Thanks to the education improvement program we have put in place in local schools that receive support from El Manguaré, we have seen an improvement in the teaching ability of the teachers in those schools. The average learning level of students in first grade (and subsequently 2nd grade) has gone up.
That being said, one of the major problems primary schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods face is the entry of children with little or no preparation for first grade. Approximately 40% of the children entering first grade have never attended kindergarten (many cannot even hold a pencil) and the remaining 60% also lack half or more of the basic skills and knowledge necessary to successfully begin 1st grade. Additionally, due to their lack of intellectual abilities many of these children suffer from very low self-esteem.
Poor preparation for first grade pulls the level of education of the schools down significantly. Within our program a teacher learns to adapt their lessons to the level of the students. This results in 70% of the lessons being at the kindergarten level.
In other words, our teaching quality improvement program achieved its objective (the quality of teaching in the local school is improving); but we quickly realized that if we wanted to improve the general quality of education in a school, we first needed a solution for the large inflow of unprepared children in first grade.
Objectives of El Manguaré:
Enrolling children with learning difficulties and/or disadvantages at our pre-school before they proceed to 1st grade, has two objectives:
1. To reduce the dropout rate of children in public schools. El Manguaré intends to achieve this by giving the children the best possible cognitive and social-emotional preparation for first grade.
2. To improve the quality and relevance of education at a local school by filling first grade with children prepared for it. To achieve this El Manguaré gives children with learning disabilities and difficulties an additional year of pre-school preparation. This way first grade classrooms contain mostly students who are prepared to learn at a first grade level. With few exceptions, the entire group can follow the curriculum and the teacher can prepare her students throughout the year to be ready to move to second grade.
Background and plan of action:
In 2010, El Manguaré tried to reduce the large number of unprepared children in first grade by offering summer school for unprepared children and kindergarten classes for children from the neighborhood who had not attended kindergarten. However, we realized we could not find all the children before they enrolled in first grade the following year through these programs.
As a result, in 2011, we set up the Basic Preparatory Education program. This is an intermediate class between kindergarten and first grade. At first grade registration children are evaluated to determine if they are prepared for first grade. Those who are not prepared for first grade, with the consent of their parents, are taken for a year under the wings of El Manguaré to prepare them for the level of first grade.
Since March 2012, this program has been officially recognized as a private school by the Ministry of Education in Peru.