My students have begun taking their end of the year exams, which is a pretty high-pressure situation. For me, it means the school year is winding down and I will soon get to do some traveling and see all my friends again. But for my students, it means pass the tests, or you don’t get to move on to the next level. Writing this, I realize I’ve never really explained the school system over here. Seeing as I am over here to work in the education system, I suppose you should know more about it.
I teach at a Secondary School, which is the equivalent of a High School. The grades are called different things as well. Freshman year is simply called form 1, sophomore year is form 2, and so on through form 4. Unlike the in the States, people in each grade have a wide range of ages. Across all 4 forms that I teach I have students that are 13 all the way up to 22. Some of the older students have been in school this while time, and have either transferred schools, or not passed an end of the year exam, forcing them to take the entire year over again. There are many reasons for older students to still be in what we think of as high school and some of them seem a little embarrassed to still be in class with people much younger than them and a teacher barely older than them. I think it shows perseverance. It is all too easy to drop out of the school system here, so for someone to show enough commitment to continue going to school after repeated setbacks shows determination.
At my school, each form is split into two streams. This means there are enough students in each grade level to split into two classes so that the class sizes aren’t too large. The students in a particular stream will then take all of their classes together. They will be with the same students for the entire school year, and will not really interact with the other half of students in their form. Each stream has their own classroom, which they spend the entire day in as well. Teachers rotate classrooms when the class ends, rather than the students moving as they do in America. This means I don’t have my own room. The down side to this is that I cannot have my materials in the room or anything setup prior to entering the classroom. This isn’t as big of a problem, because the science equipment I would have in my classroom in America is not present at my school here. There are a few things like beakers and graduated cylinders available in the shared laboratory, but I don’t have the key to that room yet. The plus side to each stream having their own room is that I can have class at pretty much any time. If I didn’t finish my lesson in one time, or want to teach something extra to a stream that needs more practice, I know where to find them, all the time. I don’t have to make an announcement about meeting up after school, or anything like that. I simple go in the room when they have no teacher.
Oh yea, they don’t always have a teacher in the room here. As crazy as that sounds, it’s true. On a given day, each stream may get all of the teachers to teach or they may get none of them. There is a lot more independent learning here. Absenteeism is an issue with both students and teachers, but it’s actually pretty good with the teachers at my school.
This is a very brief overview of some differences I’ve noticed between teaching in America and teaching in Tanzania. Things like this are normal to me now, so I almost forget that they are educational to those of you back home. I am sure there are many other things that are very different that have become routine to me, so if you have questions, or a request for a blog post topic, please send them my way!
Thanks for reading,