Based on the principle that learning is better achieved interactively rather than through one-way transmission process, peer education has been promoted and worked on for the last three years in Warsay-Yikealo Secondary School (WYSS).
It is an established fact that various factors influence students’ academic performance. Besides instructors’ elaborations, students could broaden their knowledge and widen perspectives through different mechanisms. Peer education is one approach that enables students to actively engage in jointly pursuing common goals of achieving academic excellence.
As part of the learning-centered interactive pedagogy; peer-based educational approach has been thoroughly employed in WYSS in a centralized manner. The outcome of this approach of teaching and learning process has been very vivid in increasing the number of students who join tertiary education.
Although such teaching and learning process depends on cooperation and collaboration among students, it also enhances a spirit of competitiveness among them. Advantages of this approach of teaching and learning have been proven as good mechanisms for smooth transfer of knowledge, provided it allows students work in their own pace. It indeed opens a chance for classroom peers to share experiences and creates optimum atmosphere to look at the course materials in a wider scope and new outlook. It also helps in narrowing knowledge gaps among students of varied capabilities.
Nonetheless, if peer education is not conducted in a centralized way, it may not turn out to be as fruitful as desired. It is worth mentioning here that WYSS’s peer-to-peer influence in the improvement of academic excellence came merely not from the introduction of this cooperative teaching-learning process, but as a result of well-structured and centralized management system. In Sawa, activities of peer education are not loosely handled but are backed with teachers’ input. A teacher is assigned to each three peer class rooms to observe the activities and assist the peer educators when the need arises.
Mr. Kiflay Andemichael, Director of WYSS, pointed out that all necessary facilities that secure the sustainability of peer education have also been put in place. Counseling and tutorials have been given to peer educators. The peer educators are regularly armed with necessary course materials and they share it with their peers on Saturdays. This in turn motivates them to become active participants in cooperative learning. E-learning has also been provided for the peer educators so as to motivate them in thoroughly acting as peer educators.
Students of WYSS view peer education as an opportunity that enables students to interact with their peers freely and to ask questions without any reservation.
As students have different experiences and capabilities in learning new things, they also have different ways of solving problems. Cooperative learning improves students’ comprehension of concepts on top of enhancing teamwork skills among them.
Though students of WYSS state peer education as an experience that should have been started at the primary level, they also describe it as a major supportive activity through which every student is becoming beneficiary of quick revisions of each pedagogical content.
In fact, the impact of peer education depends on a student’s own ability and collective educational competency of the peers under consideration. Sabela Tsegai, who is acting as peer educator of English and Biology, is among the 1,300 peer educators. She views peer education as the best motivating factor to influence and share experiences among peer educators as well as other students. Asked whether being a peer educator limits the time for individual studies, Sabela said that being a peer educator enables students to revise course materials even more. “However different students’ potentials and comprehension levels, every student has a subject in which he/she is good at. When the diversified potential of each individual student is combined, it creates a concrete knowledge that could enable students to tackle any sort of educational challenge,” she elaborated.
“So peer education empowers students and helps them to build confidence. It provides opportunity to evaluate one’s potentials besides creating determination to become a peer educator,” she added.
Comparing the instructional aids provided to the students in the WYSS with the gap of knowledge due to some shortages of resources amongst the rural and urban students, Sham Tewelde, who stood first out of the entire school said that peer education helps minimize the existing gap through sharing and open discussions. Stating that peer education is a remarkable opportunity to learn from and teach one another, he acknowledged that the 97.1 average results he scored was because of the “give and take culture”.
Other secondary schools could share ample experience and also draw lessons from WYSS. Peer education is the leading means that influences the improvement of students’ academic achievement.
According to Mr. Kiflay, the implementation of peer education in Sawa passes through different interventions ranging from the selection of peer educators, intensive trainings and orientations to enhancing peer educators’ pedagogical content knowledge.
Each of the 199 classes has 5 peer educators, who passed through two major criteria of selection. Usually, the student who is willing to act as a peer educator expresses readiness to engage in such activities. At times other students may recommend a student qualified for peer educator and if the student is ready, he/she would begin teaching classroom peers.