Community and skill-building key in CERDAS programmes

Community and skill-building approaches to aid have been at the forefront of a recent Victoria University of Wellington research report into the success of early reading programmes run by Save the Children New Zealand, Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik (partner of Save the Children in Indonesia), and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trades.

Students participate in reading activities in their colourful classroom.
Students participate in reading activities in their colourful classroom.
Dr Jae Major of the University’s Faculty of Education, with support from colleagues Professor Carmen Dalli, Dr Mary-Jane Shuker, and Dr Michael Johnston, conducted research into the impact and influence of the Creating Early Readers for Academic Success (CERDAS) programme (which includes the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) and Literacy Boost (primary years 1–3) programmes) to produce a report for Save the Children New Zealand (SCNZ) and Yaysan Sayangi Tunas Cilik. The report provides the first qualitative analysis which looked at the effects on children’s reading progress, and also the effects on the wider community of teachers, community facilitators, and parents.

“The real strength of the ECCD and Literacy Boost programmes is the investment that is made into the community through the training of teachers, parents, and community facilitators in key ideas that support literacy and numeracy development. This contributes to sustaining the programme activities beyond the physical resources that are supplied,” explains Dr Major.

The training ensures that the community will have the knowledge needed to continue with the programmes and make the best use of the resources after aid leaves. The research findings show that teachers and parents experienced a shift in mindset and developed new understandings about teaching and parenting through the programmes.“Many described a change in mindset, especially in relation to the use of physical punishment with children, and also in terms of their role in educating and relating to children. Teachers described ‘teaching without violence’, creating a positive classroom environment, and improved relationships with children as a result. Parents (especially mothers) described a new understanding of their role in educating their children,” writes Dr Major in her report.

SCNZ International Programmes Manager Andrew Johnston said, ‘The research showed that there was a near-unanimous agreement that the programmes had a positive impact on children’s reading and writing, their confidence as readers, and their enjoyment of reading. The change of mindset, especially in relation to the use of physical punishment with children is a great result. Ending violence against children is one of our main goals, so it’s fantastic to see the children now have a positive learning environment and are managing to continue the reading camps now the programme has ended.”

The research project required the collaboration of many people and organisations to make it successful. Dr Major explains: “I worked closely with Viclink (the University’s commercialisation office) and SCNZ—especially Jessica Kay—to collaborate with the Save the Children Indonesia project manager (Ayok Hatma) and other staff to refine the research process and focus. It was an interesting and challenging process to design and collaborate on a research project across time zones, languages, and expectations. We needed to be flexible and open to making changes to respond to the context. The support in the lead up from Viclink was outstanding, as was the collaboration and assistance from the SC team in West Timor.”

“This project is a good example of how Viclink is working with the experts within the University to contribute to improving education outcomes in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region,” explains Jeff Howe, Viclink’s General Manager of International Development.