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 Childrens day donate
13 Jan 2018
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20% discount for returning volunteers

When I contacted the Mirror Foundation last year to inquire about opportunities for volunteering, they suggested that as a professional of early childhood education I might like to offer some training for the teachers of theFree Schools project. This interesting option was one I was glad to agree to.

The Mirror Foundation as the partner of the International Free School Movement in Thailand has set up 10 free schools and finances the wages of the teachers. Whereas education in Thailand is mandatory and financed by the government, the children of several hill tribe communities do not have access to schooling.

In some cases the government will finance the primary school, but not give enough funds to run an Anubaan (Kindergarten) class., so the foundation employs a teacher for the Anubaan. In other cases the foundation has responded to the requests of the villagers and started small one-­‐classroom schools which then usually are attended by children of a variety of ages between 3 and 10, as the next school is too far away and these children would otherwise receive no schooling at all.Luckily, if the school is successful and the children have learnt enough Thai to be taught by a Thai teacher, the government can often be convinced to take over the school in due time.

During the first week of my stay at the foundation, I had the possibility to visit seven of the ten schools together with the team of the Free Schools project and some of the interns of the foundation. This possibility to have direct insight into the situation of the teachers was a great help for preparing relevant contents for the workshop.

The teachers of the free schools face a lot of problems regarding the infrastructure of their school, for example no outside playing area and no fence around the school to deter younger children from wandering off. Also there may be limited access to toilet facilities, clean drinking water, desks or chairs. At the same time the teachers face challenges regarding class management and teaching resources.

Whereas two or three of the classes have been in the free school programme for some years and have managed to acquire suitable materials and games for children of Kindergarten age, others have toget by on a jumble of donated books, the greater part of which is not suitable for the age group of the pupils. Also the children are not yet accustomed to attending school. They will come irregularly and if they find class boring, they might opt to go and play outside instead. This problem stems partly from the fact that the teachers have to teach children of a wide age span with little or no appropriate teaching resources. What would bea daunting perspective for experienced teachers is even more so for the mostly young and barely trained teachers.

During the second week of my stay, nine of the ten free school teachers and two teachers of another NGO attended a three-­‐day workshop at the foundation.

The infrastructural aspects, although crucial for successful teaching, were not ones we could address during the workshop. But Mirror Foundation is aware of the problems and trying to find solutions for these issues together with the involved schools.The focus of the workshop was on questions of class management and teaching resources.

On the first day, Mrs. Damaris from the Khom Loy Montessori Preschoolin Chiang Rai presented the main aspects of the Montessori Philosophy and emphasized the necessity to take an individual view of each child and not compare the children. She was also able to address many of the behavioral issues that the free schools teachers are confronted with in their class rooms.

On the second day we focused on teaching methods and resources. Teaching methods included learning by visualising as a crucial step for the children, for example in mathematics to supply enough objects for the children to be able to match objects with numerals or physically represent their sums. Also in reading and writing and arts & crafts I encouraged the teachers to let the children experiment with their various senses.

Another issue was to make use of other forms of learning than rote learning in the whole class , namely to let the children work in smaller groups and also encourage them to find solutions to questions by themselves. Seeing the large span regarding age and knowledge in a class it will be a necessity for satisfactory teaching that the teachers can accustom the children to some more self-­‐reliant forms of learning. At the same time it means that the teacher must install new rules and methods by building them up step by step.

Even with scarce funding, it is possible to produce suitable teaching resources using easily available materials, such as sheets of plastic cardboard. During the workshop the teachers had the opportunity to acquaint themselves with several such resources and also prepare some for their own use.

On the third day we had the opportunity to visit a school and work with a school class, employing some of the teaching resourcesof the previous day. The teachers also had meetings with the director of the foundation and the staff of the Free School-­‐programme before they started their lengthy journey home.

The teachers were a very attentive and interested audience and welcomedall ideas and tips that can help them in their day to day work. This was only a small step in a long process of building these small schools and I hope the work can be continued . Being able to make such a direct and relevant contribution was a very satisfying volunteering experience.

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