The PEP offers a comprehensive curriculum that caters to the age and learning needs of the children. Children are categorized into different classes based on their ages from nursery to class six. The students study a wide variety of subjects—Dari, English, math, sports, health, reading, writing, and science. Students participate in group discussions that help them develop critical thinking skills, formulate and share opinions, and listen to others. Afghan children today have never lived during a time of peace and only know war. Children in AIL’s PEP learn about peace and how to respect their parents, neighbors and elders. They also learn and perform Afghan songs, dances, poems and short skits and have performed in many local and national events. They have been featured on Afghan radio, BBC-radio, and TV and perform at ceremonies for AIL seminars and events. The children love to do these performances, which build their self-esteem as well as their knowledge of their heritage and culture.
This program stands in stark contrast to the traditional methods of primary and pre-primary education in Afghanistan. Pre-primary education that was directed at preparing children for grade school did not exist prior to AIL’s PEP. Primary education teaching methods consisted of rote memorization and dictation. Children did not typically learn to read until the third grade. Now some of AIL’s PEP students learn to read before they leave pre-school! Some AIL PEP students are placed into higher grades when they begin primary school because of the education they received at PEP.
PEP Teacher Training - Teacher training and supervision is an integral part of AIL’s pre-school education program. Seminars are designed to upgrade the skills of pre-school teachers and focus on developing classroom objectives, the characteristics of a good teacher, psychology, discipline and student-centered methodologies for teaching math, language, health and other subjects. AIL teacher training staff have also developed a variety of workshops to upgrade the skills of pre-school teachers.
Workshops provided teachers with training in science activities, art, making lesson plans, objectives and benefits of pre-school education for students, duties and responsibilities of pre-school teachers, rules, and discipline. The quality of education in the pre-schools has greatly improved in the last several years due to consistent teacher training and supervision and the introduction of new materials and equipment for the children. PEP is visited by AIL managerial staff and teacher trainers every week for supervision and monitoring. Staff work with the teachers to help them to effectively apply what they are learning in the trainings. All of the teachers find the teacher training and supervision very valuable. They realize that what they have learned in the past few years has made them much better teachers and, as a result, their students are learning more effectively.
Parent and Community Involvement in PEP - AIL encourages parent and community involvement in the pre-school program. Parents contribute food and other supplies to offset the costs of running the pre-school. AIL has innovated the practice of holding monthly meetings for teachers and parents. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. For Afghans, involving parents in the schooling of their children is a new concept. When AIL began parents’ meetings a few years ago, parents were not sure why they needed to come at first. Now the parents find the meetings valuable because they learn what they can do with their children at home to complement and reinforce pre-school lessons. Parents consistently attend the meetings. During the parent/teacher meetings, the pre-school teachers report on the progress of the children, demonstrate things that the parents can do at home with the children, listen to the parents, and respond to questions. Parents are asked for their comments and given evaluation sheets to present their views. Parent feedback about the program has been overwhelmingly positive. AIL has a waiting list of students who would like to enroll in its PEP.