Teaching methods from New Zealand classrooms will soon be helping children in war-torn and tsunami-battered Sri Lanka to pursue a brighter future through education.
Spearheaded by former Kiwi teacher come aid worker Sally Angelson and ChildFund New Zealand, the child-centred education programme – Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools (ATLAS) – draws on New Zealand’s own active learning techniques and is fast changing the prospects of children in developing communities around the globe.
Following a successful pilot in Zambia, which contributed to the selected schools’ pass rates rising from just 20 per cent to 80 per cent, ChildFund New Zealand is now focused on expanding a trial in the Batticaloa region of Sri Lanka where children’s education is suffering.
“Years of civil war and natural disasters such as the Boxing Day tsunami have displaced families and deprived many children of an education and the hope of meaningful future,” explains Sally Angelson, lead ATLAS developer and programme manager for ChildFund New Zealand.
“The majority of primary school students here struggle just to read and write, and up to 90 per cent fail core subjects – a path that only puts them further behind and even more at risk of a life of low paid work and poverty as an adult.”
The ATLAS project will set up a framework to upskill Sri Lanka’s dedicated and hardworking teachers in the same child-centred and active-learning methods that are so successful in engaging kids in Kiwi classrooms.
“The approaches we incorporate are about getting children to participate and take ownership for their learning. We promote involvement and inquisitiveness. Children become more excited and engaged in their schooling and the results speak for themselves in higher pass rates and attendance.”
The programme also involves parents and the community with the school and most importantly, provides a self-sustaining framework for continued teacher training.
“Once established, ATLAS will keep delivering long after the initial investment.”
The poverty-breaking power of literacy
Ms Angelson says literacy is a basic right that can be met with help from programmes like ATLAS. “Every child deserves to experience the joy of reading and have access to the opportunities literacy and education provide.”
Not only is being able to read and write essential to participating in everyday life, she says, it is also something that gives people great joy.
“Whether that’s the satisfaction of reading a wonderful book or the pride of achieving at school, we want children in Batticaloa to experience the same support for their literacy and continued learning as many Kiwis have.”