2015 UCA Summer Camp Curriculum Design and Delivery

The UCA Summer Camp curriculum is designed to upgrade maths and English skills among Grade 10 students living in Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan to prepare them for successful university applications and a world-class university education.

To ensure international rigour and relevance to the Central Asian context, the Summer Camp curriculum was designed by two international experts in consultation with Central Asian teachers and students. The curriculum developers brought over 50 years of experience in education to the process, and met with 30 Central Asian students to assess and identify key challenges they face in relation to international standards and desirable skills in maths and English.

This assessment process found opportunities to upgrade Central Asian students with English writing skills, reading comprehension and presenting their ideas clearly and concisely in nuanced English. Students expressed keen interest in improving their English language skills and an awareness of this need to maximise future international opportunities. The assessment further revealed that the students were skilled at solving mathematical problems, but there was an opportunity to upgrade their ability to apply maths to real-life situations and problem solving.

Based on this assessment, the final curriculum design has a greater focus on English compared to maths, and highlights applied skills and learning. Over the course of three weeks, the UCA Summer Camp delivers 42 hours of English instruction and 24 hours of mathematics instruction. English sessions cover topics ranging from grammar and vocabulary to reading strategies and the process of writing an essay. Maths sessions cover topics such as algebra, probability, graphing, and rational and radical expressions.

In addition to five hours in academic sessions each day, Camp participants engage in other activities that support and complement the curriculum. These include two hours engaged in sports and three hours of evening activities, for a total of 9 sports programmes and 14 evening programmes over the course of the three week camp. These recreational activities are explicitly linked to academic learning objectives, such as the application of mathematical concepts (calculations of force and angles of corner kicks) during football sessions; watching movies with academic-related themes; model United Nations activities; art activities; and scientific experiments. Activities are followed by debriefing discussions to highlight practical lessons learnt.

In other sessions, participants receive information and resources to enhance their success with university applications, including sessions on how to apply to university; choose a programme of study based on career interests; and prepare for university entrance requirements. These sessions also highlight how particular skills and concepts covered in the Camp’s curriculum are necessary to successfully apply to universities.

In addition to structured learning, the UCA Summer Camp programme includes excursions to sites around Lake Issyk-Kul. These activities provide valuable unstructured time for participants to explore places and ideas; share experiences with each other; and reflect on what they are learning.

The Summer Camp curriculum is delivered by five trained teachers, who work closely with ten counselors to ensure that students are maximising learning opportunities and staying on track. Reflecting the focus of the curriculum, there are four English teachers and one maths teacher who works with four counselors/teaching assistants. The team is dedicated to the Summer Camp mission and committed to working together, modeling respectful and non-hierarchical relationships. Most staff are recent university graduates; young adults mature enough to serve as guides and mentors. The staff-student ratio is one is to four, creating opportunities for personalised learning for each student, as well as opportunities for staff and students to bond and create mentoring relationships; critical elements of teaching and learning.