2000 IRN: Evaluation of the Education of Rural Working Girls Project
Author: Mohsenpour, B.; Kiamanesh, A. R.; Pegah Pardazesh Novin Company
The Project for the "Education of Rural Working Girls" was implemented by the Literacy Movement Organisation (LMO) with the technical and financial support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Iran. This Project was conducted in 6 provinces, namely: Sistan & Baluchestan, Kordestan, West Azerbaijan, East Azerbaijan, Khorasan and Lorestan. The Project was conducted during the school year 1999-2000, in approximately 170 classes, with an average density of 615 girls in the 10-18 year age group.
Purpose / Objective
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Literacy Movement Organisation (LMO) decided to evaluate various aspects of the Project at the end of its one-year implementation period, on a pilot basis, in order to determine the success rate of the Project in achieving the set goals mentioned in the Project Document. The following issues were studied:
- the characteristics of the instructors from various aspects, such as their age, level of education, experience in the field of teaching, place of residence, courses passed related to the Project,
the characteristics of the girls covered by the Project, such as their age, type of job, relationship between the education and the job, skills they have been trained in, and the manner of their participation in the educational classes;
- the manner of implementation of the Project from various aspects, such as the weekly educational programmes, issues and skills taught in the classes, methods of implementation and possible constraints in free food distribution programmes, methods of implementation and possible constraints in the payment of educational grants in cash, and aids in kind;
- the opinions of the instructors and the officials of the Literacy Movement Organisation regarding the positive and negative aspects of the Project. The collection of their proposals to help reform and improve the quality of the Project for future execution of similar projects.
In order to determine the rate of success of these methods in achieving the objectives of the Project, we have gathered the opinions of almost all the Literacy Instructors involved in the Project (134 persons), as well as the officials of the Literacy Movement Organisation in the 5 provinces and 10 districts covered by the Project, using questionnaires with open-ended and restricted answers, group discussions and unrestricted interviews.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Comparing the achievements of one year's implementation of the "Education of Rural Working Girls" Project with the envisaged goals, shows that the implemented methods were largely successful in allowing most of the pre-set goals to be attained.
The use of participatory and inter-active methods is the first and most positive characteristic of the Project. These methods have transformed the educational environment from a dry, monotonous, and uninspiring environment, to a happy and inspiring one. Practically all the instructors referred to the combination of the traditional educational methods (the three Rs for Reading, [W]Riting and [A]Rithmetic), with the "Life-skill" training (Training in Decision Making, Problem Solving, etc), and the training in various vocational and artistic needs of the girls. In other words, all the instructors have alluded to the combination of traditional education with daily and practical issues.
The instructors believe that the use of the inter-active and participatory method has helped to attract and retain the literacy students in the classes. They pointed out that in spite of exhaustion from the strenuous daily work, the students participated in their educational activities with a happy and expectant spirit. According to the instructors, during the process of inter-active and participatory learning, the students have become familiar with such new horizons of learning as "Social and Public Life", "Co-operation and Teamwork", and "Transfer of Knowledge to Others". Moreover, through general discussions, conversations, and participation in discussions related to life skills and problem solving, the literacy students have attained the ability to express themselves and talk about their personal views. Vocational and artistic training has paved the ground for students' employment and income generation for the families. This has led to a relative relaxation in the anxiety of the families regarding the decline in the girls' income resulting from participation in the Project classes.
The girls' enthusiasm and positive attitude, which in itself is the result of the inter-active and participatory methods used in the Project literacy classes, by using the learnt skills in "Programming and Decision Making", has enabled them to regulate their daily home and farm working and personal time in such a way as to leave them ample time to participate in the classes.
As the educational programme has not created any serious impediment in the day-to-day activities of the girls, and the families have not been deprived of their work and income, and on the other hand, the Project training has further enabled the girls to perform their daily, income generating activities even better, the attitude of the parents and the village community towards the girls' education and the role of the instructors, has changed into a positive one. In addition to this, the transfer of the knowledge of health, social, artistic, and especially basic life skill training from the class room to the students' home and village environment, has broadened the scope of the education from the limited class room space to the various sectors of the village community.
The material aid programmes, such as the free food programme, distribution of free educational aid, etc. should be regarded as the second most influential factor in the successful implementation of the Project. In the opinion of a good number of instructors, the free food programme and especially the provision of warm food, has been very effective with the "under-15" literacy students. The free feeding has not only maintained the health and boosted the physical growth of the literacy students who come from low income families, but has also acted as a powerful incentive for the attraction and retention of the literacy students in the Project classes.
Selection of female instructors, especially instructors with experience, superior teaching abilities, and familiar with various local skills and crafts, and are at times familiar with the environment of the village, may be named as the third positive characteristic of the Project. This factor has played a considerable role in attracting and retaining the literacy students, contributing to the success of the Project. The instructors, who have had years of experience of the ordinary classes of the Literacy Movement, and have used the traditional methods of the Three Rs (Reading, [W]Riting and [A]Rithmetic) in the education of their students, and have thus experienced the lack of relationship between the skills taught, and the needs of their audiences, have found the method envisaged by the Project, especially the inter-active and participatory educational method, to be different but more logical than the methods they had been using in the past.
Another factor that was influential in the success of the Project was the increase in the education time and the allocation of the extra time to the life skills and vocational training programme (the minimum increase in this time was 200 hours, and the maximum increase was 320 hours), and the relative freedom of the instructors in the selection of the issues they wished to discuss or the arrangement of the environment for this purpose. More time, freedom of the instructors, the use of the inter-active method, and the creation of a friendly environment, have paved the ground for the blossoming of the potential abilities and capacities of the instructors as well as the literacy students.
The above factors have led the instructors to mention various points, such as: "The literacy students have become more sociable", "The students were enthusiastic to participate in the practical classes", "The literacy students gained satisfaction from the education", "There was a marked increase in the efficiency of the literacy students", "The issues taught were beneficial", "The literacy students were able to make use of the learnt issues in their daily life", "The learnt skills helped in income generation", and "The families welcomed the programme".
Yet, another factor contributing to the success of the Project was the use of educational aids, video films, and especially the educational package provided by UNICEF. All the instructors who used the educational films or the package, mentioned their positive impact on a better grasp of the subjects, and the creation of greater incentive among the literacy students.
Last, but not the least, we should not overlook the effective role played by the experts from various organisations in increasing the knowledge, abilities and skills of the instructors. We must also mention the positive results of the collaboration of various organisations, executive agencies and rural Islamic councils, with the Literacy Movement Organisation and the instructors.
The attention paid to the responsibilities of the various organisations involved in the educational programmes of the Project, and the transmission of the messages of these organisations -- such as the health messages of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, the animal husbandry messages of the Construction Jihad, the pickle and jam making instructions of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the job creation and skill training messages of the National Technical and Vocational Training Organisation -- to the audiences, i.e. the villagers, has transformed the Project implementation to a group and participatory activity.
Each one of the above factors on its own, plus the cumulative factors, have created conditions that, in contrast with the ordinary Literacy Movement classes, almost all the literacy students attending the 'basic', 'complementary,' 'final' and 'fifth grade' courses, have participated in the educational programmes, with a minimum rate of absence. According to the views expressed by the instructors and the officials of the Literacy Movement, in the provinces and districts covered by the Project and the data published by the Literacy Movement, the literacy students of the Project classes have the least lowering of standards and the highest passing rates. This low educational fall and higher passing rates compared with these two indicators in the ordinary literacy classes, have made some of the Literacy Movement officials think that, in the light of the greater efficiency of the Project, the cost of implementing the Project is lower than the cost of continuing with the ordinary literacy classes or, in other word
s, the extension of the Project is cost effective.
The instructors and the Literacy Movement officials in 10 townships covered by the Project had similar views regarding "No decline in the working hours of the girls" and "Lack of welcome of the Project by the employers of the girls". For the establishment of Project classes, and the selection of villages for this purpose, the criterion used was the number of "10 to 18 year" girls deprived of education. This norm has probably led to the selection of villages that already have ordinary schools and/or Literacy Movement classes.
The number of instructors who have attracted working girls who had already been participating in educational classes (73.1% of the instructors) was almost 4 times the number of those instructors who had attracted girls who were "deprived of education" (18.7% of the instructors). About 30% of the instructors said that the education programme of the girls did not have any effect on decreasing their working hours.
Despite the attraction and advantages of the "Education of Rural Working Girls" Project, the establishment of Project classes side by side with the classes of ordinary schools and/or ordinary Literacy Movement classes, has created a number of problems for these educational units. The existing differences between the educational programmes, the teaching methods, and the supportive activities of the Project have upset the students of the ordinary schools and/or Literacy Movement classes, their families, and the staff of those educational units. The instructors have pointed a finger at the impact, on the village community, of the double standards in educational facilities, in different ways. Continuation of this situation may lead to the disappointment and weakening of the spirits of students of the ordinary schools and the ordinary Literacy Movement classes and their parents, and may even lead to a crisis situation for the continuation of work of the ordinary schools and the ordinary Literacy Movement classe
s in the villages covered by the Project, and even in some of the neighbouring villages.
The working boys and those "deprived of education" have a status similar to that of the girls. Further, compared with the girls, these boys play a more powerful role in their families. Attention to the education of "10 to 18 year" working girls in a Project with new and extraordinary facilities and conditions, and neglecting the boys, may lead to the upsetting of the boys, and making them jealous of their sisters. With the greater role played by these boys in their families, an environment may develop where they could create problems for the education of their sisters by putting up various excuses.
In view of the success of the Project and the probability that it will prove more cost effective compared with the current Literacy Movement programmes, and, in order to prevent the disappointment and weakening of spirits of the students of ordinary schools and ordinary classes, it is proposed that the Project be implemented in one school year, on a pilot basis, for all the educationally deprived persons of a village, with all its original characteristics, regardless of the age, employment status and sex of the students. Selection of a witness township with ordinary Literacy Movement programmes will offer an opportunity to compare the outcomes of these two projects on various aspects, and show the difference in their cost-benefit status. If such a study shows a positive result, then it would be feasible to extend the Project to Literacy Movement classes of other townships.
It is also proposed that the Project classes be set up near factories, production centres and workshops, to attract the working and educationally deprived boys and girls in the township covered by the Project. In this manner, the Project will equally affect the working hours of all the boys and the girls, removing the bone of contention of the problems caused for students of the ordinary schools and Literacy Movement classes. It may also create an opportunity for some of the education time to be spent for on-the-job training related to the work of the literacy students, and share the Project with the employers. The classes could also be established in the form of complexes, and in environments similar to educational environments. This will help the students learn how to live and learn together, and encourage the communal life and teamwork of the students.
Propaganda and the establishment of the requisite environment for the implementation of a new Project should be co-ordinated with the existing realities. In advance of the starting of any Project, especially the "Education of Rural Working Girls" Project, in other areas, the Project executives should get acquainted with the precise goals, capacities, methods, and available facilities for the Project. Only then can they regulate and implement their preparatory propaganda activities based on the Project's capacities and characteristics. Moreover, giving unrealistic and impracticable promises would cast a negative effect on the implementation of the Project. To forestall such a situation, the Project officials should take into account the practical aspects of their promises, prior to making such promises.
The programme of the preparatory and training courses should be regulated and implemented on the basis of the regional needs, and the skills and capacities of the participating instructors. Training in skills and professions that are not practicable in the villages, or trying to train the instructors in subjects with which they are already conversant, would be a waste of time, money and energies.
Knowledge of the inputs, and the creation of the facilities and conditions needed for the implementation of the Project within a set schedule, and according to the original plans, will guarantee the success of its implementation. Not providing the necessary and foreseen facilities, or provision of the facilities outside the time frame of the implementation of the Project, will create problems for the execution of the Project.
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