Empowering “Health Fundamentals” teachers of Ukraine: Tutorials and seminars supported by the UNESCO IITE

The cooperation history between the Ukrainian Charity Foundation “Women’s Health and Family Planning” and UNESCO IITE goes several years back and presents a number of positive results. In 2014 an educational online portal for adolescents teensLIVE.info has been opened, later on, the Foundation experts developed various informational and methodological materials and ran a series of seminars for parents of adolescents “7 Steps Towards Each Other”. At the moment, the mobile application for teenagers – “LoveLogs”, is being prepared for the launch. The app will combine a digital almanac of useful tips from the Foundation’s experts on adolescent health with the function of a “relationship diary”.

In the period from October 2018 to June 2019, with the support of the UNESCO IITE and in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, took place several projects aimed at boosting the proficiency of Ukrainian teachers in using interactive methods when discussing sexual and reproductive health, HIV prevention, human rights and discrimination.

It all started when the Foundation designed the programme “Reproductive Health and Responsible Behavior of Studying Youth” and introduced it as a complementary curriculum component in the system of postgraduate teacher education. The programme is based on two methodological materials: the trainer guide “Reproductive Health and Responsible Behavior” and the guide for conducting interactive classes “Youth Health and Its Components”, earlier developed by the “Women’s Health and Family Planning” Foundation and approved by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

The programme course aimed to improve the knowledge and skills of teachers running “Health Fundamentals” classes when working with the topic of sexual and reproductive health. In addition, teachers gained experience in planning and conducting interactive classes on the prevention of risky behaviors, learned how to work in a team most effectively, and received some advice on further designing their own professional practice.

Later on, the programme was transformed into a two-day training seminar. A series of such seminars was held at the regional institutes of postgraduate teacher education and continuing education academies all over Ukraine. The teacher trainings took place in Vinnitsa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kirovograd, Poltava, Sumy, Kharkov, and Kherson regions. Most of the institutes (OIPPO) in these areas have included the training “Reproductive Health and Responsible Behavior of Studying Youth” in their curriculum.

The overwhelming majority of the participants in the training seminars were teachers of “Health Fundamentals”. However, biology teachers, school psychologists, social educators, and methodologists also joined the training. The total number of trained specialists was exceeded 206 people, of which 91 work in cities, and the rest – in villages or urban-type settlements.

Here is some feedback from program participants:

“The materials we received are a valuable resource bank of exercises relevant in terms of content and topics […] they can be used in the educational process at the “Health Fundamentals” and biology lessons or as part of classroom hours” (seminar participant in Sumy).

“The knowledge and skills from the seminar can be used when working with parents as well as students” (participant in a seminar in Khmelnitsky).

“These are high-quality materials, in an easy-to-use format. A large number of professionally designed exercises is especially valuable. It is convenient that in the manuals there is not just the methodology for conducting classes, but also handouts for the teacher. It was important that we had the opportunity to feel like trainers during the practical part of the training seminar – this was an extremely useful experience” (participant in the seminar in Poltava).

The participants of the seminars received a set of training materials for further use and distribution, which was possible due to the support of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. In addition, each of the institutes of postgraduate teacher education received an extra set of the materials for the teachers who will attend the course in the future.

As the participants themselves noted, they plan to present the training materials and techniques at the meetings of pedagogical councils in their educational institutions, as well as in the framework of school and district methodological associations of teachers of the “Health Fundamentals” and biology. Moreover, participants plan to conduct trainings for fellow teachers, and of course, to use the exercises from the manuals at the lessons and as part of extracurricular activities.