I am reminded of some lyrics from a Darrell Evans song: “I am pressed but not crushed… struck down but not destroyed“.
I am feeling pressed and struck down by traditional, possibly colonial approaches to education in Uganda. Five years ago I taught grammar and comprehension to primary-leaving pupils in a Ugandan government school. For pupils who struggled to read and write, I was following the curriculum and teaching them complex grammar structures and comprehension.
This year I am excited, but a little daunted, that we are beginning a nursery teacher’s training college to help future teachers so our children will no longer have difficulties at the end of primary. I sat down this afternoon to take a look at curriculum planning and end of year exams (set by one of the national universities) and when I read two of the papers my heart just dropped (or actually sped up). The first half of the ‘Language Development and Teaching’ paper is just like an end of primary English paper, full of ‘fill in the blanks’ grammar questions, rewrite the sentence using a different sentence structure and reading comprehension. How, oh how is this preparing teachers to teach language development to 3-6 year olds? And if this is what the paper looks like, this is certainly what teaching content looks like. There is no wonder that early childhood teachers graduate college not knowing how to teach reading and writing well and how to develop children’s language.
I have also included for your enjoyment a snippet of the ‘Teaching Mathematics to Young Children’ paper, set by the national university. Same deep gut feeling. The rest of the exam is very theory heavy questions with an early childhood focus. Rote learning teaching methods would probably help them pass, but I refuse to go down that path!
Now: to attempt a timetable that will balance preparing future early childhood teachers to pass these tests, as well as to help them be creative, inspiring, critical-thinking, reflective practitioners.