articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Forum
June, 2000

Changing Classrooms - Changing Attitudes
in Mauritius

Interview with Sabina Seesurrun,
conducted by Ray Harris

The Education for Development programme is a UNICEF supported programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Scientific Research and the Mauritius Institute of Education.

Education for Development can be defined as "that area of UNICEF activities which promotes the development, in children and young people, of attitudes and values such as global solidarity, peace, tolerance, social justice and environmental awareness, and which equips them with the knowledge and skills that will empower them to promote these values and bring about change in their own lives" (UNICEF, 1992). Education for Development links directly with Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which deals with the aims of education.

The primary school teacher interviewed below, Sabina Seesurrun, attended two days of training workshops with the Education for Development programme and following this introduction she volunteered to take part in the 'changing classrooms-changing attitudes' project. She was introduced to Education for Development only one year ago. She teaches at Petit Raffrey Government School, Mauritius.

Sabina, had lost confidence in her work as a teacher through the pressures of a system that includes an examination at 11 that allows as many as 40% of the children to fail.



Tell me a little about your teaching approach before you were introduced to Education for Development.

Answer: Before I started with the project my teaching was very teacher-centred and I found it very difficult to help children with difficulties. I knew no better than to teach from the board with the only voice being my own. My initial training did not prepare me well enough for the challenges of a class of more than 40 children, with few resources and few practical techniques - it was all theory.

Sabina Seesurrun and Colleague

Question: As part of the Education for Development 'changing classrooms - changing attitudes' project - what did you attempt to change within your classroom?

A: The changes I was able to implement in the classroom include the following four innovations:

  1. Using children's own ideas for changes within their classroom, particularly the physical environment;
  2. Activity corners established to encourage more active learning; A committee is set up for each activity corner for example, the language committee, maths committee and environment committee.
  3. Every month the committees are changed so that everyone gets a chance to take some responsibility.

  4. More group activities with a group leader, noise checker, time keeper and scribe. Giving children roles within the group helped them to be more cooperative and better able to focus on the task.
  5. The class parents' committee where parents are invited to exchange ideas and views for the improvement of the classroom and to support their children's learning. quotationI was surprised to find that the parents, when consulted rather than being told, are more than ready to help and offer not only their interest but also their practical skills to improve the learning environment. The discussion on learning also reminded them of their own needs - one parent asked if I would help her to learn to read.
  6. Inviting parents to design and make visual aids and practical materials for maths, for example, enabled them to understand new methods of teaching and learning and allow parents to feel more confident when trying to help their children at home.

    I have been particularly pleased with the activities of the committees as this has helped integrate their academic work with more affective goals.

    The committees have allowed children to take real responsibility and to learn citizenship skills which will allow them to participate more as a young adult. Cooperative group work has helped both the 'slower' learner and the 'high flyer' as both have something to offer within the planned activities. Role play and other simple dramatization techniques, the use of big books for shared reading and encouraging children to express themselves in pairs and small groups all have helped my children improve their literacy skills.


Q: What impact have these changes made on you as a teacher?

A: I have learnt to appreciate that children learn in different ways and so I have to plan a wider variety of activities so that all children can participate. I also have learned to ask more open questions to allow all children to provide an answer.

quoation

My teaching approach is much improved and quite professional now which has given me far more confidence. I have become a learner again and have registered for a distance learning course in psychology so that I can understand children's learning difficulties.

My colleagues have also been able to make changes in their classroom from the practical suggestions I have made emerging out of my own classroom practice and reflective teaching approaches.


Q: What are your hopes for the future?

A: I hope my experience in this project will benefit other teachers so that their children can participate more actively and learn to be effective citizens.


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Last revised June 7, 2000
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