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New teaching strategy helps young students excel in Argentina

© UNICEF video
A first-grader attends class at a school in Resistencia, Argentina.

By Thomas Nybo

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain.

RESISTENCIA, Argentina, 8 September 2009 – For the first six months of first grade, Maria Angel Gomez struggled to keep up with the other students. She showed little interest in her school work and was slowly falling behind. She couldn't read and her mother worried that Maria Angel would fail and need to repeat first grade, a common problem in Argentina.

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But when a new approach to teaching was put in place, Maria Angel began to flourish. This innovative strategy focused on new, practical ways to teach math, literature and science. Extra attention was paid to children at risk of failing, especially in the crucial first year of school.

Dramatic results
The principal of Maria Angel's school, Susana Sanchez, could hardly believe the results. Before this programme was launched, she said, 20 percent of the students had to repeat grades: "But now, we've dropped that number down to 2 percent."

Maria Angel learned how to read, and developed a love for stories like ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. Her attitude toward school was transformed.

© UNICEF video
Maria Angel Gomez, 6, studies in a classroom operated under an innovative approach developed by UNICEF and partners in Argentina.

"When I get older I would like to be a teacher, to teach children how to read and how to work," she said.

‘Every mother’s dream’
The new teaching strategy, which was developed with UNICEF, encourages parents to play an active role in their children’s learning.

At the beginning and end of each school day, parents gather outside the school and discuss students’ progress with the teachers and other parents. They share success stories as well as frustrations and ideas about how to help children who are having trouble.

"I never finished my schooling, so at the beginning, I was thinking that maybe my children could not finish school either," said Maria Angel’s mother, Rosa Gomez. "I'm trying to help them, as much as I can, to have a nice school and to graduate, which I never did. It's every mother's dream for her children."

By engaging children when they're young, teachers and parents are decreasing the likelihood that they'll drop out when they reach high school.

A lasting impact
"This is an innovative strategy developed to reduce the failure at school, at the primary level and at the secondary level," said UNICEF Argentina Education Specialist Elena Duro.

© UNICEF video
Maria Angel is one of many students who have flourished since her school embarked on a new strategy to engage children.

Ms. Duro added that the strategy proposes not only teaching methodologies but also ways to create a protective environment for students – including interventions to ensure children’s health and prevent their abuse or exploitation.

Here in Argentina, hope and confidence are being returned to children who were on the verge of being denied the fundamental right to an education, which is guaranteed under Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The benefits will be felt for generations.




UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the implementation of UNICEF-supported education reforms in Resistencia, Argentina.
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