Mastering Process: Relevance in Tanzanian Classrooms
In Tanzania, as in many African countries, students do not get excited about their school learning experiences. From the time a child begins going to school, people around him/her stress how important it is to pass examinations. The student feels pressure from parents and teachers, who emphasize the point of attending school is to memorize materials in each subject and earn high marks on both regular and national examinations. Mastery of the syllabus becomes the goal, instead of mastery of the subjects.
Quest Forward Learning brings a different flavor to the learning experience. The platform, methodology, and curriculum give students an exciting way of learning that focuses on mastery rather than completion. One aspect of Quest Forward Learning that excites both mentors and students is relevance.
Relevance connects concepts and emphasizes learning within a meaningful context for the student. This connection can be defined by the environment in which students live, or the dreams they wish to achieve when they are done with their studies. Relevance is evident when it shows a close connection between classroom learning and students’ goals for their futures or current interests. For this reason, all quest designers make sure to incorporate relevance very clearly into their quests, since the greater a student’s connection to and interest in course materials, the greater their path to mastery in a subject.
Here are a few examples of how relevance changes the learning scenario for Quest Forward Learning students in Tanzania:
Most students in various schools in Tanzania are afraid of mathematics because most teachers make the concepts so difficult to understand. Teachers should not be blamed for this; one of the reasons they don’t communicate ways to understand the concepts is that they haven’t found ways to make mathematics relevant to students’ lives. Relevance was not part of their training to become teachers.
Quest Forward mentors are different. They know how to guide students to find connections between mathematics and their day-to-day experiences. Students notice mathematical applications in almost 90% of what they do daily. Their mothers would not be able to cook anything without using fractions. All parents and guardians use mathematics unconsciously in their daily activities. Additionally, if students take time to observe the buildings they inhabit, whether at home or at school, they see geometry in the floor, walls, and roof.
Students understand concepts in all subjects much more readily using relevance. Difficult subject concepts can be greatly simplified when relevance is incorporated in both the Quest Forward course materials and the active, hands-on process of learning.