By Christine Davids, Early Childhood Educator in Bedois, Timor Leste.
Since my last update from Bedois, I have continued private language lessons and I endeavour to speak Tetun in my daily activities. Improved language skills have enabled me to translate report cards to parents, read Tetum books to children, talk to other teachers and begin to understand the curriculum.
Active learning is encouraged in the class that Marg, my Palms predecessor, was in. As I began working in other classrooms, I taught staff how to use and care for these materials before using them in my new classrooms.
In Timorese schools, rote learning is still the predominate form of instruction, despite active learning being encouraged in the early childhood curriculum. Teachers across all levels of school are mostly untrained and have completed only secondary school themselves. As an understandable consequence, most teach as they were taught. One of the other pre-school teachers noted to Sr. Imelda that I reminded her of the teachers at the International schools (who were doing similar activities). Not sure if it was a compliment! I regularly checked with other staff if I was meeting their expectations.
“On any one day, up to
one quarter ofteaching staff are absent and there is no budget for relief staff, overloading the teachers who are present.”
The Ministry of Education has implemented significant changes to the curriculum and to assessing teacher performance. One such change is that staff will be monitored for attendance. On any one day, up to one quarter of teaching staff are absent and there is no budget for relief staff, overloading the teachers who are present. In addition, teachers are expected to record their programs and random visits from the Ministry will uncover any missing documentation. I believe this record-keeping practice is important. It equips teachers with materials they can use when talking with parents about active learning.
A great challenge is the absence of professional training for understanding child development and learning. It is important that children are given opportunities to learn to problem solve and become creative thinkers in order to combat emerging challenges facing Timor-Leste.
This opportunity to teach in Timor Leste has pronounced benefits to Australian teachers. Notably, a rediscovery of the joys of interactions with children. I have also enjoyed my discussions with colleagues on the very role and purpose of education and its contribution to an emerging democratic country.
The possibilities are limitless in early childhood so long as teachers are supported to be creative. The curriculum should allow for each community to be able to adapt it to their needs. The curriculum needs to reflect, and encourage teachers to understand, that learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom. Mentors like myself who are able to support teachers to take risks and work outside the learning system with which they are familiar.
“The curriculum should allow for each community to be able to adapt it to their needs. “
At my school, the early childhood curriculum is often kept in a cupboard so it doesn’t get dirty. This also happens in
To support the staff and students at St Therese, you can donate to Christine’s project or support Rhoe Price, a primary teacher in Bedois mentoring staff in curriculum development and classroom management.