I came to visit Mongolia back in 2009, at a point where I knew I would be moving on from my wonderful job teaching at in international school in Bangkok, but not knowing where I would be lead to next. I had the opportunity to visit some government kindergartens as well as some NGO run "ger" kindergartens located in some very poor areas of town during that time. The government kindergartens were big groups of children (sometimes up to 50), with limited resources and a very teacher-directed atmosphere. The "ger" kindergartens on the other hand were small class groups, children engaged in their learning and a very child-centred atmosphere. I was so impressed and I wanted to encourage these teachers who had worked so hard to create such positive learning environments and experiences for these children. But my heart was also broken at that time- thinking about those children whose parents, for whatever reason, could not get their children into a kindergarten. The ger kindergarten could only take 30 children (two classes) due to space and funding, and I asked the teachers what would happen to those children who had no kindergarten experiences once they headed to school? The first year of school is quite academically stringent here, and at that time children were expected to come to school knowing the alphabet and working with numbers up to 100. My fear was that once these children got to school they would just fall between the cracks, as a teacher of 40 children does not have time to stop and help the struggling student, and that at the age of 6 - an age where ANYTHING is possible, dreams are BIG, and children should have EVERY hope in the world- they would be destined to fail before they even had a chance to really begin. Because, if they can not succeed in their schooling and education there is very little chance for them to break out of the cycle of poverty that they have been born into. I cried. Right there, in front of the children, in front of the teachers. The teachers commented to my friend who was translating for me- if your friend were here longer and heard some of the stories of these children she would cry even more.
Through this, and many other experiences during my time here, I left Mongolia that year with the conviction that this was the place I was being led to, these were the little people that I was being called to help. I moved to Ulaanbaatar (the capital of Mongolia) in September, 2010. I have been working hard at learning the language since then, and to begin working on the dream- opening a kindergarten that will provide affordable quality early childhood education, supporting and educating parents and families as well as facilitating teacher training and professional development. It will be a model kindergarten, and eventually a centre of training for student teachers as well as those who have been in the "business" for years.
The hope is that influencing, encouraging and training teachers will over the long haul reach right throughout the country and touch as many children's lives as possible. And to be an agent for change in the way that children and teachers, learning and teaching are perceived and how they take place in this nation.