By Jae Oh
A new week started and as I was getting used to spiders and frogs jumping on my feet at night, the curriculum development project is finally on the roll, too. The group figured we would need a very detailed advanced work plan to find out about Malawi curriculum and school system. We first started by interviewing local people who live around the new school site about their opinions on the current education system and their perspectives on education. I have to admit I was not expecting to find such an array of opinions. Questioning headmasters and teachers of all the primary schools around the area helped us acquire a clearer idea about Malawi curriculum and possible directions for our project to take.
With helps from Francis, our local co-learner, we were able to interview a wide spectrum of people. Their point of views on education differed from person to person, according to their needs. People at a low economic status, who worry about their day-to-day survival, see education as a chance for their children to finally get out of the vicious cycle of struggling and allow them to live fully. People who are better off seek to fulfill their secondary need such as freedom and moral standards. On the other hand, some couldn’t care less about education for it simply hasn’t touched their daily life yet. I find this is also the case in Canada and everywhere else in the world. Education seems to serve multiple purposes for each community, family and person. I realized that our job is trying our best to embrace all their needs as we weave the new curriculum with the people of Malawi.
The education system of Malawi is surprisingly more or less the same as the one in Canada. The Ministry of Education comes up with a big guiding picture for the schools and teachers to work it into individual weekly and daily lesson plans. Teachers talk to each other and share ideas and lesson plans every morning which greatly benefits not only the teachers but also their students’ transition from one class to another and one standard (grade) to the next. While observing standard one classes, what struck me the most was that the teachers were so comfortable applying different strategies like grouping and still perfectly managed their enormous class of about 70 students. The cultural aspect of respecting elders definitely plays a role, but the teachers also seemed to be well trained. Yet, the limited resources and materials restricted the number of different teaching methods and approaches the teachers could use to reach different types of learners in the lessons.
Excited as we are, we still have many questions to be answered and much work to be done. Putting ideas into practice and creating curriculum from scratch with a community whose culture and needs are not fully familiar to us is promising to be a full bag of challenges. However, the end will result in a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, once-in-a-lifetime-memories and tolerance to poisonous insects and heart-stopping creatures. For now, we are getting there pangono pangono (little by little).