Latest update from Lydia– Redearth volunteer and UK teacher who recently completed her MSc in Comparative and International Education at Oxford University.
Last month, Redearth volunteer Kate and I invited headteachers and upper-school teachers from six schools for a Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) ‘focus group’.
The release of examination results, whether in the UK or Uganda, is often a media event. Needless to say, when the PLE results were published in January, the news was blaring from the radio and on the front of every paper.
These results decide who can continue to secondary education and beyond – and show which primary schools perform best. The pressure can be immense. One headteacher assured me results would definitely improve this year – with around 100 pupils per class in P1-6, they had let ‘too many’ move from P6 to P7 last year. This year, having let only 20 move up to P7, they were sure of more success! Schools with electricity keep P7s in class for over 12 hours a day; almost all have extra classes after school and on weekends. Even the best P7 teachers are tempted to turn to lecture-mode to cram information from seven years of content-heavy curriculum, and P7 pupils are given a constant diet of past papers.
Despite these efforts (or, in some cases, because of them), the results for many schools remain poor. During our focus group meeting, we discussed the problems schools are having, and how it is especially important to involve P7s actively in their learning if they are to remember or understand more!
Most of the training focused on one strategy to support better revision – mind mapping. Using examples of we had prepared, we discussed how mind maps could help pupils revise (especially compared to the dense notes copied into their exercise books) and tried a variety of activities to use in class (such as mind map relays or pupils making quiz questions in common PLE question types). Participants also created their own mind maps for curriculum topics – quite a challenge, especially since the same topic can be covered in over several school years.
All of the participants were very enthusiastic during the training and when we next saw them in school! Many P7 teachers were already starting to make mind maps with their pupils, and were looking forward to receiving the mind maps Kate and I are printing for them.
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