There have been concerns in the Seychelles education system about the level of reading in the mother tongue. Results of tests and examiners’ reports suggested that the basics of language acquisition and reading skills were deficient in a significant proportion of the population of early learners. As a result of this information, the Ministry of Education decided to build a team of educators to develop a complete and comprehensive reading programme for early childhood classrooms, and the Aprann Lir Avek Papiyon: Learn to Read with Butterfly Project was born.
Implementation of the new and innovative Aprann Lir Avek Papiyon reading project, the first of its kind, began in 2009 in all primary schools in Seychelles as part of the reform of Early Childhood Education. The main focus of the project is to increase the level of literacy thus enhancing the economic and social advantage of having three national languages: English, French and Creole. The Aprann Lir Avek Papiyon project is intended specifically to:
- strengthen the early learning and readiness of children;
- enable each child to develop his or her full learning potential;
- improve the quality of teaching and reading in the early years;
- utilise locally produced reading materials; and
- enhance efficiency and effectiveness of reading development in the mother tongue (Creole).
Impact and effect
The Aprann Lir Avek Papiyon project is home grown, hands on and experientially based. It has produced outstanding results and positive impacts on the intended group – children at early childhood stage in schools (Aprann Lir Avek Papiyon Evaluation Study Report 2009, ‘Establishing Standards in Early Childhood Education in Seychelles’ by S Choppy, A Leste and E Benstrong). More specifically, the following findings can be highlighted:
- Substantial increase in the pupils’ mean score on the pre-post evaluation study;
- Over 90 per cent of the learners were on or above the expected level in the post test;
- A consistent pattern of improvement in instructional practices as measured by the Classroom Observation Schedule;
- Over 75 per cent of the teachers found the curriculum materials very good and very effective; and
- Parents were impressed by the teacher-centred approach and motivational dynamism of the programme (interview data).
The project has had an overwhelming impact throughout the education system. This was linked to capacity-building to develop curriculum materials and to train teachers. A model to monitor good practices and structures at ministerial level to manage and sustain developmental educational projects, have also been established. Moreover, international literacy benchmarks (particularly the Southern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality) have been used to set local standards.
With the recent emphasis worldwide on Early Childhood Care and Education, this programme can be an impetus for further developments in early literacy, and the following initiatives provide some indications for its sustainability:
- Longitudinal monitoring;
- Curriculum review and development;
- Capacity-building and professional development;
- Multi-media conversion;
- Community diffusion and partnership;
- Replication and promotion regionally and internationally; and
- International publication.