In 2018, UNESCO partnered up with VVOB in Cambodia to improve how teachers teach maths. Inspired by VVOB’s past experiences with strengthening initial training of student teachers in the country, the two organisations now look to in-service teachers to diminish the gap between how student teachers, new teachers and experienced teachers teach maths.
Track record of improving maths teaching and learning
Since 2014, VVOB has been working to improve teaching and learning in mathematics in Cambodia:
- During the first three years, we worked with 18 provincial teacher training institutes to strengthen the pedagogical skills of student teachers: initial teacher training in mathematics was revamped, and teacher trainers were supported to better supervise and mentor their students.
- Since 2017, we focus on effective classroom management and maths-specific pedagogical content knowledge of new teachers. To this end, the skills of teacher trainers are strengthened to make sure they, in turn, properly train student teachers.
In recognition of our experiences in the field of mathematics, VVOB was identified as the right partner to cooperate with UNESCO and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) on the development of a new in-service teachers’ (INSET) package to improve early grade math teaching. First step: a guide for grade 1 teachers that supports them in teaching mathematics.
From VVOB’s perspective, improving mathematics teaching among both student teachers and more experienced teachers is a logical step to ensure consistency in their teaching approaches.
Train the trainers
In order to build capacity and ensure sustainability, VVOB recently trained national teacher trainers on how to train teachers in using the recently developed grade 1 math package.
Between 9 to 13 December, the trained trainers then took their turn and introduced around 150 primary school teachers working in the districts of Angkorthom and Chikreng (province of Siem Reap) to the new early-grade math package.
A promising start to a fruitful – and more importantly: impactful – cooperation indeed. In March 2019, the trainers will participate in a second training to get to know the second part of the package (for the second semester), currently in development. They will then again take up their responsibility to train primary school teachers in April 2019.
Compiling best practices
Once complete, the early grade math package will consist of a guide book and teaching aids that cover grades 1 and 2. In a first step, efforts are geared towards developing materials for grade 1. The guide as well as the collection of teaching aids are divided into two parts in line with the goals and objectives of the revised math curriculum – approved in 2018 – for the first and second semester. As discussed above, the materials for part one (for the first semester) were completed.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, the new grade 1 mathematics INSET package brings together best practices in math teaching and ensures participatory methods can be used in teaching mathematics using only a limited amount of teaching and learning aids. The package compiles strategies and teaching methods that encourage active learning, while ensuring equity and quality of learning.
It also includes a collection of outcome-focused teaching and learning activities, which have been adapted to the developmental stage of the child. Finally, the package introduces teachers to the practice of formative assessment, helping them to prepare more effective lessons by building upon their learners’ prior knowledge.
Which strategies, aids and activities were included was decided upon in common agreement by VVOB and the MoEYS.
A taste for more?
Right now, VVOB is developing the second part of the package and is preparing the training sessions that will take place in 2019. Once all training sessions have been held and the package has been used in the classroom, we will evaluate and improve the package based upon the feedback of trainers and teachers.
A follow-up project is currently envisioned to develop teaching materials for grade 2 as well. There is also an interest to widen the geographical scope of the project and reach primary teachers outside of Siem Reap too. As such, more and more learners will be able to benefit from improved math teaching.