Senior lecturers Dr Donella Cobb and Dr Sonja Arndt from the Early Years Research Centre (sited in the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at Waikato) have been working in partnership with UNICEF Indonesia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to develop an early childhood teacher development plan in the Indonesian region of Kupang.

“From the workshops we have seen the teachers become so much more confident in their abilities, in a relatively short amount of time.”

The early childhood centres in the Kupang region cater to children up to the age of six, before they go on to start school.

For the past two years, Dr Cobb and Dr Arndt have worked with UNICEF and MFAT to mentor a group of 50 lead teachers and mentors through a series of workshops. Teachers then return to their often remote villages, travelling up to 2 days each way, to provide ongoing mentoring and professional development to teachers in their communities.

“We employ quite a different style of teacher mentoring than they may be used to, making our workshops interactive and engaging,” says Dr Cobb.

“Enhancing the quality of teaching is a key target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We have already seen a positive change in the way the mentors and lead teachers facilitate professional learning with the other teachers, with a strong focus on enhancing children’s learning through child-centred teaching.”

One key part of the project has been the development of picture books for the children, written by teachers, based on their cultural stories and in their local languages.

“Some of the early childhood centres don’t have books, and when they do, their local languages often aren’t represented in these books,” says Dr Cobb.

Through the workshops, the mentors developed criteria for writing a children’s picture book. They then went back to their villages and worked with their teachers to write the books based on stories from their local context and language.

From this, 155 picture books have been written and 30 of these were selected for publication. Those selected authors then worked with a local author Dicky Senda, and former Bunda PAUD, Dr Christina Titu Eki, to further prepare their stories for publication. These have now been published by MFAT, UNICEF and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture.

Through the project, Dr Cobb, Dr Arndt and the University of Waikato have made connections with the local university, and the project team have written teaching modules to be used to support teacher development in other regions in Indonesia.

Dr Cobb will be returning to the region one last time in December for a final workshop and to visit some of the ECE centres.

Caption: Wendy Rich-Orloff (UNICEF Indonesia), Dr Sonja Arndt, Dr Donella Cobb and Dwi Purwestri (UNICEF).


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