Projects in Tonga
In 2012, the Peace Corps in Tonga initiated a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) program at the primary level: the English Literacy Project. This shift to a single, focused project is in keeping with the Peace Corps’ worldwide emphasis on concentrating resources on priority host country needs. In addition to their work with students and teachers in the area of English literacy education, Volunteers typically work on other projects during their service, in such areas as youth leadership, water and sanitation, environment, and healthy lifestyles. These projects evolve from community needs and Volunteers’ personal interests and skills.
Peace Corps/Tonga's English Literacy Project has three goals:
- Help build the capacities of primary and middle-school staff to adopt participatory, student-centered practices that integrate English skills with other subject areas and otherwise support the Ministry of Education's efforts to move to a multi-disciplinary "child-centered" model;
- Use effective "student-centered" practices to provide instruction (in classroom and after-school settings) which builds the English skills that Tongan children need for academic success and to carry out work, personal health, financial, civic, and other "real-world" responsibilities as adults; and
- Strengthen community support for literacy education and access to literacy education opportunities for their own growth.
To achieve these goals, PCV "English Literacy Facilitators" play role as:
- Resource persons who help Tongan staff develop their ability to use student centered practices (through modeling, mentoring, co-teaching, facilitating of professional development workshops, and co-creation of curriculum materials);
- English teachers in primary (and possibly middle) schools where they will work with principals and counterparts to adapt, develop, and field test effective English lessons that flesh out the Ministry's curriculum framework; and
- Community facilitators who help parents and other community members increase their support for education and, where appropriate, participate in literacy education opportunities for their own growth.
In support of the Ministry's emphasis on "healthy lifestyles" activities for students, PCVs will be encouraged to model healthy practices and integrate them with their English teaching activities. Where appropriate, PCVs can also help schools develop the appropriate use of computer and other electronic technologies as well as print resources as tools for literacy instruction and teacher professional development.
This project has great implications for Tongan children and communities, for the reform of Tongan education, and for similar education reform efforts worldwide. It is also a great professional and personal development opportunity for an American interested in education, language, culture, development, and related fields.
How PCVs Use the Project Framework
The above goals are summarized in a Project Framework, which goes into some detail about the objectives, activities, and reporting indicators associated with each goal.
This Framework is a key tool which PCVs use to:
- Communicate with stakeholders (e.g., counterpart principals and teachers, PTAs, community members...);
- Plan what they do in the sites;
- Implement, document, monitor, improve, and report their activities;
- Make decisions about future activities.
How PCVs are Trained and Supported to Implement the Project Framework
Upon arrival in Tonga, new Trainees go through a two-month Pre-Service Training in which they participate in a variety of classroom, experiential, and self-directed learning activities designed to help them the self-reliant, productive Volunteers. They learn how to:
- Ensure their own health and safety;
- Develop language and cultural skills which they can use to integrate with their community (and thereby develop productive relationships and understand community resources and needs);
- Perform their roles as English Literacy Facilitators in primary schools.
At the end of Pre-Service Training, Trainees are sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers. They move to their new communities and spend the next two months (which are the "Summer Break" period in Tonga) to get to know the principals, teachers, students, parents, and community members they will be working with: PCVs also get periodic other in-service training during their two years. They also regularly interact with fellow Volunteers, officials from the Ministry of Education and Training, and Peace corps staff to discuss ideas and challenges that come up and further develop their abilities to achieve our project goals.