Our Volunteers: Samantha Haddin volunteering in Timor-Leste

Quase Paroquia St Teresinha do Menino Jesus Bedois

Escola Primaria Sabracalaran - BedoisQuase Paroquia St Teresinha of Bedois has requested two primary trained teachers to work together across two Catholic primary schools – Escola Primaria Sabracalaran & Escola Primaria Bedois of approximately 1200 children, aged 4 – 13 years old.

The Palms’ Volunteers work with the ‘voluntary’ teachers to motivate and help them to develop teaching skills that will enable more educational opportunities for children, staff and parents. The schools are located in an outer suburb of Dili – Bedois.  Currently they are staffed by mostly local volunteers, with a few government paid staff.

Samantha Haddin

Palms recruited Samantha Haddin from Stanmore, NSW to provide support and mentoring of local teachers across the two primary schools, commencing her placement in January 2013. Samantha is an experienced teacher with an exceptional ability to establish cooperative, professional relationships with parents, staff and the school administration.

Sam, has demonstrated “particular skills in dealing with children with special needs or behavioural issues. She has been described as “patient and kind, firm and practical. She puts programs into place that are effective and achievable. Under her guidance the children are able to cope with the structures and demands of school.”

During her placement Sam mentored the school staff through a sharing method of teaching which benefits both teacher and student. An informal ‘program’ of cultural exchange, which began with English classes provided by Sam and fellow volunteer Guida has also had the flow-on effect of strengthening the community and school institutions through awareness of governance processes.

Sam completed her placement in December and is settling back in Australia. Palms is now recruiting for new volunteers to continue her great work at Escola Primaria Sabracalaran & Escola Primaria Bedois. Please email Christine or  call 02 9618 9551 for details.

Kurríkulu Foun, by Sam Haddin

July 22, 2015

Sam Hadden

Sam Haddin

In Timor Leste, appreciation of education is almost universal. The population and government alike see education in all its forms as key to a brighter future. As often happens in a young nation and government emerging from a traumatic past, many systems are trialled and improved upon to find the best structure for the people’s needs. Sam Haddin, volunteer teacher in Bedois, Dili writes of the latest improvement for education, a new Curriculum to increase both student and teacher engagement-

Recently, Timor Leste’s Ministry of Education introduced a new curriculum to be implemented in all schools throughout Timor. The new curriculum is for grades 1 and 2, with the curriculum for grades 3 – 6 to be introduced in the near future.
The new curriculum is very robust and employs many current teaching techniques for each KLA (Key Learning Area).

Every lesson plan for every lesson that needs to be taught for each KLA is included in the new curriculum, along with stipulations about catering for children with special needs, classroom management and discipline and many other day-to-day happenings within the school environment.

Many Australian teachers would, undoubtedly, find this curriculum very rigid and too prescriptive, not really allowing for any flexibility and, therefore, being quite restrictive. However, the reality of the educational situation in Timor Leste is that many teachers, for various reasons, have not had the benefit of teacher-training as we know it. To us, the majority of teaching practice here in Timor appears rather archaic – large classes of children sitting in rows, lots of copying from the board, few open ended questions, plenty of rote learning. This, coupled with an old curriculum that wasn’t teacher or student friendly, has meant that the quality of education, on all levels, has suffered.
However, times are changing.

The Timor Leste government has recognised the importance of education for the future of its nation, and the introduction of the new curriculum is the first step in the journey towards improving education standards.

The new curriculum encourages a shift in educational thinking and doing. Teachers are encouraged to engage the children in pair and group work, ask open-ended questions, implement ongoing assessment, shorten the length of lessons, as well as many other positive pedagogical changes.

Sam's classroom during a recent Palms Encounter by the Catholic Education Office

Sam’s classroom during a recent Palms Encounter by the Catholic Education Office

The challenge lies in the teachers receiving enough support to be able to effect these changes fittingly. We, as volunteers, have been working closely with the teachers of our schools to help them understand what the new curriculum requires of them professionally and to support them in implementing the skills that the curriculum requires, many of which they have had little experience in. Practical skills like reducing the duration of a lesson from one and a half hours to fifty minutes, and more technical skills such as using different resources as teaching aids, are skills which the teachers are developing, with our support, to ensure that they not only teach the new curriculum properly, but also that the children they teach enjoy learning and get the most out of their educational experience.

As with any major change, it will take time for the effects of the new curriculum to be consistently seen in the classrooms of Timor Leste. It is a huge undertaking to change years and years of institutionalised practice and the Ministry of Education and, more importantly, the teachers tasked with this undertaking should be lauded for taking up the challenge.

Reflecting on a Year in Dili, by Sam Haddin

April 21, 2015

First-time enquirers to Palms often feel a bit shocked when told our volunteer placements generally last two years. Some are dissuaded, but many will call again after considering the philosophy and effectiveness  of a long-term program. Sam  Haddin explains the importance of a far-sighted view and the crucial time forming relationships– For a little over a […]

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The Volunteer’s New Year

January 15, 2015

Volunteer Samantha Haddin opts to stay in Dili, Timor Leste, over the holidays, finding very different celebrations as well as time to reflect and plan ahead- I spent Christmas Day at a teacher’s home celebrating her daughter’s First Holy Communion which was lovely. If not for the First Communion, I don’t think much celebrating would […]

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Population: 1,292,755

Area: 15,007 sq. km.

Median Age: 21.5

Literacy: 58.6 %

Languages: Tetum, Portuguese, Indonesian, about 16 indigenous languages

A brief history of independence. mid 1500s – Timor colonised by Portugal 1859 – Portugal cedes West Timor to the Dutch 1942-1945 – Japan occupies East Timor 28 November 1975 – East Timor declared independent from Portugal 7 December 1975 – invaded and occupied by Indonesia. It is estimated that 100,000 to 250,000 were killed […]

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The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress
and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us. - Octavio Paz