VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Palestinian education: Improving teacher by teacher
October 28, 2013 by The IRC
|A teacher trained in the International Rescue Committee's "Healing Classroooms" approach works with students in his West Bank classroom. Photo: Ned Colt/IRC|
By Ingrid Colanero
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Our program may be comparatively small and new by IRC standards, but I believe our team is making a big difference to Palestinian children in the West Bank. In two years of programming, we have already reached 7,000 primary school children.
We started our work in the West Bank in the summer of 2011, when we partnered with the British organization Bidna Capoeira to provide capoeira training to dozens of Palestinian children over the summer months. Capoeira promotes physical and social wellbeing, something Palestinian children certainly appreciated.
Starting that autumn, with the support of a single, dedicated donor, we began work in West Bank schools by training some teachers and principals in our Healing Classrooms methodology. The program is used in many of the 40 countries where the IRC works, but it’s particularly well-suited to the Palestinian context.
The IRC’s own analysis shows that teachers often lack the skills, knowledge, and motivation to ensure safe learning environments, promote non-violence, and model positive behavior. A study we undertook in 2010 determined that the Palestinian educational system was suffering, that children weren’t living up to their potential, and were effectively passive bystanders in their own education. Healing Classrooms engages not only teachers, but students and their parents in the educational process. In the West Bank Healing Classrooms curriculum, we incorporated lessons from New York's Tanenbaum Center on student engagement and improved collaboration in the classroom.
When teachers use Healing Classrooms, the difference is obvious. A stick is used as a pointer at the chalkboard rather than a tool to control students. Children often work together in small teams to solve problems posed by the teacher, and the teacher is less a pedagogue than a guide. As one teacher who took the IRC training says, “My students now have the capability to participate in in the educational process, they are no longer just receptors.” Another mentioned that because her students helped design classroom rules, they are more motivated to abide by them. “I’ve started motivating my students to think in creative ways, and to participate more in class,” she said.
This fall, we’re moving in new directions in our education programming. As a part of our Healing Classrooms program, we’re ramping up reading skills. Effective reading instruction is crucial for children to become successful learners. We may only be active in 20 schools in the district of Ramallah, but I’m proud to say we are having an increasing impact—and it’s all positive.
Ingrid Colanero directs International Rescue Committee programs in the Palestinian Territories. Ingrid has worked in humanitarian development for more than six years.