Expanding PEPY Programs

Posted on: October 23, 2009 Posted by: Manin Oem Comments: 0

Expanding PEPY Programs

There have been unforeseen delays in starting school this year as a result of the severe floods
that devastated Cambodia this fall. But now that classes are finally in
session, we want to give you an update on the changes to PEPY’s school
program occurring this year.  In some ways, our programs are expanding,
and in others, they are contracting.  We are now looking at our
involvement in schools through an entirely new lens as reflected in the
PSDP Program (Primary School Development Program).
Amongst other major changes, one of our notable differences this year
is a focus on making our English Program more sustainable by supporting the development of the government-mandated classes and
moving our computer programs to Chanleas Dai Junior High School. So far we have
expanded this program to include five schools in the greater Chanleas Dai
area.

What’s up with the changes?

For the last two years PEPY has been running supplementary English and XO
classes in Chanleas Dai Primary School. These hugely popular classes
were taught by PEPY teachers, had fun and interactive resources donated
from PEPY funds, offered comprehensive curricula and projects designed
by the PEPY team as well as our partners, and endorsed classes that
were constantly evolving. So why change things?

After looking long and hard at the successes and failings of the existing
programs, our decision came down to a few main concerns:

  1. First, we learned that last year some students were actually changing schools
    to come to Chanleas Dai because of PEPY’s supplementary classes.  Over
    the vacation months, area principals expressed concern about the
    potential harm this was doing at their own schools.  In Cambodia, there
    is a required number of 55-60 students necessary for the government to
    designate (read: pay for) a class and government-salaried teacher for
    any given grade.  This means that if an area school doesn’t have enough
    students for a  4th, 5th or 6th grade, they aren’t given a teacher to teach that grade and students
    must go to more distant schools.  As more students began talking of
    transferring to Chanleas Dai, two area schools which might have been
    able to register enough students were actually in danger of not
    reaching the required numbers.  We discussed alternative solutions,
    such as asking the District Office of Education (DOE) to enforce school
    catchment boundaries, but ultimately recognized that we respect
    parents’ desires to connect their children with the best available
    education.  We came to realize that there were alternate ways to
    tackle this problem, especially in view of the fact that the English
    programs in Chanleas Dai did not meet some of our other long term
    sustainability criteria.
  1. As students from five primary schools filtered into the newly built junior
    high school, only students from one school had actually received any
    English training. We had urged the DOE to provide a trained Government
    English Teacher in the junior high school. Once the qualified teacher
    arrived, however, he was faced with the daunting challenge of teaching
    classes of students with completely disparate linguistic ability. While
    some 7th grade students can write stories and letters in English, others have never studied a foreign language alphabet.
  2. Lastly, as you can see from our recent posts on sustainability,
    we’ve been spending a great deal of time discussing how to begin
    transitioning existing programs toward more sustainable models, which
    aim to exist long past PEPY’s support.  The current MoEYS policy is
    that foreign language classes should be included in the grade 5 and 6
    curricula. The primary syllabus is expected to include foreign
    languages (typically English or French) for two hours each week.
    However, many teachers do not have the capacity, resources, or support
    to effectively teach English within the government-mandated curriculum.

This is where PEPY can help. Instead of replacing government classes or
supplementing them, from now on PEPY will aim to enhance and support
government initiatives.

PEPY is lucky enough to have two enthusiastic, bright, and well-trained
English teachers. Because of this, we believe that it is essential to share
knowledge and capacity building potential with government teachers who
are meant to be teaching this topic but do not know where to begin.

So what do PEPY’s Supplementary Programs look like now?

More places, less classes.  We have discontinued the supplementary Computer,
English, and Literacy programs at Chanleas Dai, and are moving them to
the junior high school, replacing them with government class support,
and incorporating them in the PSDP Program respectively.

The XOs have migrated to the junior high school, where they will be used
to supplement the lower secondary curriculum during student’s free
time.  This means that all students in the commune have the opportunity
to study with XOs if they reach 7th grade, which we hope will encourage retention rates not only in
Chanleas Dai village but across the commune.  We made this change both
for incentive reasons and also because our computer teachers felt that
this resource will be better used by students in grades 7-9.  We hope
to begin XO supplementary classes at the junior high school in November
when our two new computer teaching staff from CIST have graduated and joined our team.

PEPY’s English program now aims to train government teachers in basic English
pedagogy, and provide them with the training and support that will
enable them to meet government expectations. Expanding to five schools
means we also now have a traveling English teacher! For the past two
weeks PEPY staff member and Chanleas Dai resident, Chim Seng has been
jumping onto the lime-green PEPY motorbike, carrying flashcards and
teaching resources in his basket, and promoting his PEPY English
classes all over the commune! At each school, Chim Seng will work side-by-side with government teachers, team teaching during designated
English hours.  Once a week, all teachers will meet together for
English language training, and planning.  Gradually, we hope that the
government teachers will take a stronger role in leading the classes.
The goal is that English language teaching will be able to be sustained
by government teachers in the future, even after PEPY programs end.

Chim Seng has been traversing Chanleas Dai Commune for two weeks already and
brings nothing but excitement and success stories with him to every
planning meeting. The government teachers are enjoying this new
challenge and appreciate the support that has been given. The first
teachers meeting is this week and lead English teacher, Rith Sarakk,
has planned an afternoon of lesson planning, resource creation, and
phonics instruction. The hope is that the teachers can then use these
very same skills in next week’s classes and the evolution of our work
becomes increasingly lead by government teaching staff.  We also hope
that, as this program develops, we can draw links between the English
teaching skills and the teacher training being offered for Khmer
Literacy education so that teachers can recognize the application of
these skills across all areas of their classes.

At the junior high school we will be offering supplementary English
classes on alternating days for both beginner and higher level
students.  In addition, students will have regular English classes as
per the government curriculum, many of which will be taught by the new
Government English Teacher, which the DOE has helped to secure this
year.

At Chanleas Dai Primary School, it certainly has not been easy to move
from offering supplementary English classes each day to a two hour/week
model that is within the government curriculum.  More than a few
disappointed students have asked us why the English classroom is now
primarily used as an office when it used to ring with the sounds of
clapping hands and happy voices only so recently.  Though it has been a
somewhat painful choice, we try to remind ourselves that the decision
was necessary to bring a more lasting and expanded impact than
localized support, which will stop when PEPY does.  While there might
be a few disappointed faces at Chanleas Dai, there are now 341 happy
faces, 682 clapping hands and 5 classrooms using Child Friendly
School methodology to learn English and meet government-set goals in
the 5 schools from the surrounding area.  We’re excited about the
changes, and look forward to seeing the progress of both teachers and
students.  Stay tuned to the Team Journal for more updates!

Reminder: If any of YOU, who are reading this post, have traveled with us, or are
interested in development, have any questions about our work/decisions
or have ideas for how we can further improve our work, we’d be happy to
hear them.  Feel free to write us an email or add comments/questions
below. Remember, KEEN will provide a
pair of their fabulous socks each month to someone who writes a comment
on our Team Journal!  Help us generate more discussions on these topics
we feel passionate about, share your ideas to help make us a better
organization, and have a chance to have cool socks to keep your feet
warm this winter!  Or, come help us do all of these things IN Cambodia (where you won’t need the socks, but might want their sandals!).