Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief

Khululeka Community Education Development Centre

Khululeka HighScope Training of Trainers Programme

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Formalisation of human resource development | 19 January, 2014 - 04:00


Project context

Since its inception as an Early Childhood Development Training and Resource Centre in 1989, Khululeka has been determined to create qualitative learning environments, and to affect a positive and lasting change in the preschool experiences of rural children.

Towards the end of the 1990s, as the informal ECD curriculum became progressively more theoretical and formalised, Khululeka become concerned about the quality of practitioner-child interaction, as well as the degree to which young children were not adequately engaged in learning activities in creative and purposeful ways. We sought out ways to improve ECD methodology and facilitate better practitioner-child interaction. We found a solution in the HighScope approach and methodology. HighScope has dramatic impact on the quality of work of ECD practitioners and supporting staff, and the parents love the results. We wee classrooms transformed, a better daily routine, and a positive impact on the children. Khululeka made the decision to adopt this HighScope approach and methodology but to contextualise it for local knowledge and ownership purposes.

The HighScope Approach

The HighScope approach to early childhood education was developed in the USA in 1962 in response to consistently weak academic scores among children from poor neighbourhoods. Targeting pre-schoolers, it offers a developmental approach that emphasises cognitive expansion through a structured review process. The approach is distinctive for its emphasis on parent engagement in supporting child development2.

In 2000, an independent contractor from the International Child Development Initiative evaluated the implementation of HighScope in South Africa. The findings suggested that this approach leads to “a profound internalisation of concepts; and leads to an emerging personal philosophy that guides practitioner interactions with children.” This evaluation also revealed that the practitioners master the approach quickly and naturally despite their educational backgrounds. The activities in the classroom have their roots in a curriculum that stimulates brain development, and it has a strong emphasis on the whole child1.

Khululeka adopted the HighScope approach in 2003. We set about aligning our curriculum and resource base to suit this new method and launched our first HighScope ECD Practitioner Training Programme. Convinced that the HighScope approach transforms ECD practitioners and their contexts, and wanting to share it with other ECD NGOs, we initiated the Khululeka HighScope Training of Trainers (TOT) Programme in 2004. In 2013 we completed the 5th cycle of our TOT programme. This learning brief focuses on the lessons we have learnt so far about conducting such a training of trainers programme.

The HighScope Training of Trainers programme: Transformative learning that unlocks intrinsic motivation

The Khululeka HighScope Training of Trainers instructs ECD trainer-practitioners from around South Africa. It is designed to provide participants with an in-depth understanding of the HighScope curriculum and methodology, and to equip them with the skills to train others in implementing this transformative educational approach. We offer a set of teaching practices for adults and content for children’s learning that covers all areas of growth and development. There is also an assessment system to measure programme quality and evaluate what children learn, and a training model to prepare teachers and caregivers to implement the HighScope curriculum3. We believe that this approach transforms how practitioners view their ECD work, and unlocks an intrinsic motivation to work towards ways that better childhood development.

The HighScope TOT has much to offer in the South African context:

  • It creates a learning community where every person’s ideas, opinions, and experiences are respected and valued.
  • Individuals are encouraged to work with the concepts presented and construct their own understanding.
  • It is specifically developed to support disadvantaged children access education and perform better in school.
  • It is geared to addressing cultural and cognitive developmental obstacles faced by poor and disadvantaged children.
  • It is principle-based, and dependent on the practitioner’s ability to adapt and apply, and thus it offers great flexibility in application across various contexts.
  • It encourages deliberate and purposeful involvement of parents and caregivers.
  • It has a low resource demand by making use of existing and available resources.
  • It is child-centred and supportive of child initiated learning.
  • It relies upon systematic in-service training and on going professional support2.

Over the years Khululeka has noted that practitioners need to know that real learning comes from within, and as the course unfolds they come to understand that children construct their own knowledge and make their own meaning. When practitioners understand this they stop simply instructing and instead seek to build a culture of shared learning in their classrooms.

Training Programme Implementation

The theoretical training sessions (or contact sessions) are held for 5 days every 3-4 weeks. In between training, the practitioners practically implement the theory and approach in their own “learning sites” or ECD centres.

After completing the Khululeka HighScope training programme each week, they are expected to work in a “learning site” of their choice where they apply what they have learnt. Through this implementation of the curriculum the practitioners put into practice the theoretical concepts that they learned. They develop clear implementation guidelines and sharpen their individual training skills.

During the contact sessions the Khululeka trainer conducts one-on-one consultative sessions with each participant. They discuss the individual’s experiences of the course, acquired knowledge, their implementation at their own sites, etc. These meetings are deliberately conducted informally.

At the commencement of each training week the Khululeka HighScope Trainer and the participant reflect on and review implementation issues together. This ensures they are actively engaged with, and internalise, the central components of the curriculum.

Throughout the course the participants are required to record in detail their on-going involvement in training. This helps the participants reflect on, and record improvements in their own facilitation skills. It also helps them track their growth as mentors for their own ECD practitioners.

We have a Khululeka demonstration-learning site where the teaching practice mirrors the HighScope preschool curriculum. The TOT participants can then see how the theory they are taught in the course is reflected in a practical setting.

The Khululeka Teachers at the demonstration site play a very important role in supporting and guiding the teaching and training practice of the TOT participants by helping them reflect on their actions, and by having them consider issues from a child’s point of view.

In order to be certified as a HighScope Trainer, the participants need to demonstrate their curriculum knowledge and training skills. Throughout the training programme there is ample opportunity for self-assessment, peer assessment, and assessment by the Training Consultant. The process is transparent and the programme participant is kept abreast of his/her progress and where modifications are required.

Some of our participants have this to say about the HighScope approach:

“I was sceptical about the implementation of HighScope in our setting, but it works wonderfully. My expectations of the learners ability is surpassed”

“How to deal with conflict was a great learning experience. We do not need the naughty chair anymore”

 “I had sleepless nights on this course thinking of how I used to teach the children. I used to be under the impression that my school was great. I have had a true mind shift and the knowledge and experience I have gained was much more than I can ever explain”

 “Now, for the first time, I will really be able to provide for and follow the children’s interests as they learn freely”


Programme outcomes: Transformed learning environments and experiences for young children

Once the HighScope TOT participants and their ECD practitioners successfully grasp the core principles and methods of this novel approach, they come to understand that they can create the kind of learning environment in their own “learning site” where children are happy, and where they learn, plan, do and review in sustainable ways. The outcome of adopting this approach is that children grow in confidence; know how to actively engage in their play by using and exploring a wide variety of materials; can freely make and express choices; and can initiate activities.

The ECD practitioners are also better equipped to establishment learning environments where children can independently solve problems, build their language and communication skills, and openly share their thoughts and ideas throughout the day. In these environments, ECD practitioners support the children’s initiatives, and play with them as partners. These adult practitioners discover that working with children in this way is valuable and interesting, and this helps them stay motivated and committed to their work.

Programme Evaluation

In 2013 Khululeka was able to contract the services of an independent external evaluator to determine the impact of the Khululeka TOT programme over the last 10 years. She found that, “one of the striking features in the conversations of the evaluation is that everyone who had experienced the HighScope TOT remained powerfully and practically connected to its key working principles, even many years later. And not only do they articulate the ideal value of these, but they also express the activity that the value entails”.

We conducted a second evaluation that confirmed the findings of the first that the TOT works at depth and with its comprehensive attention to detail and rigour, supports full transformation in the understanding, attitudes and abilities of each course participant and which in turn enables them to share the same quality with those whom they train.


Khululeka is delighted to share this unique approach with other interested ECD NGOs and to contribute to effecting a lasting and positive change in the ECD landscape in South Africa. In this learning brief we have shown the value of the HighScope approach and have suggested ways to implement a training of trainer programme. Done in this way the TOT supports full transformation in the understanding, attitude, and abilities of each course participant, and equips them to share what they learn with others. Our strategy is not about “trickle down”, or the dilution of content from one person to another, but rather about building up a rigorous set of values and intentions amongst participants that are attractive and convincing to observers.


[1.] Van Oudenhoven, N. (2000) Young Children in South Africa – Their well-being and Future.
A statement on the ECD work of High/Scope UK in South Africa. International Child Development Initiatives: Leiden, the Netherlands

[2.] Soal, S. (2003) Outcome of An evaluation of the Khululeka HighScope Training of Trainers Programme.

[3.] From the preface “Essentials of Active Learning in preschool”.


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In Short

In this learning brief, Khululeka shares about the unique HighScope ECD approach and suggests ways to implement a training of trainers for this programme. This training strategy is not about diluted “trickle down” but rather about building up a rigorous set of values and skills amongst participants that are attractive to observers, and thus inspire transformation.

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