PALEC allows each pupil to learn at his or her own pace so that no one is left behind
Mr. Silué Nanzouan Patrice is the Director of Pedagogy and Continuing Education (DPFC) at the Ministry of National Education, Technical Education and Vocational Training. His department promotes quality education in pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools. PALEC is one of the child-centered pedagogical approaches experimented by the DPFC to improve the acquisition of basic skills in primary schools.
Can you tell us more about your role in the Ministry of National Education?
A: I am the Inspector General of National Education, Director of Pedagogy and Continuing Education (DPFC). The DPFC has several responsibilities which include the development of educational programs and school books; providing quality education in pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools. It also provides pedagogical supervision and in-service training for teaching staff, as well as promotion of the use of new technologies in education and training. The DPFC is the Department that houses and implements PALEC (Projet d’Amélioration de la Lecture-Ecriture et du Calcul), one of the projects launched as part of the TRECC initiative led by the Jacobs Foundation.
Can you tell us what the PALEC is in accessible terms? How was the project developed in Côte d’Ivoire?
A: PALEC was born out of the joint desire of the Ministry of National Education to find a response to the poor performance of pupils in basic learning, and that of the Jacobs Foundation and its partners in the cocoa and chocolate industry – Cargill in the case of this specific project – to offer quality education to children living in remote cocoa-growing communities.
PALEC aims to improve pupils’ literacy and numeracy skills. Through its child-centered approach to learning, it ensures that every pupil learns to the best of his or her ability and that no one is left behind. This is achieved through a pedagogy which focuses on pupils’ psychological needs by means of playful and differentiated activities, promoting the pupil’s autonomy in learning, valuing each learner, respecting the learning pace of each student, etc. Consequently, each one of them has at least one opportunity to experiment an activity, a situation or a learning mode that can be beneficial for him or her. This allows the child to reach an age-appropriate level which builds confidence and self-esteem.
The project was implemented during its pilot phase in 5 community schools in the Haut-Sassandra and Nawa regions, in western Côte d’Ivoire.
With its child-centered approach, PALEC addresses learners at different levels, in so-called multigrade classes that combine, for example, CP1 and CP2 levels (1st grade) in a single group.
What are the results of PALEC in terms of children’s learning?
A: It is indisputable that PALEC provides added value in basic learning. This was clearly demonstrated by the results of the recent evaluation conducted by the Directorate for Program Monitoring and Surveillance (DVSP) on a large sample of PALEC pupils. The evaluation highlighted above-average performance in core subjects such as Reading and Writing and Mathematics.
It should be noted that the scores were recorded at the end of two school years, each of which was fraught with difficulties that forced the teaching team to manage learning based on condensed programs over a relatively short period. This suggests that in a more fluid school year, results can be much better.
PALEC has also demonstrated benefits such as improved teacher-pupil relationships, pupil involvement and autonomy, development of healthy living skills, community acceptance and involvement in children’s education.
How does PALEC fit into the strategies and priorities of the Ministry of National Education?
A: Improving children’s school performance is one of the priorities of the Education/Training Sector Plan 2016-2025. PALEC uses a pedagogy that allows pupils to interact by playing, manipulating, experimenting, discussing and formulating conclusions to take ownership of their knowledge. By focusing on teacher training, PALEC also ensures that teachers are attentive and well-trained to get involved in, and facilitate learning in a joyful and participatory manner, thereby removing factors that may be a barrier to learning.
Furthermore, PALEC can be an adjunct to the Compulsory Schooling Policy (PSO). It is a natural accompaniment which will make it possible, through multigrade classes, to resolve simultaneously and effectively the problems inherent in human resource management and low enrolment in rural areas, while improving the quality of educational delivery through attractive teaching methods.
Are you facing any difficulties? What are the challenges after the PALEC pilot phase?
A: The pilot project has shown that the PALEC methodology is the way forward, with success in improving the learning levels of pupils in CP1 and CP2 (1st grade).
Despite challenges such as COVID-19 and the unavailability of new classrooms, adaptations enabled pupils to continue their studies, showing that PALEC is an approach that produces good results, but is low cost. Eight low tables, two shelves and a few mats are enough to equip a classroom.
One of our challenges remains the use of digital tablets as a tool to support learning and monitoring. It should be noted that this technology works without the Internet and the only obstacle may be the electricity, which can be produced by solar energy. However, there have been delays in the delivery of equipment from India, while the educational chain actors sometimes have difficulties with the digital tool. PALEC’s pedagogical approach does not depend on technology, although the tablet can create added value, particularly in terms of monitoring, by helping identify children with learning difficulties in real time and remotely.
What is the outlook for PALEC?
A: The perspectives are positive. Commitment to and enthusiasm for PALEC has spread throughout the ecosystem: parents, teachers, educational advisers and inspectors have adopted PALEC. The latter are advising formal teachers on PALEC strategies. Moreover, PALEC has recorded good school attendance. There is a strong expectation for a wider expansion of PALEC and this is appropriate. This extension could take place both vertically through the creation of new schools with multigrade classes, and horizontally through the conversion of the 2nd grade to 5th grade curricula to start the deployment of the approach in the upper levels of primary cycle. The Ministry remains hopeful of sustainable funding that would enable PALEC to be extended to other cocoa-producing localities, and eventually to other areas of the country in need of education.
The translation of these wishes into action will address the right to quality education for children in all regions and will contribute to our country’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).
Mr. Silué Nanzouan Patrice is the Director of Pedagogy and Continuing Education (DPFC) at the Ministry of National Education, Technical Education and Vocational Training. His department promotes quality education in pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools.