Creative’s on-site early childhood education preps kids for school, boosts staff morale

By Jillian Slutzker

November 16, 2017

A new model for employer-supported, early childhood education could benefit companies and their staff.

The Creative Way” curriculum debuted in February 2016 in Zambia with the Lusaka launch of Mimi’s Place, a first-of-its-kind early childhood education center to serve the preschool-aged children of Creative Associates International’s Zambian staff members,

 Designed by early childhood education experts, The Creative Way leverages children’s innate predisposition for learning. Children learn through play centered on hands-on experimentation, an age-appropriate reading and math skills curriculum and organic exploration.

Intended for young learners across the globe, the methodology is easily customizable to local cultural context, social norms and curriculum guidelines.

Tassew Zewdie, former Chief of Party for Creative’s USAID-Read to Succeed project in Zambia and an education specialist, shares insights on the success of the model for the young children of his staff and the boosts to staff morale and retention by providing this on-site early learning opportunity to their children.

To learn more about The Creative Way, please contact Rebecca Hartman at RebeccaH@CreativeDC.com.

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Tassew Zewdie, former Chief of Party for Creative’s USAID-Read to Succeed project in Zambia and an education specialist. Photo by David Snyder.

What makes The Creative Way early childhood education curriculum unique?

Zewdie: The curriculum ensures that the children are engaged in activities that will allow them to develop and grow mentally and physically.  This leads to the preparedness to formal schooling. The curriculum has an integrated approach that is organized around six main areas:

  1. Literature
  2. Mathematics
  3. Science
  4. Social studies
  5. Art
  6. Nutrition

How does exploration help young children learn?

Zewdie: The Creative Way is different in such a way that the children are encouraged to learn from the materials and the content is at their disposal. The teaching and learning process is not limited to a particular place or time, and we feel that in The Creative Way classrooms, learning is a continuing process. The teachers identify a teachable moment using materials at their disposal so children are constantly learning and growing. That makes it special.

What is the benefit of a quality pre-school education?

Zewdie: Well, I would say that early age is a very critical period for a child to develop, particularly in language and numeracy. Engaging children at an early age to continually learn by identifying teachable moments and then continuing to support them and provide them with materials is really critical for child development—particularly, for their continuation of their later education.

How does The Creative Way support language development, particularly in a multilingual context?

Zewdie: In Zambia, children come from different families and they all speak a local language. Some of these students may have started to listen to their parents speaking in English at home, because they are educated, but some of them mostly listen to their parents talking in their mother tongue or local language. School is an equalizing factor.  Once they are enrolled in Mimi’s Place, they are treated equally and they are given equal opportunity to learn at the same time but at their pace. There is no competition because they learn according to their own pace with their teachers’ guidance.

After 18+ month of operation, what have been the results of Mimi’s Place for both parents (I.e. members of your staff) and their children?

Zewdie: One, it has helped the project retain its staff because the staff says it is a wonderful benefit package.

Two, the students have made a tremendous progress in their pre-reading skills, numeracy skills and have also developed their social skills in the school. For example, in a recent national launch of the early grade reading materials by the Ministry of General Education. Mimis Place was invited to represent the private early childhood education centers. In that event, the children demonstrated their pre-reading skills. They narrated poems in front of the first lady who happened to be the guest of honor at that launch. 

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Mimi’s Place has been a huge benefit to Creative’s Zambian staff, providing a quality on-site early childhood education for their young children. Photo by Jillian Slutzker.

What effect did the provision of this benefit for staff’s children have on your staff?

Zewdie: Parents, and especially mothers, are concerned about their children and may leave early to pick their children up from other schools if they attend schools far from the office. But with Mimi’s Place, which is next to the office, they know that their children are being cared for by the teachers. When they want to work a bit late, the children come to our main office and play in the compound and wait for their parents to leave together. So, it’s convenient.

Have other organizations considered The Creative Way model as a benefit to their staff?

Zewdie: Many organizations have started to express their interest in this model because they have seen how students grow in that center. They requested Creative technical assistance to adopt that model for their own staff at companies such as banks, insurance, hotels and so on.

The public has also shown a lot of interest in enrolling their children into that school because it was originally limited to the children and relatives of the staff. Recently, we have opened an enrollment for the public and we have new children enrolled.

Would you recommend The Creative Way model as a staff benefit for other employers to consider?

Zewdie: From my experience, I think this is a golden opportunity to really embrace The Creative Way program and then provide this benefit to staff because the staff will be motivated. The staff will see the advantage of having an early childhood education center next to their offices for their children.

I would advise other chiefs of party or employers to embrace this program, The Creative Way, and use it to your maximum advantage because, from my experience, I have seen that it has been a huge support to mothers and fathers on my project.

To learn more about The Creative Way, please contact Rebecca Hartman at RebeccaH@CreativeDC.com .

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