For three days, the staff of all BOOKBRIDGE learning centers in Cambodia gathered for the third time for a joint workshop. During the biannual “All Learning Center Staff Workshop”, we discussed the fellowship program, Vision 2020 for our learning centers, the Learning Center Quality Framework, and challenges the centers are facing.
The workshop lasted from 1st to 3rd July with 12 participants from five learning centers plus the country and global support teams. Besides the main topics mentioned above, we also reviewed our objectives set for 2016 during the last workshop, shared our best practices and learned the key takeaways Vannak Pen from learning center Tonloab had collected during his visit to Franconian International School in Germany.
Sharing and discussing learning center’s best practices
Sothika Khoeun and Vannak Pen, Heads of Learning Centers Angtasom and Tonloab, led the session by sharing their best practices in terms of paid course offerings, free activity offerings, and library management. This was followed by all Heads of Learning Centers sharing and discussing their best practices:
- recruiting the right qualified staff to support the daily work of HoLCs (librarian and full-time teachers) who have connections to local authorities and local education institutions
- focusing on kindergarten offerings
providing free English classes in primary schools once a week by volunteer teachers from around the area to promote the center’s social activities as well as to market the paid course offerings
- offering free supplementary classes for slow learners
- monitoring teacher performance in a constructive way
promoting the learning center’s work and image in the community by working closer with local authorities, state schools and the community through activities and projects
- improving communication with alumnis of our Capability Program to initiate projects for further developing the learning centers
- conducting self-assessment
Vannak’s learnings from Franconian International School
As first Cambodian Head of Learning Center to visit BOOKBRIDGE partner Franconian International School (FIS) in Germany, Vannak shared his training experiences with his fellow Heads of Learning Center and presented the innovations he has implemented at his learning center after returing from his trip. Compared to FIS, Vannak said that his learning center lacks materials and tools to implement engaging student-centered teaching methods. He added that students at FIS are more disciplined in the library and in class than his students. After returning to Cambodia, Vannak conducted a series of meetings with teachers and together they agreed to structure each teaching session into four sub-sessions/rooms: core English based on textbook, drawing, entertainment, and practicing by playing.
Facilitated by Program Support Officer Yourngchantreara “Ra” Sao, the learning centers created a list of benefits the fellowship program brings to the centers and developed a list of suggestions for improving it. Lists were then signed by everyone to ensure their ownership and responsibility over the program and to implement key changes. This ideally will help increase the contributions of the fellowship program towards sustainable outcomes for the learning centers in areas such as course quality, management and leadership, business competitiveness and profitability, sustainability and impact, etc.
Teacher Observation Exercise
Facilitated by Country Development Manager Monika Nowaczyk, the participants did a teacher observation exercise. The goal was to show the importance of teacher observation and how to do it effectively and constructively. In addition to the lesson plan teachers are expected to prepare, the Heads of Learning Centers are encouraged to implement teacher observations on a regular basis and ideally integrate it into their curriculum.
Learning center course quality framework
Monika also led he next topic, quality in education. She first asked the participants to imagine what good and bad quality in education looks like. Then participants split in groups and drew two pictures to compare good and bad education quality. This was followed by thinking of quality education standards that students, teachers and learning centers alike should have and follow. Then everybody received small pieces of paper containing ideas that had to be grouped into four categories namely (1) ideas already being implemented at the learning center; (2) ideas that they found great and that need to be implemented as soon as possible; (3) ideas that are great but hard to implement due to a lack of resources or knowhow; (4) ideas that apparently are not useful or necessary at all.
All inputs and ideas will be reviewed together with those coming from our learning centers in Mongolia and Sri Lanka as well as from other stakeholders such as the BOOKBRIDGE Board, Global Support Team and former fellows. Based on the results, we will develop a BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Quality Framework and share it with the learning centers. Also, we will create a BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Self-Assessment Checklist until the next staff workshop.
To support our learning centers in implementing it, we will develop a support mechanism to help them to achieve education quality standards. We also plan to create other quality improvement programs such as BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Processional Development Stipend Program, BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Student Scholarships, and BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Quality Improvement Funds. The learning centers are encouraged to develop their own proposals and projects and to request funding by BOOKBRIDGE Quality Improvement Funds.
BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020
Facilitated by Country Manager Sokhan Khut, the staff reviewed our BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center Vision 2020. This counted especially for the 10 characteristics our learning centers are to have in 2020 as compared to those of today. The vision 2020 is designed to give centers the strategic direction for their objectives for this year.
When asked which impact or change they want to see in their community and especially in their students as a result of the vision, they answered that students
- take initiatives and do projects to solve community problems
become clever, brave and knowledgeable citizens in the community
connect themselves with the outside world (people in the capital and abroad)
- read a lot and perceive reading as part of their life
- having studied at our learning centers can find jobs everywhere else
- are able to communicate in English especially with foreigners
- Parents have trust and confidence in learning centers
- students become a role model and inspiration in the community, etc.
Reviewing 2016 learning center objectives & action plan
To ensure that the objectives set during the 2nd All Learning Center Staff Workshop will lead to the realization of the Learning Center Vision 2020, participants discussed the suitability and practicality of the objective-setting form given and the checklist to monitor the progress of their action plan and objectives. Some changes were made to the form and everyone agreed on a common checklist. Objectives and action plan will be reviewed at the next staff workshop that will take place in six months.
Challenges of our learning centers
Key challenges the learning centers are facing were discussed in groups to find possible solutions. Some of the challenges were
- learning Centers do not have adequate staff mainly due to financial constraints
- students retention and drop-out
- fierce competition from other private and NGO schools
- teachers lack technical knowledge of students-centered methodologies or teachers fail to apply their knowledge
- of students-centered teaching methods
- learning Centers lack teaching materials
- learning Centers do not have sufficient classrooms, etc.
During the open discussion, everybody shared their feelings about the workshop and its outcomes. One staff member from learning center Takeo said that her parents and friends don´t have a good perception of her work at the center as she does not seem to be better off materially. Nevertheless, she said she still loves working at the center and doesn´t want to leave. She added that she was hoping for a higher salary and job promotion.
Head of Learning Center Tani said that he felt overwhelmed with the workload when he set up the learning center. Head of Learning Center Tonloab added that it is very hard for him to lead and manage his learning center in the right way as he doesn´t have enough staff to do the work. The librarian from learning center Angtasom said that at the beginning he was confused with the fact that the center charges a course fee but is a social enterprise. It took him a while to understand the purpose of it and is now able to explain it to other people.
The atmosphere of the entire workshop was generally positive. Everyone participated with enthusiasm and courage to ask questions and to challenge others’ points of view in a constructive way. During the common meals, we could further improve our bonds and friendship. The staff is encouraged to keep on communicating with each other after the workshop to further discuss and share their experiences, ideas and approaches. The workshop has definitely empowered all participants and given them opportunities to learn thinking more critically of their own problems and challenges and how to better figure out solutions that work for their respective learning centers.