The Early Childhood, Family and Community Education Programme
Country Profile: Palestine
3,900,000 (2008 estimate; it is also estimated that as of 2003, 1,068,885 Palestinians were living in Israel)
Arabic (Hebrew and English also spoken by many)
|Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):|
60% (2003 estimate)
|Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)|
|Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) in Primary Education|
|Programme Title||The Early Childhood, Family and Community Education Programme|
|Implementing Organization||The Trust of Programmes for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education|
|Language of Instruction||Arabic|
|Programme Partners||The German Ministry of Cooperation (BMZ), Caritas (Germany), Misereor, Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland, The Suisse Friends of Kiriat Yearim , The Harris Foundation (USA), The Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation (USA)|
Context and Background
The economy of Palestine (East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip) has been severely damaged by the long-standing and ongoing conflict with Israel. Apart from the physical damage, production has virtually stopped, with some reports suggesting that about 85% of industries have been closed or are operating at less than 20% capacity. Consequently, the employment rates stands at less than 50% and the economy is virtually sustained by international aid. The combined effects of the ongoing war and economic collapse have forced two thirds of Palestinians to live below the poverty line, with limited access to basic social services such as healthcare, education and secure livelihoods.
In an effort to promote access to education and general socio-economic development, a group of Palestinian educators and social workers established The Trust of Programme for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education Programme (The Trust) in 1984 as a non-profit NGO. The Trust primarily endeavours to: (1) develop and maintain the Palestinian identity; (2) improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people; and (3) promote social responsibility, community empowerment and development among Palestinians in Israel and the Palestinian territories through holistic, intergenerational and community/family-based educational and leadership training programmes. Currently, the Trust is operating various but integrated programmes related to early childhood education (ECE), health and civic education (e.g. parenting, human rights and non-violent conflict resolution), vocational skills training and leadership training for professionals and para-professionals such as teachers and community leaders, respectively. More specifically, the Trust is currently implementing the following programmes:
The Mother-to-Mother Programme: the programme supports and strengthens the parenting skills of mothers (and fathers), empowering parents, individually and collectively, to be effective members of society at both family and community levels. The programme thus covers a variety of themes including: early childhood development, childcare, health, nutrition, pre-school education and social commitment and responsibility. To enhance its effectiveness and efficiency, the programme is tailored to the specific cultural context, and para-professionals are trained to provide ongoing training assistance to other community members through a Home Visitation Programme. The programme has proved to be the cornerstone of other programmes being implemented by the Trust and, most importantly, it has also been adopted by the RAA in Essen (Germany) to promote the integration of Arab emigrants into the city.
The Learn-by-Play Programme: this is the cornerstone of the integrated community-based programmes being operated by the Trust and is constituted to promote lifelong learning. The programme aims to promote literacy skills development as well as to enhance academic performance among young people by reducing school drop-out rates and by ameliorating learning difficulties arising from the challenging situation under which Palestinian children live. Under the programme, young volunteers are trained to be mentors of children with learning difficulties.
- The Young Women Empowerment and Prevention of Early Marriage Programme: the programme endeavours to use education as an instrument to foster the development of positive personalities, self-awareness and self-confidence among schoolgirls and young women as well as to reverse the trend of early marriages by raising family and community awareness about the (negative) consequences of such social practices. The programme also gives young women who dropped out of school an opportunity to resume and continue with their education. In tandem with the Mother-to-Mother Programme, this programme has encouraged parents to consent to having their daughters go out of the house to learn, work and get enrolled in other programme activities being implemented by the Trust.
- The Women Empowerment Programme: supports women to be qualified, constructive and proactive partners in community development activities. To this end, the programme provides women with relevant skills necessary to initiate programmes and services in their communities. The programme first started as a module within the Mother-to-Mother Programme but has been a stand-alone programme since 1996.
- The Combating Domestic Violence Programme: the programme emerged out of the increasing incidences of domestic violence against women and children. Recently a family counselling centre was established in Biddo, the first of its kind, which seeks to combat domestic violence by equipping couples with necessary skills, values and technical know-how to face the challenges of family violence as well as to resolve conflicts peacefully. In addition, it also seeks to raise public awareness on the rights of women and children and the social dangers of domestic violence.
- The Teachers Training Programme: trains pre-school teachers and supports them in their work with children, parents and the community. This is intended to enhance the professional competencies of pre-school teachers as well as to increase parental involvement in the education of their children.
- International Palestinian Child Initiative (IPCI): The Trust and Icdi in Holland have established the International Palestinian Child Initiative (IPCI) to empower local communities to create supportive environments for children’s well-being and development by marshaling forces, resources, expertise and commitment both within the Palestinian NGOs and the international human development community.
These programmes emerged out of and are therefore tailored to address the diverse and practical needs of Palestinian communities living in a context of ongoing conflict. Although the programmes are intended to benefit entire families, women and children are particularly targeted because they are more vulnerable to the ongoing violence as well as to the patriarchal social systems under perpetual stress and poverty. In addition, as in most societies, women and children are also principal agents of community development and social change.
In order to enhance effective community empowerment as well as the sustainability of its programmes, the Trust works closely with community-based organisations (CBOs) and municipalities. Typically, The Trust provides initial training and funding for project development. Thereafter, the communities are encouraged to be actively involved and to take primary responsibility in programme implementation with support and assistance from professional staff provided by the Trust.
This report analyses the Learn-by-Play Programme in greater detail.
The Learn-by-Play Programme
The Learn-by-Play Programme was first launched in Jerusalem in 1996 in response to some schools’ request for a literacy programme for its students, many of whom had literacy problems. Preliminary studies before the launch of the programme had revealed that 85% of students with literacy problems were from extremely poor communities, where school drop-out rates and the functional illiteracy rate among those who managed to reach high school were very high. In addition, literacy problems were also due to low levels of parental support and involvement in the education of their children as well as the lack of adequate resources and high student-to-teacher ratios in most community schools. As a result, while parents lacked the literacy capacity to support their children’s education, the schools were neither well-prepared for nor responsive to the children’s needs, which caused feelings of alienation among those children. Therefore, the Trust decided to work with children from elementary school level, mainly in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades, in order to build bridges between the school and community environment as well as to develop children’s literacy skills in a non-formal environment.
The programme is currently being implemented in most rural areas and poor urban communities across Palestine including the Bedouin areas, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Negev area. A number of community stakeholders - primarily schools, children and families - are involved in programme implementation.
Aims and Objectives
The programme endeavours to:
- reduce illiteracy rates among students,
- improve the levels of literacy and educational achievement among students from grades 2, 3 and 4 by providing stimulating learning conditions and adequate learning resources as well as by bridging between the school and the community,
- train young women and college students (volunteers) to be professional educational mentors and tutors of younger students,
- to promote community empowerment through lifelong learning,
- prevent elementary schoolchildren from dropping out of the educational system due to lack of resources, overcrowded classrooms, lack of parental involvement /support and shortage of professional manpower,
- encourage parents to be actively involved in the education their children,
- network with local organisations in order to pool resources for the promotion of child education,
- enrol teachers involved in the programme in ongoing study workshops in order to enhance their professionalism,
- offer students a chance to utilise their idle time and gain proper understanding of community issues as well as help them in their studies.
Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies
The programme is based on holistic and intergenerational or integrative principles to educational training and thus targets parents (mostly mothers), teachers, young volunteers and children (learners). To enhance effectiveness as well as to maintain its relevance within the broader educational system, the Learn-by-Play programme is based on simplified and easy-to-understand modules or work papers which are adapted from the official school curriculum. In addition, the programme is also integrated into other programmes, particularly the Mother-to-Mother and the Teachers Training programmes.
Parental involvement in the programme is premised on the fact that a child deserves to live in a healthy family environment in order to benefit from parental educational support so as to realise his or her full intellectual potential. The programme therefore works in close partnership with students’ parents and other community members in order to encourage them to actively participate in the education of their children. Close teacher-parent partnership is also critical in bridging the school and community environments which, in turn, enables teachers and parents to support children’s educational process. To this end, parent-teacher progress meetings are held on a monthly basis to assess children’s progress. In addition, the families take part in programme planning and monitoring and as such, they are not only recipients of information but are also full partners in the implementation of the programme.
Recruitment and Training of Trainers
The implementation of the programme is facilitated by volunteer facilitators and tutors who act as educational mentors (‘big sisters’) to children in elementary classes within their communities. On average, the programme recruits and trains a total of 50 young women tutors per year but ‘older’ trained facilitators are allowed to continue with the programme if they are still interested. Facilitators are recruited from within their communities and should have at least a high school education and be self-motivated. Increasingly, college students are volunteering to train and work as facilitators.
Following an intensive five-day (22-hour) training course, the facilitators are obliged to attend bi-weekly in-house training workshops in order to enrich their knowledge and expertise in a variety of subjects such as communications and interview skills as well as to share and learn from others’ in-the-field experiences. Overall, facilitators receive training in basic school curriculum, the child-centred methodologies and principles of the Learn-by-Play programme, child development, childrens’ rights and learning difficulties.
After training, the tutors work with groups of 7 or 8 students, facilitating three-hour-long lessons two days a week.
The children are chosen to participate in the programme through a needs assessment process undertaken by schoolteachers and according to their school achievement. As implied by the programme title, learning is facilitated mainly through play. Accordingly, the programme emphasises teaching methodologies that stimulate the playful but educative creativeness of children such as didactic games, drama, debates and song and dance. The use of these child-centred methodologies replaces rigid teacher-centred learning approaches and offers students opportunities to express themselves freely and creatively in a friendly environment that fosters easy comprehension of the subject concepts. In addition, the strategies are also critical in motivating students to continue attending school and the Learn-by-Play programme. They are also important in building functional social relationships between (1) the students themselves; (2) the students and their tutors; and (3) the students, tutors and the entire community.
Games are also complemented by simplified curriculum-based study materials / manuals and illustrative study aides such as audio-visuals, newsletters and magazines as well as formal training and counselling workshops and community meetings.
Project Impact and Challenges
Programme evaluation is undertaken on an ongoing basis through periodic reports and meetings (usually after every three months) between programme coordinators, tutors, teachers and parents. In addition, facilitators also compile weekly students’ progress reports which, together with the parent-teacher meetings, are used to assess the overall student progress and impact and challenges of the programme. The Home Visitation programme component enables programme coordinators and tutors to get direct feedback from parents as well as to assess the role of parents in the education of their children. Finally, schools also provide essential feedback on the performance of programme students.
Impact / Achievement
- The programme has had a great influence on the educational system in Palestine primarily because it specifically addresses the children’s learning needs through the involvement of the entire community. Many schools have also requested The Trust to involve their students in the programme. For example, during 2008, two new community schools in the Negev and two new groups in Jerusalem became involved in the programme. As a result, more than 544 Palestinian students have been directly trained since the inception of the programme while about 400 others have benefited ‘indirectly’ through their family networks with programme students.
- The programme has led to noticeable improvements in the literacy skills (reading, writing, numeracy and language skills) of 75% of programme participants. In this context, one parent said, “I thought that my son has limited abilities and started to accept that, but today nothing brings more joy than seeing the school’s grades report.” Improved literacy abilities have enabled participants to gain self-esteem and confidence.
- The programme has also reduced school drop-outs rates among children. In addition, given that the programme is implemented during non-school times, it has also acted to combat deviant behaviour among some children (for example taking children off the streets).
- The programme has promoted close partnerships between parents and schoolteachers and this has served to enhance parental interest in and support of their children’s educational needs.
- The programme’s Home Visitation component and community meetings have promoted social networking for community development.
- The programme gave the tutors and volunteers a sense of belonging to their communities as productive and valued members. It also enhanced their professional skills which they could build up in pursuit of formal employment. One tutor said, “I am now more aware on how to deal with my pupils and how to identify their needs.”
Despite the huge demand for the programme from new areas and new schools as well as from old participating schools wishing to enrol more students, programme expansion is hindered by lack of adequate funding and trained professionals. The Trust is currently attempting to attract new professionals to join the programme and to recruit more tutors to support programme implementation.
- The Mother-to-Mother Programme. URL: http://www.unesco.org/education/en/literacy/EO_Palestinian%20territories.pdf
- The Trust of Programs for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education. URL: http://www.trust-programs.org/index.php. (See in particular the Annual report, 2006-07. URL: http://www.trust-programs.org/src/reports/Annual.pdf)
Mr. Farid Abu Gosh
Tel. +972 (02) 6260836
Fax: +972 (02) 6260837
Email: User: trust
Host: (at) trust-programs.org