Training USC’s Non-formal Educators
June 28, 2006
By Courtney Clark, Program Officer
LEAD Trainers practice their facilitation skills
We all have them: stories of great teachers who inspired us to open our minds and explore our potential. Who was yours? It may have been your kindergarten teacher, a biology teacher, or a professor. Whoever it was, you’ll know what I mean when I say that good teachers make all the difference in the world.
They are critical to good education, and it’s why, half a world away in rural Bangladesh, USC puts such an emphasis on training facilitators for its non-formal education program: Life Skills and Education for Adolescent Development (LEAD).
Helping Young People
Education initiatives aimed at youth are few and far between, one of the main reasons that USC’s work there is focused on adolescents. LEAD helps fill that void by offering a mix of basic education and life skills training to more than 50,000 adolescents girls, many of whom have never attended school before.
For that reason, LEAD Facilitators face a major challenge to engage students, and USC has invested in their training to ensure they are ready. When I visited Bangladesh in May, I was able to attend a facilitators training session and meet some of the inspiring young women who will teach the LEAD curriculum.
The facilitators, like all good teachers, will play a central role in students’ lives. By offering a basic education and teaching them about their rights, reproductive health, and nutrition, the teachers can transform lives. Students will consider possibilities for the future never open to them before.
Facilitators Engage with the Communities
The facilitator training lasts six days and is carried out in communities across the country by USC’s staff in Bangladesh. Participants review the LEAD curriculum, learn the teaching methodology, and practice their facilitation skills. They also learn about going out into communities to find students who could benefit from a LEAD education.
The facilitator class I visited was coming to the end of its training. One of the participants told me, “We’re ready to change the lives of these young people, to help them build futures for themselves.” When I asked how they would do this, they were eager to show me.
They set up a mock classroom – all the participants sat in a circle on the floor and they proceeded to take turns facilitating lessons. The lesson I saw was engaging – it wasn’t a lecture but rather an interactive learning session. It started with a story about marriage and the payment of a dowry. This was followed by a lively class discussion about the story and the broader issues surrounding dowry and marriage.
Facilitators perform as part of a lesson on dowry and marriage.
During the lesson, participants developed a wonderful skit and a song about the issue, which they performed later that evening. I was so impressed with the facilitators’ abilities that I left that performance wishing they had been my teachers.
Having completed a degree in teaching myself, I immediately recognized many of the facilitation techniques they were learning and using. They started lessons with a story – both to engage the learners and to introduce an issue that is important to the students. They created a classroom environment that was relaxed, open and respectful. They incorporated drama and song to engage students in different ways and allow them to demonstrate their learning in different forms. They knew how to make the classroom a truly dynamic place.
They have the skills and knowledge that will make them good facilitators, but more importantly, it’s their enthusiasm and vision of a better future that will make them truly great teachers. I have no doubt that years from now many of their students will tell inspirational stories about their favourite LEAD teachers.