Caterpillar Project Gives Pre-Schoolers a Better Academic Headstart

Taylor’s University equips children from underprivileged families with essential reading, writing and counting skills

Helping the community starts in your own backyard, and this is exactly what Taylor’s University, School of Education is doing. Its Caterpillar Project is a community effort focused on teaching pre-school children living in the surrounding area of its campus to read, write and count with the purpose of giving them a reasonable head start when they enrol in primary school.
 
“The Caterpillar Project, as inspired by Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall Project, believes in the learning ability of children in spite of their background. It serves to give pre-schoolers a fair chance in life by teaching them the basic skills needed in school – reading, writing and counting. These skills are most essential because they are the keys to learning and access to knowledge,” shared Taylor’s University Head of School of Education, Dr Logendra Ponniah. He leads the project with his team comprised of Taylor’s University Centre for Languages and Cultural Studies Head, Chandra Sakaran Khalid; Taylor’s University School of Education senior lecturer, Hema Letchamanan; and Taylor’s University Centre for Languages and Cultural Studies, Stream Coordinator, Pauline Teo.
 
Taylor’s Caterpillar Project teaches reading, writing and counting skills to pre-school students to give them a good head start in primary school

“As an educator, I believe education can break the cycle of poverty. Hence, the Caterpillar Project targets pre-schools in the poorer parts of our community to give them greater education opportunity. By starting our act of giving in the backyard of Taylor’s University’s Lakeside Campus, we are meeting the immediate needs in our nearby community,” said Dr Logendra.
 
The Caterpillar Project started in September 2017 and continued running every Friday for 10 weeks at collaborating pre-schools in Kampung Lindungan and Kampung Gandhi, Petaling Jaya. The classes are led by Taylor’s University’s School of Education students and supported by students from the Centre for Languages, of which many are international students.
 
“At Taylor’s University, we believe in empowering young people to dream beyond their horizon. Most underprivileged children are robbed of the opportunity to dream because they are unaware of what they can achieve. Through the Caterpillar Project, Taylor’s University students will provide these children a global perspective via their weekly interaction during the lessons. We hope that this platform will open the eyes of the less fortunate to the world beyond their four walls, so that they can eventually start school with a successful end in mind,” explains Dr Logendra.
 

Aspiring young students from Taylor’s University School of Education apply multi-sensory teaching methods to engage and increase interaction with their students

The ‘young teachers’, who are equipped to teach at international schools during their education degree programme at Taylor’s University, utilised multi-sensory teaching to engage their students in the lessons. Some of the most effective teaching methods were the ones centred on theatre, play and music because students actively participated in educational activities while having fun.
 
“Besides benefitting the pre-school children in our community, the Caterpillar Project also aims to provide our own students with teaching exposure in a different environment. Many of our students find the Caterpillar Project much more meaningful than their usual teaching experiences when they reap the results at the end of the project. They are particularly inspired with the fact that they can help illiterate young ones acquire the basic skills needed in school,” said Dr Logendra.
 
One of these students was Taylor’s School of Education’s Chloe Chai, who gained a unique teaching experience from the project, “We actively engage with the students through fun, interactive lessons. The teaching method implemented – singing and dancing – helped them to bond with us quickly as they were more willing to speak up after the activities. The enjoyable lessons also successfully brought out their spirit of excitement and determination to learn,” she said.
 
“This project taught me that being a teacher is about being passionate. It made me understand that teaching comes from the heart, not from a book. Working with the students and school has been a pleasurable and fantastic experience. I am thankful for being a part of the School of Education at Taylor’s University and hope for more collaboration with other schools in the future,” she concluded.
 
Taylor’s University empowers young people to dream beyond their horizon through the Caterpillar Project which enables pre-schoolers to start school with a successful end in mind

Sharing about future plans for the project, Dr Logendra said, “The Caterpillar Project is a pilot project designed to serve our community in the long-run. Our aim is to help more pre-schoolers prepare for their primary school education before they leave kindergarten. We are open for new collaboration with private kindergartens or pre-schools in the area of Subang Jaya or Petaling Jaya who need assistance with developing their students’ literacy and counting skills.”
 
If you or your institution is interested to be a part of the Taylor’s Caterpillar Project, you may contact Dr Logendra at LogendraStanley.Ponniah@taylors.edu.my for further information on collaboration.
 
The project also recently celebrated its first batch of 17 graduates at the Taylor’s University, Lakeside Campus.