The Ministry of Learning
Child-friendly pedagogy infuses new energy into primaries
Z A M Khairuzzaman
The buzzing classrooms of Shirishguri Government Primary School under Maona union of Sreepur upazila in Gazipur district are a world apart from conventional primaries.
The school provides quality, holistic education to underprivileged children who would not otherwise have access to schools. The school therefore helps children to explore their talents.
The most remarkable part of these classrooms is that they are run like a country: The children have formed four (mock) ministries with the help of their teachers for smooth running of the school activities. The ministries are ministry of education, ministry of home affairs, ministry of environment and ministry of sports. Each ministry is led by a 'minister' aided by five members.
Ministry of education is responsible for smooth functioning of the educational activities in the school.
The school provides quality, holistic education to underprivileged children who would not otherwise have access to schools.
Under the aegis of this ministry, a beautiful library has been set up where students read various books of interest. The ministry solves any type of crisis with the help of school teachers.
Similarly, the ministry of home affairs is responsible for maintaining a congenial atmosphere in the school. With the help of teachers, the ministry takes measures for maintaining discipline in the educational institute.
The ministry of environment is responsible for preserving a healthy environment in the school. Keeping the school clean, including classrooms, teachers' rooms, toilets as well as the school field, is the sole responsibility of the ministry. The supply of pure drinking water also falls under the ministry. Tree plantation is another important project of the environment ministry. Praise to the environment minister and his colleagues for keeping the school premises neat and clean.
The ministry of sports conducts all kinds of sporting activities with the help of school teachers.
The ministries were formed following introduction of a unique child-friendly Quality Primary Education (QPE) pedagogy into the school.
At present, there has been a significant improvement in learning outcomes, says Latifa Lutfunnahar Begum, headmistress of Shirishguri Government Primary School.
Children are encouraged to learn at their own pace.
With children encouraged to learn at their own pace through enjoyable activities, classrooms have become child-friendly and student truancy has reduced sharply, she says adding, school drop out rate has decreased by a hundred percent.
The school children displayed an attractive wall magazine created by them. They said they regularly participate in debate and cultural activities.
The children's progress is reviewed at guardians' meeting while monthly and quarterly examinations are routine affairs in the school, according to school managing committee chairman Nurul Islam Sarker. Required support is also provided to students who fall behind.
In the upazila, 21,213 learners have been brought under QPE fold, says project manager Saiful Islam.
The child-centric pedagogy has also been introduced in other primary schools to encourage activity-led learning and self-study with teachers discharging the role of facilitators rather than instructors. The pioneer QPE pedagogy has infused new energy into the primaries creating a revolution in teaching-learning procedure, says No-2 Gazipur Union Parishad (UP) chairman of Sreepur Md Akram Hossain. 'Now cent per cent children of my union attend primary schools,' he says adding that children aged 6 years or older attend schools regularly in his union. He hopes to make the union illiteracy-free by the year 2012.
The school development plan is being implemented for 11,460 learners in 51 primary schools, says Md Saydul Huq, programme coordinator of Plan Bangladesh. School development plan is a joint effort of guardians, learners, teachers, School Management Committee, Ganokendra members, local government representatives, NGO workers and educational administrators. The entire process helps establish good governance in schools.
This year, 2,615 children of 5+ years attend 112 pre-schools as part of their preparation to get admitted to class-I in government primary schools in January, 2012, says M Jahangir Hossain, coordinator of QPE project.
Shishu Bikash Kendro (SBK) has been launched for overall development of children aged 3-5 years. Encouraging individual technique, a positive attitude towards study has been created among the learners.
The key components of the projects include Sopan, CAMP and Pre-school which categorise the young learners according to age. Twenty-five Sopans (for 925 learners of classes-1 & II) and 24 CAMP (for 526 learners of classes-III & IV) are underway in 19 schools. Learners' successes in CAMPs and Sopans are sources of encouragement to the school authorities, guardians as well as people.
In the entire upazila, the programme will be extended to 157 primary schools by the year 2015, said project manager Saiful Islam.
Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) implements the project with financial and technical support of Plan Bangladesh.
Sabbir, a preschooler of one of these schools recites poetry with confidence and without any hesitation. He is a product of a system that will nurture his talents rather than stifle them with uninspiring pedagogy.
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