Ilana Barnett from London volunteered at our learning center in Siem Reap, Cambodia being sent from our partner organization About Asia Schools. In this post, she describes her impressions about the center and how the educational offerings can be improved.
I spent about three weeks volunteering at BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center and teaching Grade 7 classes at the high school where the learning center is located. The learning center itself has a library with an amazing collection of books for all reading levels both fiction, non-fiction and reference.
As a volunteer at the learning center, I was expected to provide educational games and activities to the users of the library. This in itself is an extremely tough challenge as children come to the library at different times and often only spend about fifteen minutes in between classes. Sometimes if a teacher is absent the children will spend their time in the library. The differences in English levels of the children also adds to the difficulty.
One of the first things that I did was to create a short survey and to assess the language levels of the library users. The majority of the children are beginners/elementary with a few at intermediate level and the rest in between. The survey asked the children what sort of activities they would be happy to join in at the library such as vocabulary practice, writing practice, reading practice (one to one and group), grammar, art projects, group discussions and one to one. The results seem to depend on age with the younger students (Grades 7 and 8) wanting reading practice, vocabulary and art projects and the older students wanting reading practice, discussion groups and one to one sessions. All in all there seems to be a demand for such sessions at the library.
I understand the problems of scheduling these sessions but I think it could be done on a limited basis and developed and refined over time depending on the popularity of the sessions. It would be good to get a timetable set up with some sessions scheduled and the schedule put in each of the classes and on the message board outside the library door. I think if the children know that something is happening in the library they will have more reason to come to the library. It will probably be a very gradual process but I do think it would work in the long term, as the children are willing to learn.
The library itself is such a brilliant resource, it would be great to use it to its maximum potential. The books themselves can be used to initiate discussions as well as practising reading and pronunciation and also as a starting point for projects.
Overall I do think that the library has started on a very positive note and is thriving on the enthusiasm and hard work of its staff and students but that by introducing a more structured system the library would become even more successful and more beneficial for the students and at the same time make the best use of its volunteers.