A successful programme that has helped 27,000 young children has been recognised with a major United Nations prize.
Early learning teachers in Ghana are transforming the way thousands of very young children are being taught.
More than 27,000 children have been given the chance of quality early childhood education thanks to a groundbreaking teacher-training programme.
It's been so successful that it has won the 2018 UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize, which supports the improvement of teaching and learning quality and comes with a $100,000 prize.
“The methodology has had a positive impact on both the teachers and the pupils," said Sister Agnes Gyimah, Head Teacher of OLA Kindergarten Centre of Excellence.
"Teachers perform excellently in the classroom. The children are happy and interact with each other.”
The programme is called Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme and is run by the charity Sabre Education. It is drawn directly from Ghana’s government strategy and is a critical part of the country’s efforts to provide quality early childhood education for every girl and boy.
Sabre Education works in two regions of southern Ghana to build a brighter future for marginalised and disadvantaged children aged four and five.
Dominic Bond, the charity's CEO, said: “Our programme is an innovative approach to enhancing the quality of early years education in Ghana.”
The West African country has been trying to scale up quality kindergarten for the past five years - and in doing so, realised that a major weakness was the absence of a qualified workforce to teach at that level.
So Ghana Education Service partnered with OLA and Holy Child Colleges of Education and Sabre Education to implement the teacher-training programme in the Central and Western regions.
Now their teachers receive the correct training to implement the government’s new child-centred, active and play-based kindergarten methodology.
Dora Opare-Anakwa is a Sabre Education-trained teacher at Dompoase Kindergarten School. She said: “The first difference is the confidence of the children. Before they wouldn’t dare ask questions but now the children feel free to talk to you.
“The other thing is curiosity. Their curiosity is high. If you change something in the classroom, they will notice. They ask me what is this? What is this for?
“We urge them to be more interactive with their environment. When they are at their play centres (shopping, construction, home etc) you can interact with them in that environment. We try to be a guide for them in the classroom.
Through the programme I have learned how to manage my students’ behaviour in the classroom better.
“Some of the children are now in Primary Class 4. The extent of their reading is higher than those who were taught in traditional methods. Because they were taken through the phonics programme, they were able to combine sounds in words.”
Teachers are supporting children to develop the "five Cs" - confidence, communication, cooperation, curiosity, concentration - as the foundation of early grade literacy, numeracy and creativity. And it's all done in a child-friendly and non-threatening learning environment.
Student teachers are also exposed to the best practices, giving them the confidence and capacity to enact the teaching methodology as newly qualified teachers.
"Through the programme I have learned how to manage my students’ behaviour in the classroom better," said Grace Owusu, a student teacher at OLA College of Education.
Sister Elizabeth Amoako-Arhen, Principal of OLA College of Education, adds: “Having gone through this programme for the last five or six years, I strongly feel that every early childhood college should be exposed to it.”
Since 2013, the Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme has trained 21 tutors as master trainers from OLA and Holy Child colleges. They in turn have delivered training to 950 teachers, head teachers and student teachers.
The programme has also provided training to 60 Ghana Education Service Officers to support and monitor these teachers in their classrooms.
Bond said he hopes the UNESCO-Hamdan prize will enable Sabre Education to “fund the expansion of the programme to a national network of colleges to foster networks of high-quality classroom practices in government kindergarten schools”.
The prize is awarded every two years to projects that have made outstanding contributions to improving the quality of teaching and learning, especially in developing countries or within marginalised or disadvantaged communities.
Theirworld’s work on early childhood development is supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.