Timorese youth, making up more than half of the country's population, often turn to gangs and violence amid high unemployment, poverty, and low quality education. In April 2013, Ba Futuru ("for the future") began a three-year project to improve the quality of two secondary schools: Nicolau Lobato, an urban school located in Dili, and 99 Atauro Secondary School, the only high school on the remote, rural Atauro Island. Ba Futuru is working closely with the Ministry of Education in hopes that, after three years, the government will begin to take over and scale up the project to other high schools around the country.
In order to engage students and provide a quality, relevant education, the High Schools Transformation Project (HSTP) comprises seven core components:
- Teacher training to help instructors become role models in the classroom, teach more effectively, and use positive discipline. The project will provide five days of training annually that focus on participatory and child-centered teaching methods, classroom management, special needs, and learning materials. In addition, teachers will make trips to observe teachers at high-performing private schools. Each month, Ba Futuru will host national curriculum enhancement workshops to help teachers brainstorm classroom activities. The teacher training component will culminate in the creation of a teaching manual.
- Student clubs will help youth develop leadership, critical thinking, collaborative, and personal skills. Extracurricular activities include drama, sports, public speaking, and art. In addition, student councils will be trained in peer mediation to help combat school violence.
- A life skills curriculum will occupy a "free period" in the weekly schedule. The course will cover debate, leadership, gender-based violence, conflict resolution, resumé creation, and job skills.
- Good governance will be achieved through the creation of a project oversight board, involving representatives from the Ministry of Education and other education organizations, and school management committees that involve parents, students, school officials, and Ba Futuru staff. On an annual basis, school directors will receive leadership and management training. Annual parent meetings and student showcases will help relay the project's progress and educational importance to the community.
- A scholarship program will run for the last two years of the project and help finance an education for the most vulnerable students: girls, disabled children, students who live very far from school, etc.
- Infrastructure improvements will range from constructing and refurbishing basic amenities, like sanitation facilities and general classroom repairs, to libraries, subject classrooms, and IT labs. In partnership with VMware, an IT lab in each school will enhance basic research and ICT skills and address the multimedia component in the national curriculum. Both teachers and students will be trained to use the IT labs.
- An advocacy film tracking the progress of the project over three years will provide a how-to guide for government actors and other education stakeholders looking to scale and replicate the project.
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CEI approaches in action
Ba Futuru chose to focus on two schools with very high need in different environments to test the compatibility of the project in distinct settings. In addition, Ba Futuru chose schools with strong leadership and with which the organization already had an existing working relationship.
The number of teachers that will receive training also includes school administrators.
The project is narrowly focused on two schools with the objective that the Ministry of Education, with Ba Futuru's assistance, will adopt the HSTP model after three years and begin scaling and replicating it in other secondary schools.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The HSTP monitoring and evaluation process includes surveys, evaluations, and interviews that target all stakeholders: students, teachers, school directors, parents, and the surrounding communities. Annual surveys will be administered to students at both schools to gauge their overall educational experience, attitudes towards education, and effects of the infrastructure improvements. A baseline survey has already been completed by hundreds of students in each location that tracks how students feel about school, the challenges they face, effects of school violence, infrastructure needs, and other relevant data.
Teachers and school administrators will complete pre- and post-training evaluations to measure their knowledge acquisition and attitudinal change. In addition, project staff will attempt to cross-check this information with what students report.
Individual student interviews will be held regarding the impacts of the life skills curriculum and scholarship program. Focus group interviews with school directors, teachers, parents, and community leaders will be held at the midpoint and end of the project.
In September 2014 a Student Attitudinal Survey was completed by 777 pupils from the two target schools. The results of this survey have indicated several positive results; 75% of students reported that teachers’ standards have improved and 74% of students said that they were enjoying school more since the start of the project. More than 7 in 10 students also reported feeling safer in school, with 65% saying violence has reduced and 64% saying their teachers are using less physical punishment. Additionally, 81% of children involved in student clubs reported that these have helped them improve their other skills, and, of the students that took part in life skills training, 79% could afterwards name three places that would provide help in the event that themselves or a friend suffered from abuse or violence, up from only 31% in pre-life skills surveys.