Children from segregated Roma communities begin compulsory schooling generally without prior pre-school education.
Children from marginalized Roma communities (MRCs) usually start their formal compulsory education without any formal or non-formal preschool preparation. The environment in which they are brought up usually does not provide the appropriate balanced stimuli for developing their preschool skills and the command of the Slovak language.
These children start attending first grade, or often zero grade, with underdeveloped cognitive functions that are crucial for building good reading and writing skills by standard teaching procedures. As a result, many children from MRCs fail in mainstream education system, compared to their peers, even with all the effort made by them and their parents, teachers, and/or community workers. The combination of the aforementioned factors results in the redeployment of these children out of the mainstream school system into schools for children with special needs, or in these children dropping out of school, or completing obligatory school attendance without sufficient knowledge or motivation for secondary education.
The aim of the Let´s Learn How to Learn project was to apply the Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) method aimed at the development of the cognitive and emotional potential of students in elementary schools and Community Centres. The FIE method is based on the principles of developmental and cognitive psychology as well as of special pedagogy. It teaches how to understand and process information, it leads towards systems thinking and it eliminates superficiality and impulsiveness. It does not teach quantity of facts; it teaches how to acquire knowledge. The Method has been successfully applied to a variety of settings in more than 50 countries worldwide. The Method has proven its effectiveness, described in many research studies in dealing with children, youngsters and/or adults, whose ability to learn and use the acquired knowledge in real life have been slowed down or impaired for various reasons. No wonder the Project has drawn the attention of media as well as pedagogy experts.
The Project goals included:
- To improve educational level of children from marginalized Roma communities (MRCs) by applying the Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) method.
- To increase the school-readiness among the children of pre-school age from MRCs.
- To prove the effectiveness of the FIE method in both formal (primary schools) and non-formal (Community Centres) education of children from MRCs.
The Project was implemented in the school year 2013/2014 and partly in 2014/15, in cooperation with two primary schools in Veľká Ida and in Košice-Šaca, as well as in 10 Community Centres (CCs) operated by ETP in Košice-Šaca, Krompachy, Moldava nad Bodvou, Ostrovany, Rankovce, Rudňany, Sabinov, Spišské Podhradie, Stará Ľubovňa and Veľká Ida.
At present, the FIE method continues to be implemented in all three ETP Community Centres (Rankovce, Stará Ľubovňa a Veľká Ida).
At the Primary School in Veľká Ida, a FIE After-school Club runs three hours a day with ten first-graders attended by their school teachers, a Special and a Remedial Teacher. The After-School Club concentrates on the development of cognitive, emotional, social and verbal skills of students, applying the FIE method.
The Project results are very encouraging:
- The application of the FIE method has helped accelerate the development of children´s several cognitive processes.
- Children´s intrinsic motivation towards learning and working has increased.
- Children´s verbal expression and fine motor skills have improved significantly.
- Children have learned to work in groups.
- There was a visible difference between the students attending the school clubs and other students in the classroom in terms of quality of their work and its outcomes.
- Children were better able to control their emotions and their self-regulation has improved.
- The interest of Roma parents in education of their children has increased.
The favorable results of the Project are further described in the manual on the FIE method Let´s Learn How To Learn [SK] available to everyone who is considering applying FIE in their teaching. We are currently working on the English version of the Manual, which is going to be published soon. In the meantime, the summary is available for download here.
The External Evaluation of the Project in the Slovak language can be downloaded here.
To share our experience with the application of the Method, we organized a seminar in Bratislava in November 2014. It was dedicated to educators and representatives of relevant organizations and institutions, and it hosted the son of the Method founder, the director of the Feuerstein Institute in Izrael, Rabbi Refael Feuerstein, who contributed to the pledge made by the representatives of the State´s Education Department to put effort in applying the FIE method in the Slovak education system.
We strive to pave the way for our successors in the name of raising the level of education among young people from marginalized Roma communities, thus contributing to the overall improvement of the living standard in Slovakia.
The project Let´s Learn How to Learn has been supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Active Citizenship and Inclusion Program, operated by Ekopolis Foundation in collaboration with the Children of Slovakia Foundation and SOCIA – The Foundation for Social Change.