Teach Learn Grow (TLG) is a program whose main goal it is to help close the educational disparity between metropolitan and rural/regional schools as well as helping kindle a passion for learning. University volunteers tutor children who attend rural and regional schools in areas such as Maths, English, Drama and Science for the duration of one week.

I’ve been on three TLG programs so far. On my first I visited Mullewa District High School during the winter break of 2016, my second was at Rangeway Primary School during the summer break and most recently I tutored at Kambalda District High School the winter of 2017. From my personal experience, I know that TLG program has made (and will continue to make) a difference to the lives of both the children and the volunteer tutors involved.

For me, this was evident during my first program in Mullewa. Prior to my first program I didn’t have a grasp on just how bad the educational gap was and I felt as if my contribution wasn’t going to make a big difference. Although I hadn’t been to Mullewa District High before, previous programs had visited the school on a number of occasions. One tutor in our group had volunteered to go on the program more than six times and each time, he decided to go back to Mullewa. All the children knew him, and those he had tutored in the past were eager for his arrival. They told him how they were doing in school, about their accomplishments and the times they had used the skills they had learned from previous programs in their own classrooms. Not only was it was clear that the children loved having us there and were counting down the days for us to arrive, but that TLG provided valuable assistance throughout the school year.

The other two schools I attended, Kambalda and Rangeway, were trying the program out for the first time. Things weren’t quite as smooth sailing as my first trip, but the staff and children loved having us nonetheless, so much so that future programs have since returned to these schools!

One aspect of the program which many of the children appreciate is having one-on-one tutoring sessions.  These sessions allowed us, the tutors, to take things slowly and teach the concepts at the pace the children were most comfortable with. The education system takes a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching which, whilst efficient, can disadvantage students who don’t fit the mould. On TLGwe were actually encouraged to try different learning methods to suit the learning styles most preferred by our allocated students. The atmosphere was amazing, some tutors used sports and the outdoors, some acted more-so as facilitators as their students were keen to show off their knowledge whilst others employed collaborative approaches.

We had access to a large database of educational resources prior to the program which helped develop novel approaches to teaching and which a lot of new tutors, including myself, found very useful.

Following the novel approaches taken by TLG volunteers, students generally improve their attitudes towards education, a significant number improve their mathematical understanding and outcomes, whilst all of the children want us to come back.

Another facet of the program I greatly appreciated was meeting so many other passionate and like-minded students who wanted to help tackle educational disparity. Loads of friendships were formed on the programs I attended, not surprising considering you’re spending a whole week with likeminded people! One thing that is quite common is for a lot of the volunteers to go into the program and realise just how much they actually love teaching and making a difference to the lives of disadvantaged students. I’ve seen a few of my friends from these programs either change their degrees to education or pursue it in postgrad.

In my mind TLG is without a doubt effective when it comes to improving educational outcomes. It benefits students, it benefits volunteers, and it helps address a growing disparity in opportunity between the city and the country. I’ve been on three TLG programs (so far!), and I think very highly of what the organisation does and what it hopes to achieve. I’m excited to see what the future holds for TLG and for every student and tutor involved.

Sepideh Rahmani