Elda Damaris Flores de Lopez is a kindergarten teacher in a public school, located in the rural community of Santiago Texacuangos, a town with a population of 23,800 in the department of San Salvador. Elda’s classroom is one of eight in this preschool center which exclusively houses this level of education. In other Salvadoran communities, kindergarten classrooms are usually part of a larger primary school, containing grades one through nine.
Elda is one of the kindergarten teachers selected to participate in EDIFAM training. The Early Childhood and Family Education (EDIFAM) activity is designed to improve the care and education of Salvadoran children, particularly poor and rural children, from birth through six years of age, in El Salvador. The four integrated components of the project aim to:
- Improve the technical skills of formal and non-formal early childhood caregivers and educators;
- Increase the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills of children ages zero through six;
- Strengthen the ability of public and private sector institutions to provide early childhood care (ECCE) services with improved quality; and
- Increase the general awareness of the importance of child rearing skills.
A kindergarten teacher for only the past two years, Elda taught for eight years before that in other primary school grades. These ten years of teaching experience, Elda says, have influenced her attitude and approach to her work in the classroom. “I used to be a serious, stern teacher and a strict disciplinarian,” says Elda. But EDIFAM has helped her to change. After participating in EDIFAM training workshops, Elda reports that she treats the children quite differently, that she has become more understanding of their needs and more aware of why they behave as they do. It’s not because they are clumsy or uncoordinated, for example, when they drop their school supplies, it’s that kindergarten-age children don’t have the highly-developed motor skills to use these items as older children or adults do. EDIFAM has taught her that.
Changes in Student Behavior
Elda now knows that the children should be given the opportunity to communicate amongst themselves, that complete silence in the classroom is not necessarily optimal for a positive learning environment. One of her students, she explains, used to misbehave in class, showing signs of aggressive behavior and isolating himself from the other children. In the third EDIFAM workshop on early childhood social-emotional development, Elda learned new techniques and strategies which she has already put to good use. As a result of the change in her disciplinary approach, this student has also changed. He is now better integrated into classroom activities, is friendlier with the other students and is making rapid progress in performance.
Presently 450 rural kindergarten teachers like Elda participate in the EDIFAM training. Together they reach over 13 thousand children. By training these kindergarten teachers and other daycare providers, EDIFAM hopes to improve teaching and ultimately to increase the cognitive, psychomotor and social skills of young children in El Salvador.
EDIFAM is funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) through a cooperative agreement known as Educational Quality Improvement Program 1 – Building Educational Quality through Classrooms, Schools and Communities (EQUIP1). It is implemented by American Institutes for Research (AIR), Education Development Center (EDC), Save the Children/USA and Sesame Workshop, and continues through June, 2005.
Originally published on December 1, 2004