Learning to teach: UNESCO IITE helps scaling up health education in Kyrgyzstan

In 2017, UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (IITE) together with the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyz Republic and Kyrgyz Arabayev’s State University (KSU) and the leading experts in health education have organized 9 seminars for over 200 teachers and trained them to deliver lessons on healthy lifestyle. This initiative was supported by UNAIDS regional technical cooperation programme for HIV prevention in Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO regional advisor on HIV and health education says:

“The Ministry of Education of Kyrgyzstan is very committed to HIV prevention and healthy lifestyle promotion among young people.  Back in 2014, a new programme on healthy lifestyle education was introduced in secondary school and a manual for teachers how to organize such lessons in grades 6 to 11 was developed. However, the issue of teachers’ training remained open for a while. This year, a big step forward has been made by training local trainers who then trained teachers in six cities of Kyrgyzstan. A well-trained and professional teacher is the key for an effective dialogue with adolescents on the most sensitive subjects such as HIV prevention, reproductive health and future well-being”.

This UNESCO and UNAIDS supported initiative has been the first large-scale training since 2014, that benefited 212 teachers in 6 regional centres including the town of Osh that has one of highest HIV prevalence rates in the country. All trained teachers received a manual “Development of lessons on healthy lifestyle for pupils of 6-11 grades”.

The trainings began after the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan issued in January 2017 a Directive to organize regional seminars on healthy lifestyle and HIV prevention. The implementation and coordination of the training activities was delegated to the leading pedagogical institution – the Arabayev’s State University. The project coordinator Ms. Rano Kutanova invited national experts in healthy lifestyle education and authors of the teacher manual Ms. Valentina Gorkina, Ms. Vera Savochkina and Ms. Jamilya Usupova to facilitate the training seminars.

The first train-the-trainer seminar took place in the national capital Bishkek in February 2017 and prepared altogether 18 trainers from Osh, Naryn, Karakol, Balykchy, Cholpon-Ata and Kara Su. Later on, these trainers together with the national experts facilitated 8 seminars in their home towns and trained teachers in 90 schools (81% of schools in Osh and 100% of schools in Naryn, Karakol, Balykchy, Cholpon-Ata and Kara Su).

The training agenda suggested a deep dive into the content of healthy lifestyle lessons: prevention of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and substance use, gender equality and human rights, non-discrimination of people living with HIV, self-development, decision making, networking and relations building, friendship, love, sexual relations, family planning, etc. The teachers were also trained in interactive teaching-learning approaches such as group discussion, brain storming, role play, situation modelling and other. During the seminars, the teachers had an opportunity to plan and practice their own healthy lifestyle lessons and improve their teaching skills thanks to the feedback from the national trainers. This practical exercise was well received by the participants and contributed to good learning outcomes.

Tigran Yepoyan:

«UNESCO has a deep expertise in healthy lifestyle educational program development.  It is the training and practicing of interactive teaching skills that help teachers to feel empowered to discuss sensitive issues related to adolescent health and development with their pupils. We are very much inspired with the fact that these trainings helped 200 teachers in the country to teach healthy lifestyle to over 20,000 pupils».

Teachers’ knowledge evaluation was done before and after each training. It showed that HIV awareness has increased by 18% and reached 95%, and healthy life-style awareness has improved by 20% and reached 76%.

The participants highly appreciated the professionalism, openness and responsibility of the trainers, their positive approach and creativity in delivering the material alongside with thoroughness of logistics and learning process, the structure and relevance of the training agenda.

In addition to teacher in-service training, UNESCO IITE supported the development of two training courses for ongoing pre-service and in-service teacher preparation to deliver HIV and healthy lifestyle education to secondary school pupils. Both training courses were integrated into the core curricula of Arabaev’s University to ensure that all trainee teachers receive basic training and practicing teachers improve their skills in the delivery of  healthy lifestyle lessons.