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It is All about the Children

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Yayasan Hasanah nominated BOLD as a Community Partner in 2020 to conduct a Focus on Literacy (FOL) Outreach Project. The main objective was to help Children with Reading Difficulties (CRD), aged 6-8 years old, attain functional literacy.


In February, 35 recruits were introduced to the theory and teaching methods for CRD and attended training workshops to equip them with the essential skills of behavior management; use of multi-sensory teaching materials and tools for early literacy, Brain Gym, Storytelling and contents of BOLD’s FOL syllabus. In March, the recruits selected to join the project (15 members for the Malay team, 9 for the Mandarin team and 3 for the Tamil team) visited their respective schools and conducted pre-intervention assessments of 64 children in 9 schools.


Then the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced and all schools were closed starting from 18 March. This disrupted completely the project’s plans for conducting teaching sessions, on-site during school hours, two or three times a week.


The learning curve was steep but BOLD staff, coordinators and team members adapted quickly to using Zoom to conduct Online teaching sessions. In April, 5 teams were able to reach out to 21 children and 7 teams returned to on-site teaching after schools re-opened in July. Our Team Members worked hard to accommodate the difficulties of conducting Online sessions that were often irregular or disrupted as parents’ working schedules changed during different phases of the MCO.


The continuing uncertainties of the situation led to an extension of the project until March 2021 and a reduction in numbers to 36 children in 6 schools, in either Malay or Mandarin.

As at March 2021, most of the 36 children are still several stages away from the targeted outcome of functional literacy, defined as “reading level appropriate for texts normally used in the first year of primary schools”.


Only 6 out of 16 children from the Mandarin stream reached this target, representing a success rate of slightly less than 40%;


In the Malay stream, only one special case of a 12-year-old student attained this target in 20 sessions, with the remaining 19 having finished only the first or second stage in BOLD’s FOL syllabus consisting of 5 stages.


The project’s main achievement, however, is that ALL the children HAVE undergone remarkable changes in learning attitudes and behavior. The majority have also improved in their self-confidence, interest in books and reading, and communication skills. This is reported in All the post-intervention interviews with 22 parents and 18 teachers as well as by team members.


Indeed, awareness among parents and teachers about the benefits of the intervention has increased. The parents have responded positively to BOLD’s commitment to continue the teaching sessions after March 2021 when the Yayasan Hasanah Project officially ends. And, ALL 6 preschools/primary schools have requested BOLD to continue FOL Outreach in their schools.


Still, nothing is more convincing than listening to some stories about the children who have gone through the FOL program. Please read the Story of Adil and the Story of Juju.

The Story of Adil

By Tan Siew Bee

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Screenshot of Siew Bee and Adil during an Online session

Adil is one of the most interesting “special” students I have taught in my many years as a team member with BOLD’s FOL Program. I first got to know Adil in March 2020 during Online group sessions for 4 students from his Tadika. He would usually keep to himself and seemed unable to concentrate. On the other hand, he was sometimes very active, moving around at the back of the room while the other children are sitting attentively. His mood changes quite frequently and it took me a few sessions to understand his temperament better.


After I started 1:1 sessions with Adil, I decided to give priority to doing Brain Gym - well known as an effective “movement & activity” intervention for helping children with learning difficulties. Adil enjoyed Brain Gym tremendously. After roughly 10 sessions, he was able to do the regiment of exercises on his own and took pride in demonstrating them to me on screen. I was patient when he was less interested in other “learning” activities, especially reading.


After more than 2 months, Adil was more composed, able to sit down longer and beginning to get interested in the other learning activities. By then I also understood his interests and his strengths better. Though he was still not communicating much, he would show me his toys during our sessions and even his pet kitten. This was the starting point for interaction. Adil had made the leap from being withdrawn and passive to communicating, even if it was more through activity than speech.


I began to build my teaching content around his interest in animals with pictures of different kinds of animals, various nursery rhymes and short video clips, all of them about animals. This gave me the opportunity to start introducing the pictorial basis of Chinese characters for animals. He began to listen and learn more Chinese words. By this time, he was obviously enjoying the lessons, was more focused and interactive and even started on verbal communications.


In one of my lessons, I drew a family tree and added photos of him and his pet kitten. I also devised a card shooting game that we can play and interact virtually. This really caught his attention!


Currently, Adil is able to sit down and concentrate well during our Online sessions. He has shown significant progress from the quiet, reserved, withdrawn child to an interactive, communicative and more independent boy within the twelve months of the Yayasan Hasanah FOL Outreach Project. He has gone through Stages 1 and 2 of the Chinese language syllabus and is able to read about 140 Chinese characters! I feel proud to have been part of Adil’s learning process and will continue teaching him until he is able to keep up with reading at his class level in Primary School.

The Story of Juju

By Felicia Lee

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Juju learning to read and write the letter “m” with kinesthetic movement of a toy car on the letter shape while sounding mmmmmmm to help him remember.

Juju is a shy and quiet 9-year-old boy. He was studying in Year 3 of a local primary school in mainland Penang. Juju is a Sabahan and Bahasa Melayu is his main spoken language. But his teachers found it difficult to understand and converse with him because of his strong Sabahan accent. After he learned the proper pronunciation of sukukata in our classes, we are all able to understand him effortlessly.


Coming from a less fortunate and poorly educated family has made it the biggest barrier for Juju to receive proper education that suits his learning style. He struggled in reading, spelling and writing. He also needs more time to copy from the blackboard in classroom. Many a time, he was labelled as naughty by teachers because he finds it hard to concentrate, usually walks around, or fidgets in his seat.


Brain Gym exercises that we teach as part of our classes helps him to calm down and have better focus in learning. Visual cues, pictorial teaching materials, and kinesthetic movements, help him to understand and remember better, e.g., using a toy car to run over the shape of the letters. He enjoys learning what he can comprehend easily. Juju is easily motivated with little praises and small rewards to mark his achievements.


After attending our classes, his self-confidence has improved and meaningful learning has helped him to be more settled in his classroom behaviour. His headmistress, who is teaching him Moral Education, is full of praise for his tremendous improvement. We were told that he is now a more confident and involved learner in class.


Juju’s mother had been feeling at a loss as she realized he needed help with his learning but the family were unable to afford to send him for tuition classes. When she learnt we were teaching Juju, she was very supportive. During the lockdown, she would make sure Juju continued with our Online sessions despite internet connections and having to share the handphone. His teachers have also made extra efforts to arrange for us to conduct face to face classes for him in addition to online sessions, so that he will have more regular sessions with us. With our intervention, Juju is now able to read, spell words and construct meaningful sentences with proper grammatical structure. Juju’s mother is very happy to see his improvement. She tells us that there are many more “Anak Sabah” like Juju who are less fortunate and urges us to continue with this program to help them.


Sadly, Juju could not continue Face-to-Face classes with us. He had to return to Sabah with his family to care for Juju’s grandma who is ill and needs constant care. Juju was very sad to leave but he accepted his fate. Fortunately, with Online teaching, we are still able to connect and continue to support his learning on a regular basis. We have also managed to make arrangements with local NGOs in Sabah to give him more direct support.

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