QUEENSBURY — It was quite a difference for a group of Ugandan educators to see only about 20 students in a class at the middle school on Friday and students working with Chromebooks and multiple textbooks.
In Uganda, there may be 50 to 100 students in a class, and they may be sharing one textbook.
“Back home, you may find many of our learners on the floor,” said Magoma Stephenson.
Stephenson also noticed that the teachers are friendly and supportive.
Stephenson was among a group of four educators visiting the Queensbury campus during the past two days to learn about the American educational system.
The visit came about through a Saratoga Springs-based organization called The Giving Circle. The nonprofit has established two schools in Uganda, including one in the village of Kagoma Gate and another one called the Busoga School, which educates deaf students alongside regular hearing students.
Ann Fantauzzi, a member of the Giving Circle board, said the teachers in Uganda are very committed, but they haven’t had the proper training. They have limited resources.
“They basically have a blackboard and chalk and 50 kids in a room,” she said.
The Giving Circle teamed up with the local Teacher Center, said Queensbury teacher Liz Dailey, who was leading the effort.
Ugandan teacher Gusango Humphrey Emmanuel said the educators are getting a good framework by viewing these lessons. He noticed the amount of collaboration between students and teachers.
“I’ve liked the component of individual learning, the use of small groups and cooperative learning,” he said.
Moses Wambi said he also noticed that it was not just the teachers, but also the support staff working as a team to make sure students succeeded.
“I saw students actively engaged,” Wambi said.
Ugandan teacher Cecilia Kayga said the small teacher-student ratio helps the learning process.
Giving Circle founder Mark Bertrand said most schools in Africa do not have the kind of support staff that exists in America. A school of 400 to 500 students would have a staff of 14 to 17 at most.
He said the dropout rate in Uganda is over 30 percent. Once students reach the eighth grade, they have to pass a national exam. If they fail, the students’ formal schooling stops and they go to find a job to support their family.
“Our two schools, we pass at 100 percent rate,” Bertrand said.
What also sets their school apart is they have a fully inclusive program, in which special education students are educated alongside their peers. They even have taught sign language to teachers.
Bertrand cited the example of a severely autistic girl who did not talk and had no interaction with other adults.
“Now she socializes. She plays with other children,” she said.
Superintendent Douglas Huntley said it is important for these educators to be exposed to real-life educational practices. Students in the district’s International Baccalaureate advanced academic program will be writing about the international educators, Huntley said.
The visit ties in with the district’s new program that has international high school students paying tuition to study at the school. There are four students for this school year — from Italy, Argentina and Brazil.
“Hosting this visit is consistent with the district’s mission statement, which says helping our students learn more global awareness,” he said.