Sudan, which had accommodated children in their schools, with school materials collected from around Avon. Perhaps today those children who are now adults may reflect on the news about refugees in a more positive way.

School Links International was a Bristol based project, started in 1985, linking primary schools in the Avon area and the rest of the world, to counter prejudice, increase international understanding, and to develop environmental awareness and action.

Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states:

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.

Understanding 350 -Climate change – what can we do?

Blog Action Day.Understanding 350 -Climate change – what  can we do?


As educators, trainers and facilitators we have an obligation to provide young people with the skills  not only to survive well in the world but to have the choice to make  an active contribution to reduce the heavy impact we are making on the health of the planet.


Awareness is not enough -so teaching young people the ‘facts’ may not be enough, they also need to develop the skills of :

  1. self awareness leading to personal action, initially on behalf of self
  2. confidence in expressing own views
  3. being assertive without being aggressive
  4. assessing media reporting – distinguishing fact from bias
  5. problem solving
  6. empathy and understanding a range of perspectives on the same issue
  7. taking action on behalf of others

Of course, this does not happen in one classroom but approaches to learning have to be community wide so that adults affirm and support young people’s actions.

There is plenty of information around but just to reiterate :

About 350…

350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.


Accelerating arctic warming and other early climate impacts have led scientists to conclude that we are already above the safe zone at our current 390ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.


and a little bit more about global warming:

Top Ten Things You Need to Know about Global Warming

There are a number of widely held misconceptions about climate change, and unfortunately, these are reflected in some of the educational materials available on the web. It is therefore crucial for teachers to educate themselves and their students with accurate information and be careful not to reinforce common but incorrect notions.


#1 Global warming is caused primarily by carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and gas.

Certain gases that trap heat are building up in Earth’s atmosphere. The primary culprit is carbon dioxide, released from burning coal, oil and natural gas in power plants, cars, factories, etc. (and to a lesser extent when forests are cleared). The second is methane, released from rice paddies, both ends of cows, rotting garbage in landfills, mining operations, and gas pipelines. Third are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and similar chemicals, which are also implicated in the separate problem of ozone depletion (see #5 below). Nitrous oxide (from fertilizers and other chemicals) is fourth.

#2 Earth’s average temperature has risen about 1 degree F in the past 100 years and is projected to rise another 3 to 10 degrees F in the next 100 years.
While Earth’s climate has changed naturally throughout time, the current rate of change due to human activity is unprecedented during at least the last 10,000 years. The projected range of temperature rise is wide because it includes a variety of possible future conditions, such as whether or not we control greenhouse gas emissions and different ways the climate system might respond. Temperatures over the US are expected to rise more than over the globe as a whole because land areas closer to the poles are projected to warm faster than those nearer the equator.

#3 There is scientific consensus that global warming is real, is caused by human activities, and presents serious challenges.
Scientists working on this issue report that the observed global warming cannot be explained by natural variations such as changes in the sun’s output or volcanic eruptions. The most authoritative source of information is the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which draws upon the collective wisdom of many hundreds of scientists from around the world. The IPCC projects global temperature increases of 3 to 10 degrees F in the next 100 years and says that human activity is the cause of most of the observed and projected warming.

#4 There’s a difference between weather and climate.
Weather refers to the conditions at one particular time and place, and can change from hour to hour, day to day, and season to season. Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term average pattern of weather in a place. Long-term data are needed to determine changes in climate, and such data indicate that Earth’s climate has been warming at a rapid rate since the start of intensive use of coal and oil in the late 1800s.


#5 The ozone hole does not cause global warming.
Ozone depletion is a different problem, caused mainly by CFCs (like Freon) once used in refrigerators and air conditioners. In the past, CFCs were also used in aerosol spray cans, but that use was banned in the US in 1978. CFCs deplete the stratospheric ozone layer that protects life on Earth from excess ultraviolet light that can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans and other damage to plants and animals. An international agreement has phased out most uses of CFCs but the ozone layer is only just beginning to recover, partly because these chemicals remain in the atmosphere for a long time. (Although ozone depletion is not the cause of global warming, there are a number of connections between the two. For example, many ozone-depleting compounds are also greenhouse gases. Some of the compounds now replacing CFCs in order to protect ozone are also greenhouse gases. And ozone itself is a greenhouse gas. In addition, while greenhouse gas build-up causes temperatures close to Earth’s surface to rise, it cause temperatures higher up, in the stratosphere, to fall. This stratospheric cooling speeds ozone depletion, delaying the recovery of the ozone hole.)

#6 Global warming will have significant impacts on people and nature.
As temperatures continue to rise, precipitation is projected to come more frequently in the form of heavy downpours. We can probably expect more extreme wet and dry conditions. In the western US, where snowpack provides free storage of most of the water supply, reduced snowpack will make less water available in summer. Coastal areas will become more vulnerable to storm surges as sea level rises. Plant and animal species will migrate or disappear in response to changes in climate; New England may lose its lobsters and maple trees as they move north into Canada. Natural ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangrove swamps, arctic tundra, and alpine meadows are especially vulnerable and may disappear entirely in some areas. While global warming will have impacts on natural and human systems all around the world, the largest impacts will be on many natural ecosystems and on people who live in developing countries and have few resources and little ability to adapt. On the positive side, warmer winters will reduce cold-related stresses and growing seasons will lengthen. And there will be tradeoffs in some areas, such as less skiing but more hiking; and fewer killing frosts but more bugs.


#7 Sea level has already risen due to warming and is projected to rise much more.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that only if the polar ice caps melt will sea level rise. In fact, average sea level around the world has already risen 4 to 8 inches in the past 100 years due to global warming and is expected to rise another 4 to 35 inches (with a best guess of around 19 inches) by 2100. The primary reason for this rise is that water expands as it warms. The second reason is that glaciers all over the world are melting, and when land-based ice melts, the water runs to the sea and increases its level. Thousands of small islands are threatened by the projected sea-level rise for the 21st century, as are low-lying coastal areas such as southern Florida. Of course, if there is any significant melting of the polar ice sheets, the additional rise in sea level would be enormous (measured in feet not inches). This is projected to occur on a time scale of millennia rather than centuries.

#8 Saving energy and developing alternative energy sources would help.
Each of us can reduce our contribution to global warming by using less greenhouse-gas-producing energy: driving less, choosing fuel efficient cars and appliances (like refrigerators and water heaters), and using solar energy where feasible for water and space heat. We can encourage our political and business leaders to institute policies that will save energy and develop alternative energy sources that do not release carbon dioxide. We can preserve existing forests and plant new ones. But even if we take aggressive action now, we cannot completely prevent climate change because once carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, it remains there for about a century, and the climate system takes a long time to respond to changes. But our actions now and in the coming decades will have enormous implications for future generations.

#9 An international agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol has been negotiated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the US is not participating in it.
Because of its high energy consumption, the US has long emitted more carbon dioxide than any other country. Because carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for about 120 years, it accumulates, becomes equally distributed around the world, and has global effects. Thus, while using large amounts of energy to achieve economic growth, the US and other wealthy nations have unintentionally burdened the rest of the world with a long-term problem. And many negative impacts of climate change are likely to be more severe for poorer countries that lack the resources to adapt.

#10 Protecting the world’s climate by stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will require enormous reductions in current emissions.
Even if ratified, the Kyoto Protocol in its present form is only a start and would not be nearly enough to stabilize climate. It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced to less than one third of current levels to stabilize atmospheric concentrations. This would require a major transformation of the energy sector. A mix of new and existing energy technologies will be needed to achieve this, including large increases in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Researchers are also developing technology to capture and bury carbon dioxide thousands of feet underground. Major increases in public and private research and development are needed to make the necessary technologies available as rapidly and economically as possible.

But the most significant reason for the controversy is that some special interests have mounted an active campaign to raise doubts and create confusion about this issue. For legitimate and other reasons, a very small number of scientists raise questions about whether warming has or will occur. When they do, special interests work hard to amplify and distribute the views of these “contrarians” in order to create confusion among the press, policymakers and public and give the impression that there is still a major scientific debate about the reality and causes of climate change. (Note: not all fossil fuel companies are implicated in this disinformation campaign. Some, in fact, have acknowledged the scientific realities and are taking steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions [see a list of such companies at the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change]).


You can get up to speed on climate change issues quickly and efficiently at this site from the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) is a good place to begin. Another good section, “In the News,” offers brief summaries of the latest developments in climate science and policy and provides links for further details. “Publications” provides links to authoritative reports from the top sources. “Outreach” offers a variety of very useful fact sheets (basic to advanced) to get you and your students started, as well as brochures that deal with particular aspects of the subject, such as “Climate Change and Birds” and “Climate Change and Public Lands.” One fact sheet, “Straight Talk on Global Warming,” deals with some of the most common misunderstandings and misrepresentations about the issue.

The “Outreach” section also includes publications that deal with policies and technological strategies for reducing human-induced climate change. Links to online tools are provided for calculating emissions reductions from various strategies. These tools can easily form the basis of classroom activities such as calculating carbon dioxide emissions reductions from walking to school instead of being driven, thus helping students relate personally to this global scale issue. The glossary is quite extensive and fairly technical and is a great resource for teachers and more advanced high school students.

A much simpler and far less comprehensive glossary for younger students can be found at EPA’s Global Warming Kids Page. Elementary and Middle School students will find this page an accessible place to begin. It includes simple explanations of the issues and characterizes scientists as “climate detectives” searching for clues in ice cores, tree rings and satellite data. It also provides links and games to appeal to younger students.


This is an excellent resource for information on climate change from the United Nations, World Meteorological Organization, and five other international agencies. The 63-page guide (downloads in pdf) is clearly written in plain English, and offers comprehensive information on the science of global climate change, potential impacts, adaptation and mitigation strategies, and policies. This policy emphasis – what the world is doing about climate change – sets this material apart. Data charts, including greenhouse gas emissions and their sources, are another useful feature. This thorough guide was updated in the summer of 2001 with information from the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading authority on the subject. Note: International units are used in this guide, so take this opportunity to familiarize your students with converting degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit and metric measurements to English ones (e.g., meters to feet).


The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to providing credible information and innovative solutions to addressing climate change. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and other sources, the Center produces reports by leading experts on climate change science, economics, policies, and solutions. It has also enlisted dozens of major companies in an effort to use the power of the marketplace to address climate change. The website offers an excellent set of resources that are useful for teachers and more advanced students, from the full text of the Center’s reports, to current articles and editorials, to lists of sites for more information.


The UCS has produced a set of teaching materials designed to accompany “Global Warming: Early Warning Signs”- a science-based world map depicting local and regional consequences of global climate change. The map can be found at While UCS and the other organizations that produced the map are advocacy groups that call for policy actions on climate change, the lesson plans in the UCS Curriculum Guide are scientifically accurate, pedagogically sound, and do not reflect a bias. Rather, they encourage students to collect and analyze data and draw their own conclusions.

The 30-page Curriculum Guide is geared towards grades 9-12, but individual exercises are adaptable to other grade levels. Each activity is structured to include an initial “Engagement” exercise, one or more steps of a student “Exploration” project, and ideas for extended study. The activities align with National Learning Standards for Science, Geography, Social Studies, Language Arts, Environmental Education, and Technology, and the specific standards addressed by each activity are identified.

The web resources suggested for teacher and student use are authoritative and first rate.

Four activities are presented:
Climate Change in My City: Students use an historical climate index to analyze climate change at local, regional, and global scales. 
Oral History Project: Students interview older residents in the community about climate changes during their lifetime and compare the results to a climate change index that is based on historical temperature measurements. 
Climate Change and Disease: Students research the relationship between hosts, parasites, and vectors for common vector-borne diseases and evaluate how climate change could affect the spread of disease. 
Climate Change and Ecosystems: Students research the interdependencies among plants and animals in an ecosystem and explore how climate change might affect those interdependencies and the ecosystem as a whole.

Some information from the Global Environmental Facility GEF:

Climate Change Risks could cost Developing countries up to 19% of GDP by 2030

14 September 2009 | A report from the Economics of Climate Adaptation Working Group released today indicates that climate risks could cost nations up to 19% of their GDP by 2030, with developing countries most vulnerable. The report concludes, however, that cost effective adaptation measures already exist that can prevent between 40 and 68 percent of the expected economic loss with even higher levels of prevention possible in highly target geographies.

GEF projects in climate change help developing countries and economies in transition to contribute to the overall objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “to achieve […] stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (from the text of the UNFCCC, Art.2).

What Can I Do About It?

After learning about climate change, some students may want to know what they as individuals can do about it. This site from Environmental Defense offers 20 simple steps to reduce an individual’s contribution to global warming and gives the approximate carbon dioxide reduction attained by taking each step. While Environmental Defense is an advocacy group that supports strong measures to mitigate climate change, the suggested actions are simply those that are widely recommended to reduce energy use and its environmental impacts.


Climate change is a human issue. It isn’t just about saving the planet and communities around the world face serious threats from the climate crisis. The TckTckTck campaign has created a great tool for learning the stories behind the human face of climate change. It’s called the Climate Orb and it is an animated interactive tool housing first-hand stories searchable by country, keyword and timeframe. Explore the Climate Orb.

Finally, don’t forget that people all around the world are getting involved and taking action. Next week, on October 24, is organizing the International Day of Climate Action. You can visit their site and see what people all around the world are planning to do next week to demonstrate their commitment to stopping climate change.

Teaching Asssitants in Vietnam

7020 bilingual Teaching Assistants have   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 projecintervention 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.

Teaching Assistant Gia Lai
Teaching Assistant Gia Lai

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.

parent Lao Cai

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).

Teaching Assistant Gia Lai
Teaching Assistant Gia Lai

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….

TA collects students
TA collects students
TA + 12 students
TA + 12 students
TA +students arrive at school
TA +students arrive at school
TA and students going home
TA and students going home
TA and students on long road home
TA and students on long road home

…. 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.

What happens at school ? Watch this space for the next posting !

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.

Using local resources – Timor Leste becoming more independent!

Timor Leste -background

Though the vote in East Timor in 1999  was overwhelmingly for independence, extreme opposition from militia groups led to massive destruction and the displacement of some 250,000 people to West Timor and still more hundreds of thousands to the hills around the villages and urban settlements of East Timor.

Area map Timor Leste
Area map Timor Leste

Over 90% of all school buildings were severely damaged or destroyed by the Indonesian military and in the exodus of Indonesians out of East Timor, the nation lost 20% of its primary school teachers and 80% of secondary teachers. UNICEF and other international aid organizations responded fairly quickly, however, reestablishing classes for 420 of the country’s 800 primary schools by December 1999 plus an additional 273 schools by April 2000. Timor Leste became the world’s  newest nation on May 20th 2002.

Using local resources

During training, it is good practice to make the best of whatever local resources are available, both human and material. While working in Timor Leste (East Timor) I was privileged to meet a local translator, Jorge, who became a good friend and a wonderful natural facilitator, while training head teachers and teachers.

Jorge had survived a ‘near-death’ experience facing Indonesian militia during Timor’s struggle for independence.

During one training workshop, I was naively discussing with  the group about using local materials for use in science lessons. After the session Jorge asked if he could run a short session on the use of local resources for teaching, and he would provide the local materials. I already knew I could trust Jorge so I eagerly let him prepare for the next day. Little did I realise he would spend until midnight preparing for his session, which included climbing trees to collect natural gum, to be used as an adhesive


The outdoor laboratory

Although he had no training as a facilitator, he was a natural in terms of knowing his subject, understanding the needs of his audience,preparing well and providing challenging activities so that participants develop new skills in a supportive environment.

In many ways we were teaching each other and learning from each other as I watched in awe at the inventive way he developed his session into a full day experience and how he continued to build and extend his repertoire of training skills. As a local person he was also able to be more challenging and try to get the best out of poorly educated teachers,many of whom had to come off the fields to volunteer to be a teacher in the early days of the world’s newest nation. He believed in people’s capacity and the proof was in the revolution that could be seen in the classrooms of teachers we worked with.


Products of a  teacher training workshop in rural Timor Leste

With Jorge’s drive and ingenuity bare-walled classrooms, previously devoid of stimulation, became an Aladdin’s cave with models of the solar system hanging from the ceiling, learning corners with local musical instruments, pieces of weaving looms and many other artefacts and teaching aids that started to make lessons come alive and stimulate learning for all the students.

It really was a dream to work alongside Jorge and a humbling experience to see people build something from the ashes of their schools. Rice farmers came off the rice fields to volunteer as teachers, so that children could go to school.

Luckily Jorge was able to witness his country’s independence and be determined that he could help build capacity in others to make the most of new found freedoms.

Dedicated to Jorge Mouzinho and the other young people of Timor Leste.

Dreams of a better future
Dreams of a better future

Ray Harris May 2009