WASIL FOUNDATION (Formerly CWCD – Established in 1992)
PRESCHOOL INTERVENTION FOR UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN:
A CONCEPT NOTE
Research has proven that a basic level of school readiness is required in order to settle and succeed in school. In Pakistan, the privileged children, especially in big cities, are provided such facilities in private pre-schools. However this skill is needed more in children from less privileged homes with no literary environment to help them get a head-start. Ideally, a research-based Head Start preschool program, especially designed for the less privileged children of the target area, is the preferred solution to the problem of high dropout and eventual failure of the school system. Many public schools have been adopted and have shown an improvement from where they started. Unfortunately, the local public school teachers are a product of the same archaic system, catering to the existing testing system, with very basic knowledge of today’s developments. This is a cycle and it needs to be broken. A system that is teacher friendly, and is so self explanatory that the teacher only acts as a facilitator and a tool to conduct the system, and has a minimal role, is one way out of this cycle; a method where the system has its own checks and balances and the key role of the teacher is minimized and instead, the student is empowered to learn.
A doctoral research was carried out by Dr. Shireen Zafarullah (1996) with Kot Bahawalbaksh as the universe for its rural sample. Adapted Boehm Cognitive Test Battery was used to find the competencies of children aged 3+ . Less-privileged children (especially the rural sample) showed numerous handicaps in pre-literacy skills, as compared to their privileged counterparts. A ‘Compensatory Enrichment Program’ was developed, implemented and tested (as part of CHEA/QHEA twinning project) in a public school in a Lahore slum (Basti Saiden Shah, Mian Mir village, Lahore).This Enrichment Program is now further specialized as UEP Umeed Enrichment Program.
When Wasil Foundation (formerly CWCD) initially adopted the public primary schools in the southern Punjab district of Bahawalnagar, the brick and mortar uplift successfully created a very conducive environment for the improvement in enrolment and retention. However the existing teaching methodology and materials used could not attract as many students or involve the community as was initially estimated. There was a clear need of a compensatory headstart preschool program to start with, that could provide the needed school readiness to the children of the area.
The above mentioned Enrichment Program has been fine tuned over the years as Umeed Enrichment Program and has been tested in three registered free trust schools (Umeed, Herbert, Amal School) for the less privileged children in Lahore. Weekly assessments, part of the governance plan, are carried out and results show a significant impact. When Wasil Foundation/CWCD decided to adopt public school in Bahawalnagar, it was decided to implement this program there. After upgrading the physical environment of the four schools adopted in the pilot project, the program was initiated in all four but due to shortage funds for hiring of trained teachers the program was restricted to two of them. This in fact helped establish comparison of the results with the other two schools. There was a marked improvement in enrolment in Nursery class and Zero dropout at the end of the academic year, in the two schools where the intervention was carried out.
The Preschool Intervention Plan
There is no formal provision for a preschool teacher in the adopted public schools, and even if there are children that enrol at this level, they are made to sit with other classes. Therefore one teacher trained in conducting the Umeed Enrichment Program will be employed per school to cater to this critical gap. A comprehensive enrichment package will be introduced, with its follow-up assessment system, conducted by the monitoring team.
Activities (Tools and techniques): A set of workbooks and readers for skill development will be provided to each child. The teacher will teach according to the given unit wise schedule and prepare the children to be ready for regular assessments. A set of Concept Flipbooks with the required assessment levels will be provided to the teacher to introduce essential concepts to the preschoolers. For language development , the teacher will be provided a cassette player, television and dvd player, along with video and audio cds to be incorporated in the daily teaching plan.
All the learning material is already prepared keeping in mind a very basic level of teacher training, so that even untrained teachers can understand and conduct the lesson plan.
Further details of planned activities
- A complete full days’ timetable. Daily lessons based on the prescribed UEP workbooks in English, Urdu, and Mathematics. Reading and Writing, Slate and Copy work, and Phonics
- Follow the concept flipbooks daily for half an hour along with its planned activities.
- Story time using reading, audio or video material
- At the end of the day the teacher reviews the day’s lessons to reinforce the learning outcomes of weekly unseen assessment and let the children complete their unfinished work.
- Assessments take place once a week
Parents meeting with a Concept Development program is held once a month
Monitoring and Evaluation
Assessment is an intrinsic part of the UEP is followed to the letter and spirit in the Lahore schools, on a weekly basis. However, due to logistical constraints, the schedule of assessments was modified for the village pilot project and is conducted on a monthly basis. The tests are designed and printed by experienced teachers in the Lahore based Umeed Teacher Training Institute and then transported and conducted by the coordination team.
This system of designing assessments, conducting the tests, tabulating the response and results, and updating the designs as needed is a very essential and part of the whole program. With enhanced resources, as budgeted in the plan, the village monitoring tests can be taken and analyzed on a weekly basis as is envisaged in the original plan.
Sustainability & Scalability
The UEP is a complete program, requiring very little training for teachers, and a reasonably priced teaching material. Its assessments are already in place.
The direct beneficiaries will initially be the preschool to class 1 entrants to school along with the parents who will be given concept training once a month at the PTA. Once school enrolment and retention improve, the community starts getting mobilized and aware of the need for quality education. This is the indirect benefit of the program.
There is a follow up program for the primary level children. This can be followed with a similarly tested program piloted in a Lahore partner school – the Umeed Empowered Learning program for primary classes. This can be implemented in the next phase. Its structure is also in place and ready for implementation in the government school environment.
Introduction Video In Urdu
Introduction Video In English