So I have Super Great News! I found out a week or so ago that my school had the best national test results of all public schools in our region!!! Yaho (my village) is in the Boucle de Mohoun, a large region northwest of the capital, and I think there are about 150 schools in the region. The test consists of Math, French, English, History/Geography, Physics/Chemistry and Biology and is given to students the last year of ‘college’ which is kind of like middle school, but more like the first half of high school. The students have to pass if they want to continue on to high school. Last year I taught Physics and Chemistry for the grade that took the test, and over 70% of my students passed. By American standards 70% is less than great, but here the national average is less than 50%. Last year was an especially rough year, as many schools were striking for over two months (my school missed two weeks when the government shut down all schools, then another week when my students striked). But in spite of the strikes last year, we rocked that test!
I have to admit; at this point in time I’m pretty used to the standards of teaching and learning here, but they are drastically different than the majority of the US. For example: students here have detailed lessons of chemical reactions that they’ve never seen involving chemicals they’ve never heard of; and they have to be able to not only describe what happens during the reaction, but also describe how to test each substance to prove that it is what we say it is. Very in depth things, that are only explained theoretically with little to no hands on or visual application. Students have 3 years of biology (starting with cells and invertebrates, ending with human anatomy) without ever once using a microscope or actually seeing a cell! They study geography without once seeing a globe, study the piston-type motor in a car while many of them have never actually ridden in a car, and learn how to calibrate a voltmeter without ever actually seeing one – or occasionally without ever seeing an electrical circuit in use. Many times they learn French (and English) without access to books, only by what the teachers have written on the board. And all of this with at least 70 kids in the classroom, though more likely closer to 100.
But despite all of these monumental challenges, there are students who are succeeding, and it makes my heart happy. These students work their butts off and fully comprehend the value of their education – something I can guarantee that many American students have forgotten. So while I may get frustrated as my students struggle with a concept I’m explaining for the fifth time, I just need to remind myself how far the really have come – with little to no support to get them here.
The group of schools recognized for the results last year only included 6 schools and 4 of them were private. Private schools cost about 10 times as much as public in Burkina and many times have a foreign sponsor on top of money made from tuition. The fact that my school in a rural village is able to compete with these schools is pretty dang impressive :)
|Also, we got this really sweet certificate.|