Foto: Iva Zímová
People in Need´s pre-school club in Bílina, a small town in northwest Bohemia, welcomes children from around three to six years of age. They usually don’t know any fairy tales, no one ever read nursery rhymes to them, they’ve never held a crayon in their hands. They can´t pronounce clearly, they know only a limited number of words or simply don´t know how to ask a question, because nobody ever asked them. They often have underdeveloped motor skills necessary for writing, they have trouble concentrating – all skills that are essential for successful schooling.
A part of their development has been neglected, but it is not possible to skip this phase. When trying to alleviate the handicaps of underprivileged children we use an elaborate Norwegian teaching methodology called Grunnlaget (in Norwegian it means foundations).
What does it look like?
There is a plastic circle, a marble, a ring for hanging curtains and a ring made of wire on a plate. A group of children gather around. The teacher, Karolína Hrubá, asks, “What do you think?” “The shape is round, miss!” says Nikolka and the other kids agree. Then they touch the objects and examine them.
“How do you know, Kevin?” the teacher asks her youngest pupil. Kevin picks up one of the rings and traces the shape with his finger together with the teacher. “Your finger doesn´t stop, right?” the teacher repeats the basic principle.
The children then run around the classroom to find something round and place it on the round plate. No one makes a mistake.
The Grunnlaget method helps children create and understand the basis of each of the concepts. For example, when parents teach their children about colours, they say things like “red like a strawberry”. “But these kids often don´t know what a strawberry is. Why should I teach them about something they don´t know by using something they don´t know either?” notes Karolína who has been working with kids in the Bílina pre-school club or the past four years.
She has been using the Grunnlaget method for the past year. “I like the fact that this method is not culture specific. You are not expected to know what strawberries or bananas look like. We teach the ‘colour’ word directly.”
She is very happy with the results. The biggest advantage of this method is that children experience success and the power of positive emotions is clear: Learning is fun and children want to learn more. This is major success for children who get no help with learning from their parents, since the parents never got any support and thus they don´t know what they should be doing.
Why did People in Need found 12 pre-school clubs?
Preschool clubs work on alleviating children´s learning handicaps before they start school and thus giving them a chance to gain a good education and develop their skills. We try to prevent them from landing in “special” schools, which are meant for children with serious learning disabilities, and are for most children a dead end. Student in these schools are not encourage to pursue further education. With only primary school education, it is almost impossible for them to find jobs as adults, especially with the “special” school diplomas, which are blacklisted by many employers.
We also support the parents in developing an active and positive attitude toward education. We want them to feel motivated to help their children finish primary school and then continue to secondary or vocational schools. These young people will have a better chance of finding a job and establishing their place in society, and in this way breaking the vicious circle of dependence on social welfare.
Do you want to help build a Better School?
- Autor: Člověk v tísni
- Škola: Předškolní klub Člověka v tísni v Bílině