Investing in children’s foundational educational skills is key to their learning and development, as these skills are the building blocks for other life skills and further education, says Professor Ricardo Sabates, a researcher dedicated to equipping out-of-school children in the global south with basic numeracy, reading and writing skills.
“One of the challenges that we have is that when children are not able to reach these foundational skills, when the curriculum that the teachers are trying to teach is further advanced than the capabilities and understanding of concepts of these children, then actually the curriculum is only being able to be followed by 10 percent of the children in the classroom.”
While some children don’t have the foundational skills they need to make learning happen, for others, the language they speak at home isn’t the language of instruction at school, which can lead to an even wider educational gulf developing.
This is something that Nadira, a social science teacher working in a multilingual community in South Africa, is very conscious about:
“What we find amongst our learners in the rural parts of our province is that they have a low self esteem because they do not have that parental support or they do not have that confidence that’s built up from birth. Hence, the learners are very very afraid when it comes to speaking English.”
Finally, we hear about the experience of Manu, a French primary school teacher who uses innovative project-based learning approaches to strengthen his students’ motivation in learning how to read and write.
“A child needs to make sense of what he’s doing. Why he writes, why he reads, what is the meaning of all that? The child needs to know why we ask him those things, because he needs to own his learning process.”