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Supporting Educators in Southeast Asia

By Amy Durrant
  • Community |
  • Education |
  • 468 People are praying for this

    Our family moved to Southeast Asia in 2019, hoping to work in education. When we arrived, as well as starting language and culture studies, we began researching the state of education and literacy in our host country.

    Literacy – an unfolding disaster

    On paper, it doesn’t seem like there is any major problem with literacy here, with just 4% of the population considered illiterate (literally ‘letter-blind’). However, looking deeper, education outcomes are considered ‘poor’ nationally and we saw this again and again in different challenges faced by our neighbours and friends. A study in 2016 found that 86% of 15 year-olds had insufficient literacy skills excel in their general studies. Post-pandemic, in 2021 the World Bank found that 80% of students read below the literacy level for their age. For a country which values its young people and development, it is an unfolding literacy disaster.

    In this situation, we felt it was important to support current neighbourhood tutors, as well as teachers and schools – and to try to raise up more community members to run literacy classes too. We saw this not only as a way to meet a real need, but a way to build bridges across social and religious divides, and a way to empower believers to serve both their community and other communities around them.

    Using local learning materials

    We started praying and looking for materials which could help. We heard through a friend about a local believer beginning to tutor reading in the South of our city. She was very happy with the material she was using, called the “I love reading” programme. When we looked into it, we were impressed too. Developed in the capital city, it includes lovely stories in every lesson, set throughout the country. It also has some major differences with how reading is normally taught here. All the instructions on how to teach it are written out so that it can be easily picked up and used, It teaches reading phonetically and checks comprehension after each story, neither of which is common practice here.

    In May, I rather optimistically applied for a $1000 grant from Australia to train ten teachers, and hoped to give two locals a start in training other teachers by the end of the year. In July, we had the opportunity to train ten teachers from a local social kindergarten (which accepts many children who have difficulty getting into other schools) with the ‘I love reading’ programme. Praise God, we were approved for the grant, and a quarter of it could be used to set the kindergarten up with books. It was a joy to see the teachers singing and enjoying the stories, and later to visit their kindergarten and see the children enjoying it all too. It also made us realise that we were a long way off being able to train someone to train others!!

    Training programmes and answered prayers

    We looked into bringing a trainer from the capital city – but this cost twice as much as we had been given in the grant. However, over the next three months we saw God making a way for this to happen. I asked a local friend, who runs homework clubs and trains others to run them, about the programme and she felt that could be just what her organisation had been looking for. With several teachers from her organisation interested in being trained, I was able to approach more people whom I had heard might be interested too.

    In the end, we found four organisations eager to use the ‘I love reading’ programme, and were overjoyed when two of these also shared the vision to train others. We were excited that we could use the rest of the grant to subsidise the cost for participants, bringing the price of training to an affordable level for each person to be trained. In late October, sixteen participants were trained to teach the programme, with twelve of these being trained to mentor others too. God has answered our prayers way beyond the hopes I had when I initially applied for the grant!

    Who shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich above the poor, for they all are the work of His hands?”

    Job 34:19

    Written by an Interserve Partner in Southeast Asia

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