Epitomising the "What is the world coming to" campaign at Murdoch, Associate Professor Libby Lee-Hammond and Dr Andrew McConney from the School of Education were approached by World Vision to conduct the first assessment of early literacy and numeracy in the Solomon Islands in October.
Professor Lee-Hammond spent 10 days travelling around remote villages with World Vision to review the effectiveness of their early childhood programs.
"World Vision set up a kindergarten program in some provinces of the Solomon Islands six years ago and they were interested in finding out whether it was affecting the literacy and numeracy levels of children in Years 1 and 2," Professor Lee-Hammond said.
"We soon found that families jumped at the chance to participate in the kindergartens as 100 per cent of children were enrolled if there was one operating in the village. So we had to compare villages with the World Vision kindergartens to villages in another province without any kindergartens.
Professor Lee-Hammond worked with four local World Vision staff, training them to assess literacy and numeracy levels in the children.
"Assessing literacy and numeracy is not just a matter of a standardised test," she said.
"Many of these schools had no books, so children were learning to identify numbers and letters written on the back of shells or using palm fronds as paint brushes.
"The World Vision staff needed training to learn how to frame questions and discover what to look for in the way the children answered the questions.
"The added benefit of this assessment process was that the local teachers learned a great deal about where some of the gaps were in the children's knowledge which could help inform their teaching program."
Now back at Murdoch, Professor Lee-Hammond will work with Dr McConney to analyse the results and report back to AusAID and World Vision.
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More information: murdochresearch.com.au/?pid=BMD2013_Bnr_HP_allstor