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Setting the Benchmark for Pre-Primary Education

© © UNICEF/2011/Naser Siddique
Mahmuda Parveen, teacher of Krishnanagar Model Government Primary School, is helping children learn about different parts of the body at Krishnanagar Model Government Primary School in Jhikargachha, Jessore on 23 May 2011.

By Richard Parkin

Jessore, Bangladesh, 26 December, 2011: In the pre-primary class at Krishnanagar Model Government Primary School in Jhikargachha, Jessore the children are learning parts of the body through an interactive game. Class teacher MahmudaParveen calls out an instruction such as ‘left knee’ and the children cackle with delight if one of their classmates selects the wrong limb. The students are enjoying themselves, and Mahmuda informs us later that this game was an idea she got from the newly developed interim Pre-Primary Education (PPE) curriculum.

In February 2010, the Government of Bangladesh issued a directive that from 2011 all primary schools in the country would incorporate pre-primary classes. In conjunction with this, from July 2010 UNICEF devised an interim Pre-primary education (PPE) curriculum, and by Feb 2011 had begun delivering teachers’ guidebooks, as well as learning materials such as alphabet charts to schools across the nation.

At Krishnanagar, Head Teacher Mohammad Akifuzzaman had long been convinced of the need for pre-primary classes. His school had been conducting pre-primary education for five years prior to the Government’s directive.

© © UNICEF/2011/Naser Siddique
Children enjoy learning with the help of interactive games during a class at Krishnanagar Model Government Primary School in Jhikargachha, Jessore on 23 May 2011.

 “The pre-primary education plays critical role to habituate first-time school attendees to regular and punctual attendance, and reduce apprehension and disruptions within Grade One classes” says Mohammad Akifuzzaman. “The UNICEF developed curriculum is much better than the system we had in place as it formalises the teaching process in a set text book, as well as suggesting clever teaching methods such as learning through playing”, says the Head Teacher of the school.

For Mahmuda, despite her previous pre-primary teaching experience there were plenty of new ideas. “In the new curriculum there are set timeframes for teaching modules, for example, it’s recommended I spend the first two months focused just on playing. I followed this, and the children loved it. What they didn’t realise was that in the process they were forming habits of discipline and we [the teachers] were asserting class control. I think that was a very good suggestion” says Mahmuda.

And it was a suggestion guaranteed to be popular with the children in her class too. When asked his favourite part of class time, five-year-old Siam’s eyes light up. “I enjoy playing the most. I like to play with the train”, pointing to a nicely painted wooden train set.

In June 2011 UNICEF finalised teacher training in PPE in over 37,500 schools across Bangladesh, and by 2013 the Government of Bangladesh hopes to implement its new National Pre-Primary Education Curriculum.

However the biggest problem might be keeping up with the children’s voracious desire to learn. As Mahmuda recalls, “Another trick I learnt was to start every class with a rhyme to focus the children but also to increase retention of information through repetition. But yesterday one boy complained to me “Apa, we learnt that rhyme yesterday – don’t you have any new rhymes for us?”



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