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Research reveals one-way traffic in global teaching skills exchange

Lesson planning, allowing pupils to answer questions and a refusal to resort to the cane are among the skills that British teachers can offer the developing world, new research has found.

But any transfer of teaching methods or classroom management techniques between British and foreign teachers is decidedly one-way, according to a study from London's Institute of Education.

The academics observed the effects of international partnerships on 55 schools in Britain, Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

The African and Asian teachers spoke about the range of ways in which they had been influenced by their British partners. One African teacher said: "We caned children a lot. We learned from our partnership to examine children's rights."

Other African teachers spoke about developing a new approach to teaching, which involved greater pupil participation in lessons.

The Asian teachers said they had become more aware of their pupils' interests and needs as a result of the exchange. One spoke about introducing "hands-on and activity-based" lessons. Some displayed pupils' work in a similar manner to their British partner schools.

Speaking about her British partners, one teacher said: "They prepare for the class. In fact, no teacher takes class without preparation in UK."

The partnerships also helped to break down hierarchies in Asian schools, as senior staff began to collaborate with junior teachers.

Meanwhile, the lessons British teachers took away from their partnerships were slightly different. The researchers noted: "The teachers who went on the exchange said that it was inspirational to see the teachers in Africa teaching without the same sort of resources they have."

One teacher commented: "Learning to teach when you have yourself as a resource, you begin to ask: what is teaching?" Another said: "It has widened my own middle-class white perceptions of the world."

But others saw the exchange as a chance for colonial-style evangelism, spreading civilisation to the uncultured masses. A British teacher said: "One of the African teachers said to me, 'How do you teach without a stick?' So I talked to him about positive teaching and we shared our teaching experiences. It was lovely."

African scheme Open to Queen's award, page 26.

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