Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cambodian mothers work together to prepare children to enter primary school

35 year-old Mrs Lun Savoeun plays with her daughters at home.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Sain Kimlong
Home-based early childhood education programme making a difference to school readiness.

Mrs Lun Savoeun is a 35 year old mother of three in the village of Neak Ta Snoeng in Kampong Cham province (three hours north-east of the capital, Phnom Penh). Aside from raising her own children she is also a ‘mother team leader,’ helping four other mothers to develop their children’s physical, mental and intellectual abilities in readiness for primary school at age five.

Mrs Savoeun has been a ‘mother team leader’ since June 2011 when she received training in how to create a home-based early childhood education programme and came to know that the early years of a child’s life have a lasting effect on learning and motivation. Now she not only guides other mothers but continues to improve her own skills.  “I am very happy to be involved in this,” she says, “My children have benefitted a great deal from the home-based programme. My five year old daughter can recite the story that I told her a few days ago. She is more intelligent and braver now. She knows and practices hand washing regularly and she enjoys the fun activities that I introduced to her.”

Daily activities a foundation for school readiness

Mrs Savoeun is confident that her five-year-old daughter will do well in school when she goes into grade one next year, because she has given her a good foundation for school readiness. Even Mrs Savoeun’s nine year old daughter enjoys participating in the home-based activities when she returns from school. Her husband is happy to see his children thrive as a result of the programme and contributes by telling stories to his children once or twice a week and getting involved in their moral education.

With UNICEF support and thanks to funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), ‘mother team leaders’ receive three days of training in early childhood education, facilitated by the Kampong Cham Provincial Office of Education. The mothers learn the benefits of activities that they are taught to do with their children at home for at least one or two hours every day. These include including describing daily tasks, story-telling, counting, singing, playing, providing moral education along with practising and teaching good hygiene and sanitation behaviours. Following the training the ‘mother team leaders’ share their knowledge and skills with other mothers using a monthly learning calendar, which outlines activities for the coming four weeks. 

Neak Tas Snoeng is one of twenty villages in Kampong Cham province that are implementing the home-based early childhood development programme. Mrs Long Yat is a ‘Core Mother’ whose role is to support and coordinate all mothers to effectively implement the programme in the village. She says 35 children in are now benefitting from the programme, which she says is a success; “At the beginning, there were only a few mothers who volunteered to join the programme but now more and more mothers are keen to join. This year, there are 20 mothers who are taking part.”
A ‘mother team leader’ uses the monthly learning calendar for early childhood education activities.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Sain Kimlong
Study shows programme works

Evidence shows that Cambodia’s home-based early childhood development programme is bearing fruit. The results of a longitudinal study in 2011 by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport revealed that exposure to an early childhood education programme (including home-based early childhood education) had positive effects particularly in ensuring that children were ready for entry to primary school at age five as compared to their non-participating peers. The study also showed that children with early childhood education experience were 10.7 per cent less likely to drop-out than children with no such experience.

The programme is also helping to redress the balance for children from the poorest families, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities who are the most disadvantaged in terms of access to early childhood education.

By Sain Kimlong

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