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In a country where only 17 percent of the population is fully literate, reports of radically improved children’s reading and numeracy skills on Makira in the Solomon Islands bring cheer — and an expectation that a World Vision-supported education program will be a model for similar projects throughout the Pacific.
An Australian academic study gave top marks to an early childhood education project that has radically improved children’s reading and numeracy skills in a country struggling with chronic illiteracy.
Only 17 percent of the Solomon Islands population is fully literate, according to a 2007 study — one of the lowest levels in the Pacific.
The successful Makira early childhood development program — the result of a partnership between World Vision, the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education, government, and beneficiary communities — looks set to become a model for similar programs throughout the Solomon Islands and the rest of the Pacific.
The project saw the establishment of more than 130 community kindergartens on the island of Makira, including locations in some of the most remote communities. Its goal was to improve the education of 2,000 children.
An impact study report on the program released by academics from Australia’s Murdoch University found children from Makira province were far ahead of children from Central province, who have yet to benefit from such kindergartens.
Reading accuracy scores averaged at 79 percent in Makira, compared with 2 percent in Central province. A multiplication and division concept test yielded an average score of more than 65 percent in Makira, versus less than 40 percent in Central.
Although Central province does have early childhood centers, they are concentrated in the larger population pockets and lack community involvement in their operation. Children from remote areas seldom attend.
Libby Lee-Hammond, associate professor of early childhood education at Murdoch, says that the involvement of local people and their ownership in the project plays a big part in the success of the kindergartens at Makira.
“I was really taken with the community involvement in producing materials for the kindergartens, including miniature carved boats, baskets, and shell collections for counting and other mathematical experiences,” she says.
“The materials and learning environments I observed would be the envy of many Australian teachers.”
She noted that one teacher used part of a plant to successfully create paint brushes.
“It made me realize how much waste there is in Australian schools, buying materials that could actually be sourced from recycled or local materials for a fraction of the cost. This would also be a more sustainable approach to resourcing schools,” she says.
The academics’ findings were backed up by feedback from parents. One parent expressed delight that her children were able to read when they were still very small.
“In the past, reading is a level we reach when we are older…even today, some of us [adults] do not even know how to read as yet.”
Thank God for new access to education for childen in the most remote regions of the world. Pray that education would provide an escape from poverty for these chldren.
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