Weekly Insights and Analysis

From Mongolia: Improving Science & English Skills in the Countryside

September 5, 2007

By Betina Infante

In Mongolia, resources for rural education have deteriorated badly since the early 1990’s. Materials for education in science and the English language are especially scarce and teaching methods remain rooted in rote memorization, not in experiential education, which can be especially effective in teaching the sciences. Mongolian scientists’ impact on environmental policies and management in the region is increasing, but to adequately communicate their findings, they must have a firm command of a foreign language, particularly English (already adopted as Mongolia’s “second” language).  

The Asia Foundation is working to improve accessibility to modern education tools for science and English through a path-breaking program entitled Securing our Future, which is funded by the Dutch Government and the private sector. Securing our Future is a broad program that works to improve Mongolia’s environment and promotes responsible mining and resource use in Mongolia. The science and education teams from Securing our Future are also implementing an experiential education program in 17 rural schools that focuses specifically on water quality monitoring (WQM).  These schools will receive technical assistance, training, materials and English text books ” delivered through the Books for Asia program — during this pilot year. In the future, more schools across the nation will be included.

The Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) Education project is directed primarily at school teachers and students. The purpose is to engage them and their communities in water quality monitoring using biologic indicators. Through the program, students, teachers, citizens and government officials learn how to collect and then classify benthic macro invertebrates that serve as an indicator of water quality. The program is designed to strengthen the science curriculum in secondary schools, support achievement of Mongolian science standards, and introduce a new teaching paradigm that is based upon experiential education.

On August 30th, the Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) Education project launched in Khatgal. There, the first four schools received a package of equipment and a series of English language science texts called “Science in a Trunk.” Thanks to Newcom Group’s Eznis Airways, these materials were shipped at no cost. Long-time Books for Asia partner, Xaan Bank, has also provided support in distributing more than 100,000 books to remote reaches of Mongolia over the past year.

Ms. Byambadulam, the principal of the Hatgal School in Khuvsgal “one of the four schools that first received the program — noted that the Mongolian people are particularly proud of their country, which contains 2% of the world’s fresh water reserves. “We want to engage our students and communities in monitoring the water quality of our rivers using this simple, yet sophisticated method, and we want to play an active role in ensuring that water and environmental resources are managed responsibly,” she said.

The WQM effort is also building a comprehensive river inventory, which will inform, engage and empower Mongolians to monitor river water quality in order to promote responsible resource use. The scientific data that is being collected through this effort will also inform water-use policy and resource management practices in Mongolia.

Betina Infante is the Public Affairs Manager at The Asia Foundation in Mongolia.

Related locations: Mongolia
Related programs: Books for Asia


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