Educating Kindergartners in Tajikistan
Kindergarten teachers are a special breed of people — creative, caring, and endlessly patient.
The 25 teachers at Kindergarten #5, in Khorog, Tajikistan, are no exception. For nine hours a day, Monday through Friday, they wrangle 280 children as young as 1 1/2 years and as old as 5. Getting these little balls of energy to sit still long enough to learn about the seasons, colors, numbers, and the alphabet is no easy feat. However, it is easier now that all the teachers have gone through a two-part CAI-supported teacher training.
Zarina Ghaybieva is the deputy head of Kindergarten #5.
“Kindergarten #5 used to use the old Soviet method of teaching, which meant the teachers just talked the whole time. It was hard for the teachers and the students. The CAI training was great because the kids have become the center of the lessons and they learn through play and doing.”
The training, which takes part during school breaks, is separated into two 12-day sections. In the first section, trainers and teachers talk about brain development in young children, the role of education in these seminal years, health and safety, how to make agendas, and preparing lessons. The second section deals more with planning classroom activities, organizing group lessons, preparing materials and tools for class, understanding learning styles, and practicing what they’ve learned in a classroom.
Throughout the course, facilitators emphasize that lessons should be flexible to accommodate students’ learning styles and their interests. For instance, some boys or girls might be shy or less energetic. Now the kindergarten teachers have tools to deal with different personalities and can pay more attention those who need it, said Firooza the head facilitator. If a child does not want to do the lesson the teacher comes up with another activity to teach them the same material. In some cases the teaching style is similar to what you might see in a Montessori school, with a certain amount of respect for a child’s unique personality and independent development.
Additionally, teachers are encouraged to make lessons interactive. In the old style of teaching, the teachers might show the class a picture of a flower and talk about spring. With the new method, the teachers might let boys and girls paint flowers or go on a walk outside to discuss the seasons.
The results are plain for anyone to see.
A teacher training participant noted that the children learn more, learn faster, and retain more information with the new methods.
“The teachers are more active too now,” said Ghaybieva. “It is an easier method of teaching. The teachers are very happy.”
Teachers who graduate from the training report that filling the class time is easier, whereas before the training it was difficult to teach for the entire class. The children have more fun and even the parents are more engaged.
Nazarkhotun Nawzuzshoeva, 21, is a first-year teacher. She is the youngest of all the teachers who participated in the spring 2016 training and found it very difficult to work with the children at first. Without the training, she says she would have given up and stopped teaching.
Fortunately, Nazarkhotun didn’t give up, and the course gave her the tools she needed to be successful. However, her main takeaway from the course was not how to be a teacher, but rather why she should be a teacher.
“The first 3 years of a child’s life are the best for learning, their brain is a clean piece of paper and whatever you write will stay there. If you write the right things they will be a kind, intelligent person. If you write the wrong things they will be saved in their minds forever.”
She continued, “I want to thank the donors and trainers… I have learned everything here.”
The success of teachers like Marziya is passed down to the students. When CAI visited the kindergarten in the spring, students were excited to show off what they had learned. Here is one of the students of Kindergarten #5 reciting his most recent lesson on body parts.