Uzbekistan studies its way towards quality education through interactive learning
By Caroline Hodges
The classroom in school number two in Parkent, Uzbekistan is a hive of activity. Groups huddle over desks in energetic debate. But there isn’t a child in sight: today it’s the teachers turn to learn.
“We’ve been finding out how to be more creative in the classroom,” says Klara Rajapova, one of the schoolteachers taking part in the region’s Child Friendly School (CFS) methodology training week, “and how to let children think for themselves.”
The CFS methodology makes learning more effective through making lessons more interactive. “There’s a saying,” says Klara, “if you tell me, I’ll listen. If you show me, I’ll understand.”
CFS also teaches children to be healthy, active and responsive citizens who are aware of their rights. It encourages teachers to be more reflective as well as to use more participatory methods.
The project is a partnership between the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan, UNICEF, teacher training institutes and other partners. So far nearly seven hundred and forty schools across 5 of Uzbekistan’s 14 regions have participated. All teacher training institutes are already involved. A recent project evaluation described it as a ‘remarkable success’ and recommended turning the CFS project into a nationwide education quality standard.
Spreading knowledge and skills…
A common problem for teachers is that they have large classes of differing abilities. The CFS techniques help classes become more inclusive by encouraging group projects that allocate tasks to each pupil, depending on his or her abilities and talents. Children can bounce ideas off one another; just as their teachers themselves do during the training.
Thirty schoolteachers, five from each nearby school, are taking part in each CFS seminar. The benefits spread as the trainers teach the teachers who then share the knowledge and skills with colleagues. The result is a far greater impact than the seminars alone can provide: girls and boys in the most far-flung corners of Uzbekistan are learning how to think analytically, and how to stand up for their rights.
…and making them stick
Making schools a Child Friendly environment fits with UNICEF’s strategic vision for the country: interactive learning not only helps students academically, but also encourages changes in attitudes, values and behaviour – positive changes that children take back home to their communities. One of the project’s greatest successes has been to mainstream core elements of the CFS philosophy throughout the entire education system.
Seminar participants in Parkent all agreed on one thing: trainings of this kind should be held more often. And this is where UNICEF’s next country programme, due to start in 2010, comes in. The education component aims to ensure half of the country’s schools will be certified as Child Friendly by 2015. Not only does this mean that less children will drop out of school, but will also make it possible to integrate 20% more children with special needs into mainstream basic education.