Run by Viclink’s Education Programme, Accent Learning, the three-year pilot programme in Tonga was designed to build capability of those delivering support to schools or teaching trainee educators.
The programme involved the Ministry’s professional development staff, nine local schools and a group of teacher educators. Over three years, Accent Learning staff undertook 16 visits to Tonga to hold workshops, observe teacher educators and school officers, visit schools and meet with school principals.
Accent Learning education programme manager Deidre Vercauteren says from the onset, Accent Learning staff were committed to work with local schools and the Ministry in a way that respected their cultural values.
“During our first visit, we met with the chairman of the Tongan Civil Society Forum Drew Havea. We discussed cultural considerations and our approach. Armed with this knowledge we felt confident we could avoid cultural misunderstandings.
“The people we were working with appreciated that we started from their current position and then made a plan from there to enhance their practice. We weren’t coming in with a whole new way of teaching. This approach was well received throughout the pilot.”
The programme has been well received by the participants, which Deidre says is partly because of their decision to use an inquiry approach to their work, whereby information is gathered, needs are identified and a plan is put in place.
“We modelled this approach in all of our workshops and supported the Tongan team to use inquiry to develop the efficacy of their own work in schools. We are convinced the inquiry approach was a major factor contributing to the positive impact of the project.
“The pilot proved very successful and in a final interview with Mr Taunisila he said: ‘You came and gave us what we needed to help us with our curriculum. You have given us a treasure’.
“A school officer said: ‘Your approach has built my capacity in my role as a professional development officer for teachers. I feel competent and confident when I deliver my message to teachers.
“We developed strong relationships with all of our Tongan colleagues, and I’m confident this programme will lead to better quality teaching and learning.”
Photograph: Accent Learning staff Jeremy Bloomfield, Deidre Vercauteren and Jessica Craig and with participants in the Quality Teaching and Learning for Basic Education in Tonga pilot programme.