Author: Van Dongen, R.P.M.
The Escuela Nueva Programme started in Guyana in 1998 with three pilot schools. The objective of the Escuela Nueva program was to create a new concept of rural school, based on developing active and participative learning, and promoting leadership and cooperation among the administrative body, the teachers and the school.
Purpose / Objective
To produce a set of reliable data covering 10 major Escuela Nueva indicators for the years 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001 with the aim of future monitoring of activities, accessing funds and making decisions on the extension of the Escuela Nueva model to other schools in the Hinterland of Guyana.
Key informant interviews with village leaders, educational officials, administrators, and representatives from funding agencies.
Focus group meetings with students, parents/community members and teachers.
Questionnaires completed by 425 parents, 73 teachers (all teachers) and 463 students (20% of all students) from Primary 1 to 4.
Three of the twelve schools that are part of this survey are so-called "Escuela Nueva Pilot Schools", meaning that the Ministry of Education has been piloting a variety of Escuela Nueva techniques in these schools since 1998. The other nine schools are all located in the vicinity of the three pilot schools and were all exposed to some Escuela Nueva training or techniques.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Average repetition rates between 1995 and 2001 were 13.6% for boys and 8.6% for girls. Repetition rates for boys increased considerably between 1997 and 2001, whereas repetition rates for girls slightly decreased during the same period. This might have been caused by the disruptive effects following the El Nino event (August 1997 till May 1998). The largest number of repeaters can be found in Standard 1, Standard 4 and Prep A. Average repetition rates for the pilot schools were lower for the four school years surveyed. However, only for one school year (1999/2000), these differences were statistically significant.
The number of trained teachers increased by 20% in Region 1 between 1997 and 1999. For Region 9, this figure was 10%. Between 1997 and 1999, the number of trained teachers in the schools surveyed in Region 1 increased by 20%. For the schools in Region 9, this was 10%. The number of teachers with a degree from CPCE and passes in the CXC exam increased, whereas the number of teachers with CP or SSPE qualifications decreased.
Eight out of the twelve schools (67%) surveyed in this study were too small for the number of students they were holding and scored below the Government norm of 1.3 square meter (14 square feet) per child. Sixty-seven (67) percent of the schools surveyed were too small for the number of students they were holding.
Nine out of the twelve schools surveyed (75%) had at least one library in the school. Students are allowed to use books from the library in the school at least once a week. Students are allowed to take books home less frequently (less than once a week). Students in the pilot schools are more aware of the existence of libraries in their schools and seem to be using books more often than students in the other schools.
Asked whether the teachers would use the whip or other techniques of corporal punishment in the class, the average response of the teachers was: "sometimes". Teachers in the pilot schools feel stronger about showing respect to their students, finding out what their problems are and making sure students help each other in class. Teachers in the pilot schools feel (significantly) more negative about using the whip in the classroom or using corporal punishment in general (both 5% probability level). Over 90% of the students interviewed love their teacher, like to go to school and feel they learn a lot in school.
56% of the students interviewed stated their teacher uses the whip in class or beats them (43%). 30% of the students interviewed stated that their teacher does not help them with their work. Students in the pilot schools are significantly more negative about the use of the whip in class. Fifty-six (56) percent of the students interviewed stated that their teacher uses the whip in class.
What the students like most about EN is the fact that the whip is used less often (or not at all) in the class. Students also mentioned the student government, the learning corners and the fact that they can work in groups as things they like about EN. What students don't like is when teachers get too lenient with students and students start breaking the rules.
Eleven out of the 12 school surveyed have Student Governments established. Only 41% of the students involved in Student Government are from the Primary Level. The majority of the students involved in Student Government are from Forms 1 to 4. Hardly any parents are involved in Student Government. The most important activities the Student Governments take part in are assemblies and cleaning around the school. The most important things students learn while in Student Government are responsibility and values, organizing activities and working together, leadership skills, honesty and public speaking.
What students like most about the Student Government is the involvement in the assemblies, the fact that they can do things for themselves, help other students and mix with children from other classes. What students don't like about student government is when students start behaving in a bossy manner and/or are left on their own to do the work.
Students feel that the school could get more involved assisting the community to get work done (e.g. building bridges, help in village work). They also feel they can contribute to better leadership practices in their community. The students feel that the community could help out more in the classroom (teaching skills community members have) and also to improve the physical environment of the school (more furniture, help on the farm, clean the yard).
In general, the parents liked the way Escuela Nueva and Student Government are helping to create leadership skills in the community and how it helps students to become more independent and brave. Parents expressed concern about the way EN was implemented in their communities and the lack of information/consultation. Parents also expressed concern about the relationship between students and teachers becoming too friendly, leading to a lack of discipline. Parents recommend more workshops for teachers and students, and more and better consultation between parents and teachers (also about positive things). Parents were also interested to see more of the work of the students. Parents also recommended that skilled parents be asked to get involved in the teaching of (traditional) skills in school.
The key informants (often people with leadership positions in their villages) liked the opportunities EN creates for leaders to develop. Key informants also noticed the development of bad leadership practices amongst SG members. Key informants noted that there was room for much improvement pertaining to improved linkages between the school and the community. Community members could be asked to participate in meetings of students and teachers, and the communities could start making their own proposals for the school for the future.
Four of the twelve schools in this survey have at least one learning corner established in 80%-100% of the classrooms in their schools. Half of the schools surveyed do not have any learning corners in 70% of their classrooms. Aspects of local culture present in the learning corners include plants and animals from the local environment, pictures of traditional culture and Amerindian craft.
Teachers' suggestions to improve the learning corners included having more space, getting the children to bring real objects, providing more concrete, manipulative objects and using more local materials in the learning corners. Teachers like their learning corners because it reinforces what has been taught, it motivates pupils to learn, it helps students to spend their time wisely and it encourages students to contribute to the corners, making them feel good about themselves.
Pertaining to curriculum specific use, students spend between 2.5 to 3 hours per week in the Language corner and between 1.3 and 2.5 hours per week in the Math corner. The other corners are used less frequently. Pertaining to recreational use, students spend most of their time in the Science and Social Studies corners.
Most of the methods used in the classroom during English are rather "Old School": the teacher explaining on black board, teacher reading to students and text reading to students. New School methods are only used occasionally (once a week or less than once a week). Most of the methods used in the classroom to teach Math are rather "Old School": the teacher explains on blackboard, students solve problems individually and teacher solves problem on the blackboard. Teachers seem to be aware of what "modern approaches to teaching" are supposed to be, but this does not reflect itself in the variety of instructional methods used in the classroom. Teachers in the 3 pilot schools are significantly more aware of the "modern approaches to teaching" than their colleagues in the other schools.
54% of the schools surveyed had enough textbooks (meaning at least one per student) for Mathematics, 45% of the schools had enough textbooks for English but only 13% of the schools had enough textbooks for Social Studies and Science. Only 1 of the 11 schools that provided information had enough textbooks for all students for all four major subjects (Shea).
There are hardly any differences detectable in the way teachers in the pilot schools perceive their role, as compared with the teachers in the other schools. Teachers in the pilot schools seem to find learning circles significantly more useful as a tool for in-service teacher training than the teachers in the other schools.
Seven out of the twelve schools surveyed had at least organized an average of 2.3 staff development session on aspects of EN for their teachers over a four-year period. Five schools had never organized any staff development sessions on EN or aspects of EN.
No significant difference can be detected between the exam results of the three pilot schools as compared with the exam results of the other schools. The reason for this can most likely be found in the differences in exams and the way the exams are marked.
PTA meetings, informal talks by community members and sport days are the most frequently occurring interactions between the school and the community. Slightly more interactions between the school and the community were organized in Region 1 (14 events per school per year) as compared with schools in Region 9 (10 events per school per year). (Only) one school reported traditional cooperative work (manoor) as an important event for their community. Interactions between the school and the community seem to be rather large scale and impersonal, rather than small-scale and personal.
There is very little information about the community present in the classrooms of the schools surveyed. Only three of the twelve schools reported to have a bit of information about the community on display in the classroom.
Only 5% of the parents interviewed help out regularly in the classroom. Parents who help out in the classroom help with academic subjects, the teaching of craft and traditional skills, and keeping the classroom clean and orderly. The parents interviewed felt the school should prepare students to develop the village and should keep culture and traditions alive. They also agreed that the school should close whenever there is an important community celebration taking place. Parents with children in the pilot schools do more self-help, help out in the classroom more often and are more often engaged in fund-raising activities, as compared with the other group of parents.
Parents with children in the pilot schools seem to be more eager for their children to find work outside the village after graduation. Teachers feel very strongly that students can make a contribution to the development of the community, but they also feel that there is very little to do for young people in the village and education is preparing young people for a life outside the village.
In Region 1, 66% of the students interviewed want to work in Georgetown when they are big. In Region 9, this is 40%. On the one hand, students from the pilot schools seem to be more committed to developing their village than the other students. On the other hand, there is also an indication that students in the pilot schools are more eager to go and work in Georgetown, when they are adults.
Some representatives from the various stakeholder groups seemed to be reluctant to comment on the Escuela Nueva program. The main strengths of the EN program as mentioned by the different stakeholder groups are:
EN is potentially a good model that can help to improve the quality of and access to Hinterland education; EN has the potential to develop strong links between the school and the community; Student Government; Learning Corners; emphasis on good values and behavior; cooperative learning strategies
The main weaknesses, as listed by the different stakeholder groups, include:
Lack of personnel inputs; Lack of community consultation; Lack of training/follow-up/support; Lack of monitoring and supervision; Lack of direction from MoE
The main recommendations given by the different stakeholder groups are:
More follow up visits, more workshops; More teachers trained and continued training; More follow up and monitoring; Completion of learning guides and introduction in schools; More involvement of community members
For Escuela Nueva to work properly, children in Standard 1 will have to be able to read the Learning Guides. For that reason, the Ministry of Education might want to revisit their ruling whereby they advise against any student repeating before they reach Standard 1.
Teachers will need continuous coaching and guidance to enable them to become effective New School teachers. Peer coaching (in the Learning Circle) by colleagues and national and regional educational officials can be an important tool to make that change.
Parents and the wider community should be actively involved in the process of finding effective alternative strategies for corporal punishment. Teachers need more and continuous coaching and guidance to help them find effective classroom management strategies that can replace the use of the whip.
Specific aspects of in-service teacher training that need urgent attention are:
- Implementing alternative classroom management strategies
- Creating active and democratic Student Governments
- Designing and using a variety of cooperative learning strategies
- Designing and using attractive and effective learning corners
- Creating and maintaining effective linkages among the school, the parents and the wider community
There is an urgent need to create more meaningful links between the schools and the wider community in the Hinterland communities. Children have to be taught in school using a pro-active and creative approach, and how they can contribute in a meaningful way to the development of their communities. Changes in the curriculum and the introduction of (a form of) bilingual education need to be considered as possible strategies to achieve this.
The time seems to be right for the development of a Strategic Plan (covering a 5 to 10 year period) outlining the delivery of quality education to all Primary Schools in Hinterland areas.
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Education - Participatory Learning
Ministry of Education, Regional Democratic Councils Region 1 and 9