Taking Stock and Moving Ahead: Education Push for 2015 in the Millennium Villages
Last week, staff from the MDG Centre for East and Southern Africa, the MDG Centre for West and Central Africa, and the Earth Institute met in Kigali, Rwanda for an education-focused retreat. The theme was, “Embracing Impact-driven Innovative Strategies & Re-energizing Existing Efforts to Fast-track MDG 2 Indicators by 2015: Stock-taking and Moving Ahead.”
The retreat focused on developing practical strategies to accelerate the achievement of the MDG primary education indicators across the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) sites by 2015.
MVP Education Coordinators, from 10 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, shared their experiences with education programs that have been successful in their respective settings. Over the course of four days, participants learned from each other, enabling a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing across the African regions.
With a common understanding of sector priorities (like increasing age-appropriate enrollment and improving survival rates through quality of education), the group collectively identified one of the most important interventions as teacher training. A curriculum expert, Bethany Wilinksi from the University of Wisconsin, presented on “learner-centered pedagogy” for teacher trainings and education programs in the Millennium Villages.
The Teaching in Action program at Teachers College, Columbia University describes learner-centered pedagogy as a contrast to traditional teaching methods. Instead, this approach requires more active learning and critical thinking, challenging students to explore issues with ”what, how and why questions.” According to Teaching in Action, learning-centered pedagogy utilizes role playing and group work, as well as speaking and writing assignments, as opposed to rote repetition.
The workshop during the Retreat allowed the Education Coordinators to see the teaching method in practice, and to prompt them to incrementally introduce the strategy into education programs in their sites.
The Education Coordinators discussed challenges in trying to adopt and implement this methodology at their sites. They identified challenges, including: scarcity of teaching materials and textbooks; limited teachers’ knowledge on learner-centered methods; time and classroom management, especially when there are large numbers of students in a class; and a mindset that young students should just listen and not speak up during class.
Based on these issues, Education Coordinators brainstormed potential solutions, which included ideas like providing training manuals to help teachers introduce strategies in small steps and use locally available materials and developing a video series showing examples of relevant activities to be modified and contextualized. The group also discussed the opportunity for strong local teachers’ facilitation of workshops with expert consultants, “Training of Trainers” programs and the important role for Community Education Workers (CEWs) in the training.
An effort to introduce learner-centered pedagogies will build upon existing national curriculum frameworks, an important step to ensure the adoption of effective teaching methods, as well as abiding by MVP’s emphasis on sustainability.
How do you think we can effectively transition to a learner-centered pedagogy across such disparate locations?