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May 20, 2004

Teachers upgrade skills to help slow learners

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Next week the long anticipated education summit takes centre stage. But while the policy makers try to wrap their arms around the big picture, efforts less noted continue to be made on the educational front lines. Today I visited one such session in which teachers are sharpening their tools for learning.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

These primary school teachers may look like they’re having fun–and they are–but the drawing and crafting also has a serious side, as these skills will later be used to help them to educate slow learners in the classroom. Too often children are left behind in school because it takes them much longer to understand lessons and the teachers simply do not know how to deal with the problem.

Jesus Ek, Principal, Concepcion R.C School

“We have elements like large classrooms, single parent environments, abused children, children with learning disabilities, slow learners.”

The Ministry of Education says this school year five thousand six hundred and sixty-eight boys and girls did not pass their class. It’s not certain how many failed as a result of being a slow learner, but it’s estimated that a good number of children are having difficulty learning, particularly in areas such as language, mathematics and science. The strategies the student-teachers are learning are part of a three year training development effort coordinated by the Quality Assurance and Development Services, Anglican Management, and Armstrong Atlantic State University in the U.S. state of Georgia.

Cannon Leroy Flowers, Advisor, Anglican Management

“We decided that something had to be done for our children. However, because the church, thinking on a broader scale, realised that not only the children of St. Mary?s but this is a national issue. What we have decided to do, the offer that we got from Armstrong State University to run a programme to teach our teacher how to teach slow learners, we felt that it would be better utilised in the nation by working through the Ministry of Education. And so with the assistance of QUADS, we have now teamed up together where the church, the Ministry of Education, and Armstrong State University put together this programme to teach our teachers how to teach slow learners.”

In the past five years, A.A.S.U.’s Director of Professional Laboratory Experiences, Susan White, has visited Belize fifteen times meeting with children and educators to see what can be done to address the problem.

Susan White, Workshop facilitator

“Children of course learn in different ways and have different learning styles, and so a child who doesn?t learn well by listening is going to have a lot of trouble if the teacher only gives directions by talking. And so that teacher also needs to do things visually, in other words write things for him. The reverse it true also, if the child has difficulty learning through vision, through his eyes, then the teacher will need to talk about things or provide ways for him to manipulate materials so that he?s touching a feeling, and that can help him learn. Of course, the more children you have, the more difficult it is to individualise instruction, but there is always things that teachers can do to make learning easier for children.”

This year’s one-week teacher development workshop not only focuses on training teachers to be trainers for the programme, but a group of preschool teachers are learning how to use the skills in the work they do.

Lisa Usher, Preschool Teacher, San Ignacio

“We have a problem that they don?t want to recognise pre-school, they say pre-school is not important and they don?t realise how important pre-school is. Pre-school is very important because the child gets all the basics from they are very small.”

Marion Nolberto, Supervisory Principal, St. Peter Claver School

“It’s a very effective programme because for me it clarifies the aspect of modification, where you modify the instruction so that every student can learn in the classroom. And that?s one of the mistakes that most teachers make, that we set expectations and we expect everybody to produce at the same level. But through this workshop you get the understanding that yes, the expectation is good, but you modify so you can reach every student in the classroom.”

Thirty-six preschool and primary school teachers are attending the week-long workshop.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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