60 children to a class is the norm in most of the developing world. The teachers have little training. The blackboard dominates. You don’t see many computers (maybe the lack of electricity is a contributing factor) and books tend to be limited to textbooks, shared between four children squashed into a double desk. It’s not surprising that teaching is mostly from the front of the class and focused on literal comprehension.
But on a project I’ve been monitoring in Burkino Faso (West of Ghana, used to be Upper Volta), in typically impoverished conditions, teachers in remote village schools are busy helping their children to write collaboratively, with the aim of producing hundreds of texts to form class libraries.
This is a radical departure from the usual approach to writing with its emphasis on instructing children about genres, spelling, conjugation and sentence structure, an approach inherited from the French colonial system. Instead the children have been brainstorming.
I’ve been hugely impressed by how the teachers have taken to this new approach. They’ve given up every Saturday morning for project meetings over a period of several months. And my recent 10 day visit was planned for their school holidays, so that teachers from all the project schools could come together. They even got all the children in the relevant class to come in for demonstration lessons. That’s one thing not many of us have had to do…
I’m hoping to go back in July to see the libraries in action.