9. The Extra-curriculum

“There is more to school than getting good marks, and in Britain schools are not just about your brain but about sport and arts and finding lots of different ways of excelling. The British system may focus less on results, but it nurtures self-esteem, personality and character, which is something totally missing from the French system and this is tragic.” Peter Gumbel, educational researcher[1]


1) Can you think of people you would like your students to become like? What is special about them?

2) How can you encourage your students to be more like the special people?

Many schools believe the main reason for education is examination success. This is important and will always be a large part of what schools do, however there are important things to teach which are not examined that could improve students’ and their communities’ lives.

To improve the lives of your students, include extra-curricular teaching. This is teaching stuff that is not part of the examined curriculum.

There are a huge number of extra-curricular options. Schools and teachers need to decide which ones are important. Focus on the options you believe are important, relevant to your lessons or you are passionate about. And remember you can’t do everything!

Extra-curricular content can be integrated into regular classes. The way teachers interact with students may help students grow in confidence and self-esteem. Choosing an appropriate text for study may deal with some extra-curricular issue.

Some extra-curricular content can be taught in special extra lessons. Some schools also offer clubs and activities which are run outside of normal teaching hours.  

Essential extra-curriculum

School should prepare our students to succeed in life. The following are a few life skills I believe every school should aim to teach their children:

Making use of what students have

  • How to feed a family with healthy, cheap food. Eating rice alone is not healthy.
  • Using efficient cooking methods such as the fuel-efficient stove below
  • How to grow plants effectively.
  • How to make compost from waste to help plants grow.
  • Managing money well.
  • Teaching how to live as a strong community.
Fuel efficient charcoal stove

Helping students be employable

  • Having a good work ethic. Many Malagasy are unemployable because they have a poor work ethic or are unreliable.
  • Teaching basic technology skills. It’s difficult to employ someone you can’t phone or email.
  • CV and interview skills.
  • Entrepreneurship skills – helping people to setup their own businesses.
  • Choosing university subjects that will lead to a job.

These skills could be taught in extra classes.

Staying healthy

There is a lack of understanding of basic health issues in Madagascar which means some people are not as well as they could be. Improving health education in schools will improve the health of the nation. Some ideas:

  • Ensuring students are wormed and vaccinated regularly.
  • How to prevent malaria and other mosquito borne diseases.
  • Basic hygiene: latrines, hand washing with soap and safe food preparation.
  • How to treat water to make it safe to drink.
  • Prevention of diabetes by avoiding sugary foods and drinks.
  • Sexual health.
  • Family planning education, teaching all to use contraception so a woman can avoid having more children than she can feed.
  • How to eat healthily when pregnant and breastfeeding. A varied diet (rice, beans and green vegetables) is important. Make sure children are breastfed or where impossible use formula. Rice water is not nutritious and will not help a baby grow. Avoid alcohol while pregnant. Eating green vegetables when pregnant does not cause birthmarks.
  • Education to help students avoid drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Dealing with common illnesses, including help knowing when you should go to the doctor.
  • Dental care.

These topics could be taught in classes such as biology and science. Make sure classes on these topics are integrated into the curriculum as much as possible, or have a program of special classes. A local nurse or doctor could provide training for school staff if required.

Living to enhance the economy

  • Buying locally produced rather than foreign goods.
  • Running a small business.

How schools teach these skills may vary. Some of the following extra-curricular options can be used to give our students these skills.

Other extra-curricular options

There are many other great extra-curricular options which follow:

Self Esteem: To have self-esteem is to have confidence in one’s ability and think positively about oneself. Having confidence and self-esteem significantly improves success in life.

Where Taught: In all activities and classes in the school.

How Taught: How you treat your students in school helps them in their self-esteem. If you tell them they are stupid, they will develop low self-esteem. But if you look for their strengths and praise them, they will grow in confidence that they can do well and are valuable. Extra-curricular activities such as outdoor education, sport, music and drama build self-esteem.

I have heard of teachers in Madagascar who rule with fear, swear at, hit or otherwise make students feel bad about themselves. This type of behaviour will make your students hate your subject and perform poorly. It is normal at times for your students to frustrate you. Aim to be patient, explain clearly, deal fairly with behaviour issues and encourage students in the things they can do.

Leadership: Great leaders are essential for the success of any school, business, community, and country. Whoever your school teaches, some students will have the opportunity to lead in future.

How Taught: Give students positions of responsibility in lessons and in the school. You could have each class or year elect representatives who represent the opinions and feelings of students at a monthly meeting with school management. You could have a head and deputy head boy and girl who take on responsibilities such as assisting at parents’ evenings, giving speeches etc… Ask community leaders to come in and share their role in community. Contact HELP Madagascar in Toamasina for details of a leadership course for students.

Attitude to money and possessions: Many people in the world view money and possessions as more important than people and relationships. Is this a healthy view or not? I suggest that prosperity is not wrong, but prosperity at the expense of others is. It is better to have a modest income and look after your staff and the environment than have a huge income and exploit them. Many corrupt practices are also unjust. It is fair to pay tax but not bribes. Teach children that accepting or giving bribes is to be avoided.

Also, it is important to teach the value of saving money and giving. Too many people waste their income instead of spending it wisely. Teaching parents how to manage money might enable school fees to be more reliably paid.

How taught: Teachers are role models for students, teachers model the right attitudes. Classes about money management.

Principles: Strong moral principles are valuable to promote in students. Honesty, justice, fairness, valuing other people, taking responsibility for actions, forgiveness, hard work and integrity.

Where taught: In all school activities.

How taught: Teachers should model these principles as much as they can, accepting the reality that people are fallible. Expect and teach students to act with good principles and behaviour in class. Model fairness and justice in class. Expect students who make a mistake to take responsibility for the consequences. Forgive students who have made mistakes in the past.

Empathy: Schools should encourage students to understand people in situations other than their own and help them where they can.

Where taught: In all school activities.

How taught: Help students to understand each other’s struggles, model sympathy and compassion for students who are having a hard time. In some subjects, students can read about people’s lives and situations and learn to empathise with them. School could support poorest students with free school meals or providing employment for parents who can’t pay fees such as working at the school farm or maintaining school buildings.

Community development: Schools should help students learn to serve people in need. Some suggestions:

  • Teach students to cook meals and serve them to local people in poverty.
  • Plant fruit trees in the community.
  • Learn about health issues in the local community and then go out and teach their family and friends about it.
  • Bake cakes and sell them in aid of a local charity.
  • Students clean up litter in the area around their school or community.

Curiosity: Developing an interest in learning and asking questions.

Where taught: Lessons.

How taught: Encourage students to think of questions to ask about the topic you are teaching, even if you don’t know all the answers. Make the lessons interesting and give examples that connect with the lives of students where possible. Provide extra reading materials for interested students.

Communicators: Good, clear communication is an important skill.

Where taught: Lessons, after school activities.

How taught: Encourage group discussion, class discussions and debates in class. Have students try to improve on the descriptions given by other students. Students should complete extended writing tasks. Use drama in your subject, or in after school clubs. Run a club where students are coached to give interesting speeches on a topic.

Computer literate: Where possible, students should have the opportunity to learn as many computer skills as possible. This is a challenge, particularly in schools where many students struggle to afford a pen and paper for class.

Where taught: Lessons, special classes.

How taught: If you have a computer, tablet or smart phone, you could have pairs of students use it for an activity. Show students how to look up information using the internet. See http://www.mada-enseignants.org for some great resources you can use or install on your computers.

Higher-level thinking skills: Teaching lessons that contain aspects of higher-level thinking skills from Bloom’s Taxonomy will significantly benefit students in future.

Where taught: Lessons.

How taught:Use ideas from the Bloom’s Taxonomy chapter.

Life skills: Skills to succeed in life. Health, money management, time management, interview skills, careers guidance, preparation for study after school, and many more. Helping students respond well to traumatic events such as deaths or disasters. Teaching students research skills.

Where taught: Some life skills can be taught in curriculum classes, e.g. money management could make a good maths lesson. However, many skills will need extra time set aside for them.

Music: Music has always been an important part of human life and culture.

Where taught: Lessons and extra classes.

How taught: Consider teaching songs in lessons (as part of learning about a subject). Have some traditional Malagasy music classes. Offer students instrumental lessons with an expert teacher.

Dance: If not taught at home, school could teach local cultural dances. Or provide modern dance classes.

Drama: Having students involved in drama productions increases their confidence and self-esteem.

Where taught: In lessons or extra classes.

How taught: Small dramas are great fun to act out in language or Malagasy lessons. Larger productions where an audience may come and watch would take place in extra lessons. These are great for improving confidence, communication, and teamwork skills.

Working as a team: Many active learning strategies where students work in groups will help promote team work.

Personal safety: Staying safe is important. There are many physical dangers (like roads or the sea), as well as dangers from people. Some key ones:

  • Teaching students basic health and safety to reduce risk of personal injury.
  • Teaching students about the dangers of the sex industry or paedophiles, and how to avoid them.
  • Teaching students how to avoid being exploited by unscrupulous employers, particularly overseas.
  • Teaching students about avoiding the trap of addictions (drugs/tobacco/sex/alcohol), and where to go if they or a friend are struggling.
  • Teaching students how to avoid fraud that loses them money.
  • Teaching girls about the risks of getting involved in prostitution.
  • Teaching students to respect money while resisting the temptation to love it.
  • Teaching students how to avoid theft of their possessions.

Where taught: Often in special classes.

How taught: A special curriculum needs to be developed that covers the above points and more.

Physical Activity: Physical exercise daily is important as it reduces the chance of heart disease and diabetes, whilst improving happiness and quality of life.

Where taught: Most schools have special physical education classes. Some teachers coach school sports teams. Many students adore sports and being part of a sports team increases their motivation across the rest of the school.

Hobbies: Some schools have clubs where students can get involved in a variety of hobbies, like chess, board games and craft.

Enterprise: Teaching students how to run small businesses.

Where taught: Could be part of a mathematics class, or extra classes.

How taught: Simple things like home baking sales are popular. Have students work in groups and come up with ideas of what they could do to earn money. Then give them a small amount of money (e.g. 5000 Ar) to start their business with. The goal is to make as much profit as possible. Profit could go to the students, or some charity. You will need to support some students in their ideas and only provide the money when they have a viable business plan. Of course, some businesses may fail.

Reflective: Learning to be self-reflective is challenging. Reflective students are aware of what they know and don’t know. As a result, they can work out what they need to focus on to become better. Also students need to learn how to learn lessons from their mistakes rather than repeatedly making them.

Where taught: All classes.

How taught: Having clear learning outcomes for students and getting them to decide if they have succeeded in learning them or not. Encourage students to work out what they are good at, and what they would like to improve at.

Environmental education: Malagasy people rely on the environment around them. It’s essential they look after it for their continued survival. A few points to consider:

  • How to avoid damaging the environment.
  • Teaching students how to successfully keep animals.
  • Teaching students how to grow plants successfully.
  • Teaching students the value of trees and natural forests.
  • Teaching students sustainable farming methods. Research suggests that improved agriculture practices can improve crop yields without requiring expensive chemicals.
    • A Christian perspective in French/Malagasy can be found here: http://www.farming-gods-way.org/field_guide.htm. There are more detailed English resources in other parts of the website. This is a simple and easy to understand way of improving farm output that has a track record of success.
    • An English guide from a secular organisation with similar methods but which is much more complex is found here: http://www.worldagroforestry.org/downloads/Publications/PDFS/TM17693.pdf  This guide also explains how trees can be beneficial in agriculture.

Where: Biology classes, science class and school trips.

How: Integrate environmental education into your lessons. In Toamasina, Parc Ivoloina (http://www.parcivoloina.org/) runs excellent education programs for local children.

Trades: Madagascar has a shortage of skilled tradesmen that means companies like Ambatovy must employ some tradesmen from overseas. Consider how students could study trades as part of their education, such as welding, mechanics, electronic technician, electrician, plumbing etc…

Christian schools: Christian schools often desire their students to learn about faith and engage in a positive relationship with God.

Where: All classes and activities.

How: Strong Christian faith is built upon a foundation of thorough Christian knowledge and understanding, a living relationship with God, and putting faith into practice by following God’s ways in daily life. Some things that may happen in Christian schools:

  • A 10–20 minute daily devotional. Variety is important in devotionals. Don’t forget to actively involve the students.
  • Teachers may pray or share how their faith connects with the subject they are teaching in lessons.
  • Students may be given the opportunity to lead sessions or share testimony of what God has done in their lives.
  • Bible reading and study is important.
  • Schools have strong Christian morals, teaching students how the Bible teaches them to live as well as helping students understand why it is a good way to live.
  • Students are not forced or coerced into faith. It is a free will choice.
  • Teachers and management run the school honestly, fairly and justly. They don’t always get everything right and seek forgiveness from the school community when they fail.
  • Avoid the traps of faith becoming over legalistic, lifeless or intolerant of other Christian viewpoints.


Think about your school:

1) What extra-curricular activities are currently taught in your school?

2) When are extra-curricular activities taught? When can any new activities be taught? Think about space you have within the school day already, such as a long registration time. You may need to allocate an extra period every week.

3) What extra-curricular activities would you like to add to your school’s programme? Why?

4) What has this chapter mentioned that you think is not important to teach your students? Why? Note: This is a great critical thinking exercise. You don’t have to agree with what I write!

5) How could you include the extra-curricular activities from question 3 in your class teaching?

6) How could you teach the extra-curricular activities from question 3 in extra sessions in your school?

7) Include some of what you’ve planned in your lessons and school!

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/05/french-schools-pupils-feel-worthless accessed February 2020