Thursday, August 24, 2017

SHARE's Digital Literacy Classes!

JWOC has teamed up with the SHARE Institute to provide Digital Literacy classes to the local community. The partnership looks to provide quality learning opportunities for the poorest in the community to learn the basics of digital literacy. This will in turn improve student’s employability, 21st Century skills and broader studies. The project also looks to ensure access to digital infrastructure to all within the community, so all have basic access to computer software and the internet.

Many youth in Cambodia do not have access to technology or the opportunity to develop their digital literacy skills, because of this lack of access many are left working in low skilled, low paid and high risk employment, hitting a glass ceiling with regards to their employment prospects. Through SHARE’s donation, JWOC was able to design and pilot a new basic digital literacy for young learners. Taught by JWOC’s head IT teacher Sitham and scholarship student Check, two classes of 23 students attended class for 4 hours per week for 2 months. The course content includes beginner IT functions including the parts of computers, typing effectively, how to research online, download images, and use various Microsoft software.

On top of this, students also continue to be exposed to tablets in their English classes through educational apps and digital Khmer language. This tablet exposure as well as the Digital Literacy course not only allows them to become comfortable around technology, but also improves their English language skills as teachers Sitham and Chek pushed them to use English throughout the course.
This course is integral to the development of JWOC's younger students and will give them the basic skills they need to use IT in school and later on when they are entering the job market.  By becoming more digitally literate at an earlier age, they will have a comparative advantage to those who only start learning when they are adults. The course ended successfully with an 86% pass rate and students developing their proficiency, JWOC will now incorporate this class each term. After students successfully complete the Young Learners class, they are encouraged to move on to more advanced IT classes where they will build upon and deepen their understanding.
Case Study
Thida is 12 years old and has just completed the  Young Learners Digital Literacy. Thida is spirited student who dreams of becoming a doctor and attends JWOC every day during the week to learn English and IT. Of the Digital Literacy course he said, ‘JWOC helps me achieve my future goals because I’m learning English and computer skills so now I can type in Khmer and English. I also know about how computers work, the different parts, how to use and Microsoft Word!’
JWOC would like to thank the SHARE Institute for enabling JWOC's Free Classes to provide such meaningful opportunities to the local community here in Siem Reap!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Adam's IT Adventure!

As a mature International Development student in London I set out to make the most of my summer break, I have volunteered in several western countries and wanted to take my skills further abroad this time, and I wanted to use my skills in IT and finance. Cambodia has always interested me, I had a friend who volunteered here many years ago and she spoke of the troubles that the country had faced and how resilient and friendly the people are, it is a place that has sat in the back of mind for a long time.
My search for an NGO that incorporated technology, education and community support wasn’t’ especially easy. There are plenty of NGOs working with children and adults in Cambodia but I kept encountering the same barriers, I couldn’t find the child protection policies of the NGOs online and also I kept being redirected to a third party that organised voluntourism visits to orphanages and schools and only provided the NGO with around 25% of fee for these visits. These practices often result in the exploitation of children for profit and don’t actually help change lives.
When I found JWOC, it seemed to tick all the boxes and after an email exchange and Skype call, I knew I’d found a place that is extremely focused on sustainability and puts the needs of the children and the local Khmer people at its core. I believe that education is the cornerstone of society and that it is a fundamental tool in alleviating poverty. Often digital literacy gets put to the back of the pile when it comes to education in developing countries but in our rapidly changing world it is as important as any other form of literacy and thankfully JWOC recognise how important STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) is. So I set myself to fundraising and booked my flight to Bangkok (for a quick stopover).

After leaving the chaos of Bangkok behind, I boarded the plane for a one-hour flight to Siem Reap, the first thing that struck me whilst flying over the Cambodian countryside was just how beautiful and green the landscape was, it reminded me of home. The tuk-tuk ride to my hotel was my first real taste of Cambodia, it was dusty and my senses were bombarded with lots of new sights, sounds and smells, this is a continuing theme here in Siem Reap. Coming from the UK, I had prepared myself for the “culture shock” but I was still stunned to see how people live, the levels of poverty and the lack of infrastructure.
As I walked through the gate on my first day at JWOC I was greeted by smiling, happy children but that’s not just unique to the children, everyone here always has a smile for you. The staff welcomed me and gave me a tour, I know that JWOC relies on donations to keep operating so I was extremely impressed with the facilities, it just shows what people working together for a common goal can achieve, and it is truly civil society in practice. I was introduced to Sitham, the IT teacher and computer technician and my first class in the computer lab.
I’ve spent the last few weeks working with some amazing staff, I’ve implemented a new system for online learning which gives real-time data for teachers to see how each student is progressing with their typing and other educational games. This will enable teachers to be able to give support to those who need it and praise those who are excelling and also know exactly who is working and who isn’t, allowing for a more robust lesson. I have been helping with teaching techniques and confidence building and fixing several niggling IT problems within the lab.
I have visited a local village with the community support team and witnessed the amazing work they do in the outlying villages around Siem Reap and how their programs help those who do not have access to education, this was an eye-opening experience as the villagers are mostly illiterate, have restricted access to electricity and no running water. The levels of poverty are truly heartbreaking but the work performed by JWOC is vital, sustainable and aimed at the roots causes, it is truly commendable work.

The children and adults who attend the Free Classes show a real willingness to learn, there is a drive for knowledge resonating throughout the students and it is evident there is a strive for constant improvement within the faculty. I set out to leave something in place that will benefit the students and the teachers and improve the IT classes, hopefully, when I leave they will have a fully functioning data collection system that will be used for future classes. Technology is vital for education and if utilised correctly it can profoundly change the way people look at the world, it can open doors of creativity and new freedoms.
My visit to South East Asia hasn’t just been about work, I have spent 3 days in Bangkok, I have experienced the wonderful temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, I have visited the capital Phnom Penh and the province of Mondulkiri, to visit an elephant sanctuary and I have experienced many other facets of this beautiful country. I also plan on visiting Vietnam before I leave.
I would like to thank the staff and pupils of JWOC for welcoming me into their amazing family, everyone has gone above and beyond to make sure I fit in here. JWOC is truly an asset to Cambodia and if you are thinking about volunteering, fundraising or donating then I can assure you that your efforts are going to the very best cause. I’ll leave you with a quote, which I think encapsulates the spirit of JWOC – “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Teaching for Success: Dany Teaches in Thailand

Many of JWOC’s Scholarship students study Teaching English at university, and as part of their development many of them have to demonstrate their skills in the classroom. The lucky few get to go abroad to practice their skills on a new audience. Over the past few years, six JWOC scholarship students have attended their teaching practicum abroad, so we caught up with the most recent, Dany Pem, to understand her experience.
How and why you were chosen to attend the Practicum in Thailand?
For 4th years studying Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at the University of South-East Asia (USEA), every student has to complete a teaching practicum in order to complete your degree. As a TEFL student, the practicum is very important as we’re trained in how to teach and we can now apply what we’ve leant so far in the classroom. Of the students in my year, 85% conduct the practicum in Cambodia and 15% in Thailand. If a student can have the opportunity to conduct the practicum in Thailand they will gain new experiences and credit, so everyone wishes to do it in Thailand. In order to be chosen to conduct my practicum in Thailand, I have to prepare from my first year at university. First, I have to be an outstanding student with my GPA above 3.5; second, I have to get a passport; and third, I have to save some money for living as the school won’t pay food for you during your time away. Having experience in teaching is also a great addition as you will more be confident; as an adult English teacher in JWOC now for 3 years and a full-time teacher I have experience in teaching both adult and children, so during the practicum I was confident in my ability to use my skills in the classroom.
What were the intended outcomes of the Practicum?
The practicum lasted for just under 2 weeks, from 10th to 23rd March 2017 at Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University. There were 8 Cambodian students with one supervisor from USEA. We were warmly welcomed by the Director of the English department, and allowed to stay in an apartment near by the university (normally students stay in university dormitory) which was very convenient for us. My main purpose for conducting the practicum in Thailand was to gain more experience teaching foreign students. I think Thai students are very competitive, active and polite, so the activities that I should apply must be competitive as well. Second, I want to see how English is taught and learnt in other countries; Thai students rarely speak English in the class, but they love to practice English with foreigners. And third, I wanted to know about Thai culture, it was my first time being out of Cambodia and these experiences are really important for me, especially in a school.
What did you do during the practicum and your time in your time in Thailand?
In order to complete the practicum, I need to complete at least 3 sessions teaching. Unfortunately, most classes were finished and on holiday before exams so there were very few classes left, so we taught in groups and pairs. Before I could teach my own class I needed to observe the associate teacher to learn and understand new ideas and techniques and then prepare my lesson plans two days beforehand. It was my first-time teaching in a pair, at first I found it hard to work together during the planning because the time have for a class is less than an hour, we had to plan any activities that were short and effective. Everyone came up with different ideas, so we needed to agree on the best one. However, everything was smooth and easy during the lesson, we shared roles and helped each other running the activities in a smooth and punctual way. There was lots of involvement from the Thai students; they are polite, enthusiastic and eager to learn. They also like being competitive which make the class lively. I completed 3 short sessions as required, and working in group was great as we learnt a lot of activity ideas from them. I learnt to work in a team and share what my knowledge and experience too.
Besides teaching, we also spent time travelling, shopping, eating, and doing traditional dancing for cultural exchange performance.  The culture exchange day happened on the 22nd March. Thai and Cambodian students showed our traditional dancing to represent both countries. And then we presented about Cambodia, including Cambodian culture, tourism, symbols and lifestyle. It is a chance for Thai students to understand Cambodia because one day they might have their practicum in Cambodia, too.

How has the trip impacted you and your degree?
Most of the students want to conduct the teaching practicum in Thailand to gain new experiences teaching foreign students. The most experience I gained came from observing my friends and the associate teacher, so I can apply their techniques into my teaching. Next, is to gain credit. The certificate from an outside country will identify that I’m an outstanding student, so it helps me to apply for other courses and improve my employability. I also got to see new cultures outside Cambodia, to taste new foods and to talk to new people. Even though it was only two weeks, I learnt a lot!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Parental Pride: Quality Education at JWOC for a Better Future

Parents will do almost anything to give their children the best possible start so they can succeed later in life, and Cambodian parents are no different. However, many parents in Cambodia are left frustrated as they cannot afford the extra tuition that is often necessary to give their children a quality education; so enrolling them in JWOC's Free Classes program can ensure their children get the quality education they deserve.
To find out how the Free Classes was helping JWOC families, we caught up with a parent to find out how her daughter studying in the program was impacting their life...

Please introduce yourself and your daughter.
My name is Tola, I am 32 years old. I have worked at local hotel as a cleaner for about 2 years; I am divorced and now live with my daughter, Vichika, who is 7 years old. She studies in grade 2 of Primary school in the mornings and at JWOC in the afternoons. We live in Svay Dongkom commune, Siem Reap town (approximately 2km from JWOC).  Every day I go to work at 2pm, returning home at 11pm. When I am working, I leave Vichika with her grandmother.

How did you first hear about JWOC? Why did you decide to bring Vichika to learn at JWOC?
I first heard about JWOC when another parent told me about the organisation. Her daughter shares the same grade as Vichika, she told me about JWOC and about how they help poor students, she told me that JWOC’s teachers are qualified and provided students with a good education. I was motivated to take Vichika to study at JWOC. This was great timing as I had been looking a free school for Vichika because I could not afford to pay for private schools.

How long has Vichika been studying at JWOC? Have you seen an improvement in her studies since she started?
My daughter has been studying at JWOC now for about two years. She makes me very proud, I speak no English but even I can learn a lot from her, now I can understand common words and phrases and communicate in funny ways with her. She has made big improvements in her English!
What do you think about the learning process and JWOC?
I love the ways that JWOC teaches Vichika. It has one of the highest reputations as an English school in Siem Reap, with well-trained teachers building the children’s confidence to speak, think creatively and build good morals. JWOC is playing very important role in helping to develop the local community. This is especially helpful for parents like me (a single-parent), who spend most of their time working to support our children. JWOC is like my daughter’s second home, I feel safe when she is there.
In your opinion, how do you think learning at JWOC helped prepare Vichika for state schooling?
I can see that Vichika is a very fast learner, she has not only learnt new English at JWOC but also is now more creative. She can use these experiences and does well at state school. JWOC provides a good model for the children learning there, they understand the importance of education and how it will help them in the future.

As a parent, how important is it for Vichika to obtain a quality education?
Education is very important for my child, I have very little knowledge to give her. I have very little education and, as a result, I do not earn a high salary. However, quality education is now required to get a good job and succeed. If I encourage my daughter to study hard but the quality of education she gets is still low it will make it much harder for her. There are so many challenges and competition in the job market so it’s really important that she can get the qualifications and find a good job. I put my hope in JWOC, and I am so proud that my girl not only studies English, but that now she can use her English to give herself a better life in the future.

How do you think Vichika’s education at JWOC will help her in the future?
I often talk to Vichika and say ‘child, if you study hard the teachers or staff at JWOC will choose you to work there when you grow up, so please study hard’, this would be my dream for her. It acts as inspiration for her and it gives her the motivation to study hard. In the future, I would like her to continue her studies and work in company or organisation like JWOC. JWOC is the critical place to sharpen her English skills and other skills like IT. I would like her to study at JWOC till she finishes all courses if allowed.
Credit goes to JWOC scholarship students Yeat Sean and Thaireth Sob for their part in conducting and translating the interview.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

CSEF 2017: JWOC takes STEM to Phnom Penh!

By Sarah Thompson, Education and Volunteer Manager
During the days of March 9th-11th myself, Nesa, and our two JWOC scholarship student Science teachers Rit and Thoeu went to Phnom Penh to represent JWOC in the 3rd annual Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival (CSEF)! This year was quite different to previous years as it was held in the National Stadium so the crowds were larger and there were many performing acts to keep the exhibitors and the visitors entertained. There were over 23,000 attendees at the stadium including schools, other NGOs, and families with young kids. Our goal when attending the CSEF was to share the gift of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to Cambodian youth while giving our staff and students the chance to gain new ideas and perspectives from other organizations in attendance. For the three full days, we showed 4 experiments and had our microscopes and Samsung tablets full of interactive Science apps on display.
On the opening day, we displayed the ‘Oobleck’ - a much loved experiment from last year. Oobleck is a messy fluid-like substance that can be a solid or liquid depending on the amount of pressure applied to it. Adults and children are always amazed by it and call it ‘magic’ even though it’s a simple mixture of borax, water, cornstarch, and food color. Another popular experiment was ‘Galaxy Slime’ a gooey, glittery, multicolored substance that the younger students loved to make with us at the booth. We also show-cased flowers and cabbage in colored water to show how the capillaries absorb the liquid and change colors according to the food coloring. The second and third day we showed our ‘Magic Milk’ experiment where we used a Q-tip and dropped small amounts of soap into a plate of milk dyed by food coloring. The soap would cause the colors to separate like magic which was really surface tension at work because milk has fat in it and reacts to the soap. The students really enjoyed these short experiments as they were able to do them themselves and get their hands dirty!
After they watched or helped create the experiments, the visiting crowds enjoyed looking at plant and animal cells through our microscopes and using our tablets to play with our apps. We got many questions and smiles from our experiments and Rit, Thoeu and Nesa did wonderful jobs explaining the concepts in both Khmer and English. In order to see all that CSEF had to offer, we took turns walking around the event, networking with other organizations, and taking pictures. Rit was even asked to help out at the British Embassy’s booth where he performed a home-made well experiment using balloons and a water bottle, it was a success judging from the large crowds around the booth. As this was Rit’s first visit to the CSEF representing JWOC he was delighted to experience it and shared some of his thoughts: “This is the first year I went to join the event and I am so happy to have worked as a team with everyone. I learned a lot from the event and enjoyed telling visitors about our experiments. I remembered experiments other booths displayed so I can show them to my students in my science class and I hope they will enjoy it and learn from them.”
The trip to CSEF solidified our commitment to STEM at JWOC and gave us inspiration for our own Science classes as well as for a local Science fair we hope to hold later in the year. It was amazing to see Cambodian youth get excited about Science and technology and learn through hands-on activities.  Using simple ingredients for our experiments, we hoped to inspire and push kids to take a more active role in Science learning at school and at home. JWOC is proud to have shared our Science capabilities and experiments with thousands of children and adults who visited our booth and we are excited for what next year’s CSEF has to bring!


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