Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Planning Your School Excursion

Modern curriculum's in many school systems around the world include educational excursions as an essential part of the learning process. Educators believe that excursions offer experiences to our students that are closer to real life than we can simulate in the class room.
This is the first in a series of three articles on the organisation of an excursion and concentrates on what planning the teacher must do before the day of the excursion.
Poor planning can create a very stressful day for the teachers and students reducing the possibility of good educational outcomes.
What follows is a step by step procedure to organise that first excursion. It is divided into two parts. The first is the preparation the teacher needs to do to get the excursion 'off the ground'. The second part deals with preparing the students to get the most out of the excursion. This is in the form of a student briefing.
1. Obtain permission from the appropriate authorities in your school before you begin any major planning.
2. Plan early and thoroughly, first working out costs, itinerary, transport arrangements, educational goals from your work program or syllabus.
3. Read and follow closely your school's excursion procedures and its time lines.
4. Submit your planning for official approval.
5. Inform parents by letter of all details and gain their permission for their child to participate.
6. Organise transport well in advance and check just prior to the excursion date that the transport booking is confirmed.
7. Brief all students about the excursions including their responsibilities regarding behaviour, dress, safety and any school requisites they need.
8. Organise the collection of money, its banking and the payment of accounts.
9. Create a list of all students going on the excursion and a list of those not going. Give the list of non-attendees to your school attendance officer or the relevant teachers.
10. Organise, well before the excursion day, any cheques you need to have with you to pay for services provided during the excursion.
11. Organise work sheets for the students and have spare copies available.
12. Complete the school check list for excursions.
Pre-Excursion Student Briefing
The purpose of the briefing is to prepare the students thoroughly so that they have an educationally successful day, conducted in a safe and secure way.
1. Inform the students about the behaviour that is expected of them, including the consequences of breaking that code.
2. Explain the purpose of the excursion.
3. Discuss the itinerary of the excursion.
4. Discuss permission forms, costs, departure and arrival times and so on.
5. Discuss what they need to bring, do or find for the excursion.
6. Discuss any work sheets to be done as well as any follow up assessment tasks.
7. Issue safety and security instructions with a clear explanation as to why these instructions are to be in place.
8. Discuss the dress code for the day, the need for sun screen, correct shoes, hats and discuss toileting and food arrangements.
9. Discuss the buddy system and select the buddies.
10. Discuss seat allocation, roll checks, gathering points and a lost procedure for students.
11. Teach your students all the new skills/knowledge that they require for the excursion.
Remember to keep a record of your pre-planning, the agenda for the student briefing and any paperwork you give the students as part of an excursion file that you create as a record of what you did in organising the excursion. It will become the basis of the planning for next time you do this excursion.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Take the Plunge - Teach English in China

I was in a rut, bored, suffering from empty nest syndrome, getting close to retirement age and was in need of 'an adventure'. To have a 'real' adventure my husband and I decided to go to China and teach English.
This was totally out of character for us, we loved to travel, but even so, going to a country like China, which was basically an unknown, was seen as something rather radical. Nevertheless, we researched the possibilities and decided we would go.
We had no teaching experience or qualifications. So we attended a local TESOL college, studied for the next three months, passed our exams and were awarded our qualifications. This gave us access to work in thousands of schools and universities in China.
ESL stands for English as a Second Language. Another acronym is TESOL, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Even though our English was very good, we knew it was going to be a totally new ball game for us.
Both my husband and I were trained public speakers, confident, had raised five children, were well read and had an excellent general knowledge base. This, along with the training and teaching manuals we received proved to be adequate resources.
To find a suitable job, we searched the internet. There are many sites these days where recruiting agents advertise teaching jobs in China. But when we did this, in 2005, it was more or less up to us to find the jobs. However one of the websites was huge, with job boards for all the different Asian countries and we found thousands of teaching jobs advertised. Where to go was the next problem, after all, most of the names meant nothing to us; we didn't even know where these places were.
Eventually we settled on Longyan university in Fujian Province, where the weather seemed similar to our home town, and the city was not too big. We were a bit worried about getting lost in a huge city, when we couldn't speak a word of Chinese and we didn't know how much English would be spoken there.
We planned everything very carefully. We packed what we thought we might need, and with our heads full of dreams and ideas for teaching we had a goodbye party and took the jet stream to China. We planned to have four days holiday first, to get our heads around being in such a new environment.
Was it a good idea? It was a fabulous idea. Where there problems? Of course! The first major problem reared its ugly head as we left the airport having just touched down. Being super organised I had printed off the hotel's address in Chinese. We were horrified to find that none of the taxi drivers could read Chinese! If they couldn't read Chinese there wasn't much hope of finding English speaking people. After a long, frustrating and temper raising experience with several taxi drivers, a security officer, and a help desk lady that spoke almost no English, we made it to our hotel, only to find out I had printed all the instructions in Japanese! What an idiot!
Staff from our new university collected us after our four day holiday, and took us to our new home. It was about two hours from the coast, way up in the mountains. We had to go through endless tunnels on the road. Hot, tired, and with a monumental headache I arrived at the campus.
Students were delegated to drag our bags up the six flights of stairs to our apartment. There were no elevators here, and we got very fit going up and down those stairs several times a day. We puffed up after them to find ourselves in a three bed-roomed apartment with a view over the city to the mountains.
We were left to unpack and rest, with instructions that we were to meet the other teachers at the school gate at 6pm and they would take us out to dinner. 
We sat on the bed, my husband and I, and grinned at each other like school kids let out for the holidays.

'Well, we came for an adventure, we're going to get it,' my husband said. 
He was right. That year became a life changing experience, for us, and for the wonderful students we taught.

If you're bored, in a rut, can free yourself for a year or so, why don't you consider taking the plunge too? Teach English in China. It will be one of the most rewarding and exciting things you could do.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Grain of Rice

Teaching children awareness of social and economic inequities that exist in different societies help shape their attitudes toward the Earth's resources, such as food and clean water, and the environment. Promoting global thinking, the awareness that people and societies are linked together, is so important in protecting the environment and preserving Planet Earth.
My mother treated a grain of rice like manna, the food God provided the Israelites for sustenance in their years of wanderings in the desert out of Egypt. When we spilled rice, she would demand that we pick-up the grains and leave out none. Rice was so important that she would make sure we had plenty before other necessities. Her frugal ways about rice applied to other food resources. She would reprimand us when we helped ourselves with food to our plates in excess of our appetite. She advised us to eat everything we put on our plates. Mostly, I thought her ways was such because she was afraid we would run out of food to eat. In addition to her frugality, she abhors wastefulness and it was a sacrilege to throw food away. She treated clean water the same way. There was a time when my family had little access to clean running water. Mom would instruct us efficient ways of bathing using ladle or tabo and a pail of water. The scarcity of these important resources early in life taught us to conserve them. This was how she raised her children and such conditioning die hard even when I found myself under better circumstances. I may be prone to occasional extravagance about certain things, which often gnaws at my conscience; otherwise, I'm generally frugal (matipid) in my ways. The proverbial "money does not grow in trees," (although we chop down trees to print bills), in Mom's voice, I still hear in my head during my occasional splurges.
If only Mom could witness how some affluent societies take for granted their easy access to food supply and the wasteful manners by which they treat food and water, she would probably turn in her grave. For some of us who live in places where hunger and famine are not the regular facts of life, it is rather easy to ignore simple ways to avoid unnecessary waste. Let's start with some attitudinal adjustments by reminding ourselves that the basic resources needed for survival are finite. They will not last forever. The first thing to consider is how, for example, our propensities for comfort and convenience may lead to waste. Think of the millions of children, women, and elderly living in critical areas of the world where hunger is the number one killer. Places where people hike miles to get access to water. Frugality is not out of step when we find ourselves dealing with declining food supply and shrinking sources of clean water and energy to satisfy the needs of an ever expanding world population.
Let's remember a few simple things that can help curb wastefulness. Our appetite often deludes us about how much we can really consume. It has a bigger mouth than what our belly can hold. Be thoughtful when considering purchases of items such as home appliances. Go green even when it may cost a little more. In the long run, they often come out much cheaper. Recycle or re-use items at home as much as you can. Your local hardware or grocery stores are not going to get bankrupt anytime soon. Program your air-conditioning according to the time when you most need it and consider turning them off and cracking your windows when the weather allows. Don't forget. Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
A book on love and a coming of age in a land devastated by its long history under colonial rule. The book provides a tapestry of cultural life in the Philippines in the eyes of a youth trying to find himself and breakaway under the yoke of crunching poverty.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brief History of Education in Nigeria

Long before the Europeans arrived, education had been part of Nigerians. The Children were taught about their culture, social activities, survival skills and work. Most of these education processes were impacted into the children informally; a few of these societies gave a more formal teaching of the society and culture.
In these Societies, there are formal instructions that governed the rites of passage from youth into adulthood. The youth is expected to have attained the necessary social and survival skills as well as having a grounded knowledge in the culture. These are the foundations of education in Nigeria, and upon them were the western education implemented upon.
European Education was introduced into Nigeria in the 1840s. It began in Lagos, Calabar and other coastal cities. In a few decades schooling in English language gradually took roots in the Nigeria. During the Colonial years, Great Britain did not promote education. The schools were set up and operated by Christian Missionaries. The British colonial government only funded a few schools. The policy of the government was to give grant to mission schools rather than expand the system.
In the northern part of Nigeria, which was predominantly Muslim populated, Western-style education was prohibited. The religious leaders did not want the missionaries interfering with Islam. This gave way to establishing Islamic school that focused primarily on the Islamic education.
Today, adult literacy has been estimated to be over 78 percent for men and 64 percent for women. These statistics were made based on estimate literacy in English. That excludes the literacy in Arabic among northern Muslims. It is therefore not erroneous to call Nigeria a nation dominated with educated persons.
Prior to Nigeria's independence, Nigeria had only two established Post-secondary Institution. Yaba Higher college (founded in 1934, Now Yaba College of Technology) and the University of Ibadan was founded in 1948. It was then a College of the University of London until two years after the independence when she became autonomous. More prominent universities which include University of Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife), Ahmadu Bello University and Mohood Abiola Kashimawo University (formerly University of Lagos) were founded in the years that followed the Independence.
In 1970s more universities were founded which include University of Benin (founded in 1970), and new university opened in Calabar, Ilorin, Jos, Port Harcourt, Sokoto and Maiduguri. In the 1980s, more universities were opened as well as institute specializing in Agriculture and Technology. A number of Polytechnics were also opened, which includes the Yaba College of Technology in Lagos and Kaduna Polytechnics.
In 1980, the estimated enrollment in the primary schools was 12 million, Secondary and technical colleges 1.2 million, teachers colleges 240,000 and Universities 75,000. One would expect that with such an estimate, the Nigerian education in Nigeria three decades after would have greatly improved. Unfortunately the reverse has been the case.
The present decline in the Nigerian education system can be traced back to the 1980s and 1990s. Then there was a shortage of qualified teachers, the few qualified teachers were not paid in a timely manner. The number of schools did not grow with the population and many of the existing schools were inadequately funded resulting in poor maintenance. In the Universities inadequate funding led to the shortage of space and resources. Increase in tuition fee often resulted in riots leading to cancellation of semesters. Industrial actions by the University Staff requesting for higher salaries and better working conditions also compounded the situations. However, today governors in most state are addressing these issues.
The damage to the educational system has been done. Most graduates lack the necessary survival and social skills that should have been learnt in schools. These have led to many disastrous situations in the nation. The center of the nation's growth "the Education system" no longer holds value; hence the entire nation is falling apart. Products of the Nigeria education system are not employable, causing massive unemployment and under-development in the country. No survival skills leading to increased poverty rate in the country.
The situation however is not entirely hopeless. The foundation of education in Nigeria upon which the Europeans laid the western-style education is strong. This has managed to hold the educational system of the country together through the trouble days. However, if left unattended, we will all join Chinua Achebe and exclaim: Things fall apart, The center cannot hold... Anarchy is set forth everywhere.