Children from six districts across the country will be part of the Accelerated Learning and Enrolment Programme (ALEP) under which learning levels of both in-school and out-of-school-children (OOSC) will be improved to make school fun for them.
The programme, which has been designed by the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, is being modelled after a pilot project run in 2011 in 150 schools in Multan district. “The programme was conceived based on observations that there were different learning levels among students in the same class,” said Sufiyan Jabbar, the programme manager of the Annual Status for the Education Report.
Jabbar said that students falling behind in classes had a higher drop-out rate. To counter this, a strategy had been formulated to improve learning levels, he added.
ALEP will be introduced in government schools in Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Shikarpur, Musakhail and Mardan.
ALEP coordinator Rashid Aziz said that their teams will work with para-teachers (local teaching assistants who have secondary or higher secondary qualification). Aziz added that finding qualified volunteers was a challenge in rural areas. “We usually have to work with what is available in the community.”
The project trains the para-teachers in identifying slow-learners and OOSC between the ages of 4 and 12 in their areas. “The purpose is to facilitate the mainstreaming of slow learners and OOSC using innovative teaching techniques,” said Aziz.
The major hurdle, he said, was convincing OOSC and their parents. “A majority of these children have dropped out because of poor learning or are to earn for their families.” He said that some of the OOSC were idle and wanted to remain that way. Aziz said the volunteers engage in a continuous community awareness campaign especially with parents of the OOSC.
There are 15 days of learning followed by five days of assessment spanning over a period of 45 days. The improvement in learning levels is also monitored. Later, the schools are provided with health and sports kits, resources for setting up reading clubs and libraries and salaries for para-teachers. These resources are meant to sustain the project for one year.
Currently, ALEP coordinators are being trained. At a six-day workshop that concluded this week in Lahore three trainers from India trained 30 people, including district programme coordinators and members of the Punjab Directorate of Staff Development and the National Commission for Human Development.
Pratham, an organisation working for the provision of quality education for underprivileged children in India, organised the training which introduced the concept of child-friendly schooling.
Pratham’s teaching methodology Combined Activity Maximize Learning (CAMAL) using activities and games for imparting education has been implemented in their Read India initiative for three years. There have been improved learning outcomes, said Parveen Saleem who is heading the Urdu language programme for Read India. Saleem says the programme has been operational in several states, with the government collaboration in some, and has recorded improved learning and enrolment.
Saleem said that she had observed that the teachers were not close to students here. “They hesitate to engage with them … during activity based learning. That is where teachers can grab the attention of a disinterested student.”
Samiuddin from Hyderabad India said there was a need for transparency in the use of funds at schools to strengthen the school management councils in order to ensure the sustainability of such interventions. He said that during his session in Lahore he noted a gap between teaching practices and teachers’ qualifications. “While teachers here seemed appropriately qualified, they lacked the ability to employ innovative teaching techniques in classrooms.”
Naseem Bano in India said the model was not limited to government schools. Bano is working on the Madrassah Reform programme under Read India. As many as 150 madrassahs across Andhra Pradesh are part of the project. Bano says the aim was to include and improve learning in the science, mathematics and language.
“Parents would never want that their children not to study these [science, mathematics and language] subjects at madrassahs,” she said. Bano said there was reluctance at madrassahs where she had worked in India. “They are accustomed to a certain practice and want things to run that way … but once the ball starts rolling they [madrassah management] become an active part of the project.”
The ALEP programme is expected to start in government schools from April 25. The team hopes to expand the programme to low-cost private schools and madrassahs in the next stage.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2013.
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