Echo Chamber

Bangladeshi teaching styles tend to lean heavily on rote learning…  Under a tin roof, between tin walls, a typical class will consist of ear-piercing chanting.    The teachers chant out one thing—the class responds with vim, and the steel roof shakes…and each class is competing with the other two classes in full throat under that same roof.   The classrooms might become a little quieter in coming years, as a result of work by Co-ID committee member Cath Beaumont, herself a primary school teacher.  

Working with money raised in country Victoria by young supporter Zoe Eastick and her friends, Cath visited Bhola last year and introduced novelties such as this—a graphical and colourful way to present ANY number up to 9,999…in this case, 2,433!   Cath and her son Ben were there when I was there.  While I was doing my ‘Grand HR tour’ (where I visit and speak individually to staff at all of our schools) they were off showing the kids how to do things like count using a little what I call hacky sacks, tiny bean bags sewn by local tailors in town, and planting vegetables in the rich black mud.   

The total bill I believe for enrichment material for all our schools, with extras for the kinder teachers came to less than $7000…which to quote Cath bought us (and this is just for starters) “5000 books, 600 posters and maps, playdough, balls, jigsaws, letter magnets and many more items.”  Most was bought in Dhaka, some bought locally…and some brought on the plane from Australia thanks to Singapore Airlines raising the baggage limit for Cath and her son.  

I’m an on-my-feet kinda lecturer when I do have to teach, and on occasion I’ve had to stay on my feet for four hours in a row, barring a break here or there, and been exhausted at the end of it—don’t know how our staff do this for six or seven hours a day, SIX days a week.   Back home in Brisbane I’m often told that I need to be more interactive in the lecture theatre—‘flip the classroom’ to use the current jargon, but I’m more an old fashioned stand and deliver type, I’m afraid, and was fascinated to see how Cath was working with the staff to change the way we behave in our Bhola classrooms.   It’s going to be a slow process to ‘flip’ the way they do things, after decades and decades of doing it this way, but the children, it was clearly fascinating to see something new, bright and colourful that they could touch and take them away from pure memorisation.  

Olav Muurlink 


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