Perspectives

Project Overseas 2012

By Barbara MacDonald Moore
October 4, 2012

Successful New Focus Areas:

  • Peace education in post-conflict areas,
  • Literacy with local impact,
  • Gender equality that starts with girl-friendly schools, and
  • Inclusion that includes practical steps for special education

PO 2012 was extremely successful as Canadian teachers and co-tutors advanced these and related child-centred themes in 13 countries during July and August.

Thanks to CTF Member organizations, 53 Canadians from across Canada worked alongside co-tutors, provided in-service to 1,400 colleagues and engaged the interest of Ministries of Education, Canadian diplomats, the media and the public. National Teacher Organization partners drew enthusiastic members to well-organized programs as part of their services to members and expansion of quality education to marginalized areas.

The core of CTF International Programs remains strong with an enhanced role for Project Overseas (PO) and with a focus on other program areas. CTF continues to increase partner capacity as the recognized voice of teachers in their country. Professional development services provide undertrained members with skills to deliver quality education in diverse and challenging contexts. CTF international cooperation responds to changing needs, adapts to local contexts and enhances the skills and confidence of teachers in marginalized areas of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

“Special Education”: A focus for the Caribbean

Over many years, CTF has provided diverse support for capacity building and professional development in the Caribbean, strengthening autonomous and democratic teacher unions and increasing their professional services to members. Those Member organizations directly involved in those programs will recognize many achievements.

The quality of basic education has improved, teacher training is more comprehensive, women and girls have made great strides and a cadre of John Thompson “Fellows” are providing national and regional leadership across many sectors. Labour relations are more effective, communication and ICT have improved and child-centred learning practices are integrated into most teacher education programs. Previously fractious union/management relations have matured the voices of teachers are now respected.

Teacher training within many Caribbean islands now includes “Special Education”. This has brought an appetite for practical application, new teaching techniques support and ways to “catch-up” with Canadian practices. After a successful pilot PO Program in Jamaica in 2011, PO 2012 provided Special Education Institutes in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados. Teachers are applauding the program as timely, especially as Universal Secondary Education has been implemented in the region, bringing diverse skills, aptitudes and attitudes that are challenging classroom teachers.

    The “Advocate”, a national newspaper in Barbados reports that “the Minister of Education and Human Resource Development commends the Barbados Union of Teachers and CTF for bringing this agenda onboard” and that “the nation will soon have more teachers who are certified in critical areas of special education.” In Trinidad, the Ministry of Education used their opening address at the Institute to announce a new unit that will “seek to professionalize teaching and establish a system of development in the Ministry of Education”. Similar changes are taking place in Jamaica, and in all three countries, the teacher unions are receiving high praise and recognition for their initiative and action in this area. Partnerships with government and other education stakeholders ensure sustainability of the projects and improved status and remuneration for teachers.

CTF is seeking additional funding to maximize the program and ensure sustainability. Canadian teachers with experience in provincial and territorial Inclusion practices are encouraged to apply for PO through their teacher organization.

PO2012 in Africa: two examples

Peace Education in Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) is playing a vital role in the recovery of their country following the devastation of many years of civil war. Member organizations may recall that PO alumni played a role in sustaining confidence and hope with ongoing messages of support during the war, which helped empower SLTU as a player in ending the war. Professional development of teachers in partnership with CTF is now a key part of recovery.

Rural schools were especially ravaged and for a number of years untrained and undertrained teachers have received basic training through PO, which they share with colleagues. As well, SLTU and CTF have worked together in developing and implementing a Peace Education curriculum, which now includes support from the Ministry of Education. Peace Education modules on gender equality and non-violent conflict resolution are being piloted in clusters of schools by teachers and School Heads who receive PD through Project Overseas. This whole-school approach is being closely monitored and supported by SLTU, and results are very encouraging. School heads are reporting that the project has entirely changed the way their schools deal with discipline, and other reports show that positive changes in the schools are spilling out into the community.

Uganda

Project Overseas in Uganda is the centrepiece of a literacy program undertaken by the Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU). The Canadian PO team worked alongside Tutors from Bulera College in Hoima to deliver the program to selected teachers who in 2012 received the second round of the three-year program. The program is designed to establish a cadre of PD Facilitators to deliver PD to classroom teachers in the Bulera region of western Uganda, chosen because it is lagging behind the rest of the country in literacy acquisition.

As part of the training program PD Facilitators use their newly acquired skills and knowledge to deliver PD to 100 teachers during the final week of each year’s training. A manual was drafted this year that will be piloted by the Facilitators throughout the year under the guidance of the Bulera College Turtors. The ongoing support and monitoring of the program by UNATU and Bulera College will ensure the sustainability and broad reach of the program well into the future.

In addition, Uganda’s “TAG” Project (Teachers’ Action for Girls) started as an EFA Project and has become a successful pilot for integrating the need for girl-friendly schools into all PD programs. Ugandan teachers have shown that campaigns for girls’ education are highly strengthened where schools are safe, healthy and nurturing for girl students.

* The Caribbean still uses the concept of “Special Education”, which is in line with Canada’s approach to inclusion in the mid-1970s.

Barbara MacDonald Moore is the Director of the International Programs of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

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Perspectives web magazine is published by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations that represent over 238,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

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