UTS enhancing science & mathematics education in Himalayas
UTS School of Education recently completed a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funded project, which aimed to improve the learning outcomes of girls and learners with disabilities in Nepal and Bhutan. The focus of the $186,478 Australia Awards Fellowship grant was to find inexpensive and easily implementable ways to enhance quality and equity in science and mathematics education.
The School of Education’s collaboration with teacher education in the Himalayan region began in 2016 with a DFAT project with the Paro College of Education in Bhutan. It has since grown into a multilateral project involving two Colleges within the Royal University of Bhutan, Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University in Nepal and a Nepalese NGO, the Sunrise Education Foundation.
A main component of the project was a mentoring program with Fellows from Bhutan and Nepal, in which UTS helped to review existing teaching practices and identify innovations that could be practically and sustainably applied.
In November 2017, the School of Education used part of the DFAT grant to host a delegation of 14 Fellows for an intensive two-week program. The program aimed to enhance learning outcomes and engagement in science and mathematics and develop high-quality practical resources for school classrooms and teacher education.
Program leader, Associate Professor Nick Hopwood, says that a common problem the program has attempted to address is how to implement ideals of teaching and learning in environments where there are resource constraints and time pressures on teachers to deliver specified curriculum content.
The issue is not that teachers don’t know what good teaching looks like, or don’t want to do it, but that the circumstances make this hard – our collaboration is about finding things that work in the circumstances that teachers face each day.
Associate Professor Nick Hopwood, program leader
Since the initial two-week program, a team from the School of Education have made follow-up visits to Nepal in January and most recently to Bhutan in May, to continue the mentorship process. The team has reported great success in the project, with a range of innovative teaching methods and resources being used by schools to engage young students in science and mathematics.
At Samtse College, which trains nearly all future Secondary School teachers in Bhutan, students are now learning science and mathematics content through a project-based learning (PBL) approach. A PBL festival was held to share their work and was attended by students, faculty and assessors. This has helped to build future teachers’ confidence in delivering content in these key subjects, as well as modelling ways of teaching and learning that can be translated into school settings. Samtse is currently planning the next phase, involving new topics, embedding the approach in more modules, and bringing more staff to faculty to join them in the process.
In Paro, the College is the main education provider for future Primary School teachers in Bhutan. The College has been working with local primary school teachers, including two members of the initial DFAT Delegation, who have been implementing game-based collaborative learning, and new approaches to teaching that meet diverse learners needs. The College has also been inviting colleagues and school leaders to observe their new lessons, and are planning more innovative lessons and ways to disseminate and share their practices.
At Kathmandu University, the Fellows have been working with local schools to find ways to embed lively, engaging and inclusive ‘micro-projects’ in science and mathematics classrooms. Fellows have mentored teachers who have been trying new approaches in a range of topics, which have been received with great enthusiasm by their students. The new collaboration with the Sunrise Education Foundation is helping to disseminate this across the country.
Furthermore, both Kathmandu and Tribhuvan Universities have organised professional development workshops, inviting teacher educators, school leaders, and teachers to hear the outcomes of their work with UTS.
Amongst all of the education providers, gender has been a strong focus, as ‘inclusivity’ was one of the 8 guiding principles that the DFAT Delegation initially identified and developed. All of the initiatives mentioned above have been designed to foster active participation by girls, garner girls’ interest in maths and science, and remove barriers to girls’ engagement and voice in classrooms.
Building capacity in science and mathematics isn’t just important for these young people’s careers. It will have a longstanding impact on the future of Nepal and Bhutan. By working with people who train new teachers, our aim is to foster the best possible practices among future generations of those working with children in classrooms.
Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn, program co-facilitator
The project, titled ‘Quality and equity in science and mathematics education in Nepal and Bhutan’, was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, through an Australia Awards Fellowship grant awarded to UTS. The project was also supported by accessUTS.
About the team
Associate Professor Nick Hopwood is a UTS expert in professional learning, innovation and evaluation. Associate Professor Hopwood recently led another DFAT-funded Australia Awards Fellowship on education and Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. He has delivered capacity-building projects for education professionals in India and Ghana.
Associate Professor Anne Prescott won a UTS Human Rights Award for Social Inclusion for her work promoting girls’ access to secondary school in Nepal. She is currently leading a $2 million Australian Government project to improve mathematics teaching. Her expertise is in teacher education, mathematics and information & communications technology. Associate Professor Prescott coordinates the UTS Master of Teaching and is a former secondary school teacher of mathematics.
Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn is expert in motivation and science. She has researched girls’ participation in science and maths learning, led teacher education student delegations to Samoa, with extensive experience designing professional learning for teachers.
Dr Kirsty Young coordinates Special (Inclusive) Education at UTS and leads training new teachers to work effectively with students with disabilities. She collaborates with schools developing innovative programs for students with additional needs.
accessUTS is the consulting arm of the University of Technology Sydney, and is leading the project management of this program. accessUTS draws on a pool of experts UTS academics who are experienced at working in partnership with client universities and organisations from around the world to collaboratively develop and deliver organisational and international development programs.
About Australia Awards Fellowships
Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government.
Australia Awards Fellowships build capacity and strengthen partnerships between Australian organisations and partner organisations in eligible developing countries in support of key development and foreign affairs priorities. By providing short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia, mid-career professionals and emerging leaders can tap into Australian expertise, gaining valuable skills and knowledge.