An international outlook to study

13th January 2006 at 00:00
A new resource for primary teachers advocates bringing a global dimension to the classroom, says Su Clark

In the same week that Scotland's literati demanded that the nation's literature, language and culture be placed at the heart of the curriculum, Scotdec, one of six development education centres in Scotland, launched its latest resource to promote a globally aware approach to teaching.

A Global Approach is aimed at all stages of primary school and advocates internationalism as part of teaching rather than as an add-on: in literature, history and every other part of the curriculum.

"A Global Approach is a guide for teachers who want to embed global citizenship in their teaching and is designed to help schools in assessing where they are in terms of introducing a global dimension to their curriculum. It gives ideas as to how they might take this forward," says Susan McIntosh, a Scotdec co-ordinator and former primary teacher.

The pack, which consists of a CD-Rom and eight themed inserts, allows schools to reflect on the many and diverse ways in which a global dimension can manifest itself in the academic, aesthetic, creative, social and cultural life of the school community.

At Abbeyhill Primary in Edinburgh, where the resource was launched at the end of November with the help of the deputy education minister, Robert Brown, presentations by pupils illustrated the school's established global perspective. The songs sung by the choir came from Africa, South America, and -the literati will be pleased - Scotland. The physical education demonstration included dancing from around the world and a Scottish jig.

Writing skills on show were developed through correspondence with a partner school in Kenya. Literacy had been enriched with books that could allow for a perspective well beyond Scotland's borders.

"We read a book called Flat Stanley about a boy who is flattened and then posted off to California for a holiday," Mark Reynold and Jamie Thomson told the audience, as Hana Mahmood held up a small cut-out of a boy. "So we made our own Flat Stanleys and posted them off to almost every continent, to China, Australia, Bolivia, all over Europe, and Ireland, Wales and London."

Photographs showed the Flat Stanleys with guards in front of the Acropolis, scuba diving in Egypt, digging out snow in Canada and at Disney World in Florida.

"This is a huge project in the United States and there is a website where there are actual photos of President Bush with a Flat Stanley," explained Denise Morgan, the P4P5 teacher at Abbeyhill Primary.

The school has been developing its global curriculum for more than three years, under the guidance of principal teacher Elaine Short, whose interest in global education dates from her involvement in the Comenius project in the late 1990s. After the project finished, she contacted Scotdec and soon found herself involved in developing A Global Approach along with Jim McColgan, the headteacher at Echline Primary in Edinburgh and another champion of global education.

"It isn't about extending teaching; it is about enriching it. The whole curriculum is given an international perspective," she says. "We have helped develop this resource so that it is easy to use and not burdensome in any way."

The pack complements the Scottish Executive's policy to broaden Scotland's outlook and Mr Brown's presence at the launch illustrated its determination to support such initiatives. Describing the resource as a catalyst that would expand internationalism in schools, Mr Brown said: "We need to ensure our children are citizens of the world."

Funding to develop A Global Approach came from the UK Department for International Development to ensure that every school in Scotland could have a free copy, along with introductory workshops.

In addition, from this month there will be free continuing professional development sessions for school clusters. For schools outside Scotdec's region of the Lothians, Edinburgh, Stirling, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and the Borders, sessions will be offered by local development education centres if there is demand.

The pack joins a well established list of teaching aids provided or lent by Scotdec to schools in its region. The organisation also runs workshops and training related to citizenship, has teacher networks to encourage contact between practitioners and organises projects to inspire teachers to be more global in their approach.

It is in the final stages of a partnership project with Greek and South African teachers, sharing work and experiences, and posts a regular newsletter on its website from a volunteer in Malawi. "Every month I will research a new topic, from daily life to the weather, and use an interactive blog to post my diary and give teachers and young people in Scotland the opportunity to read it and respond," Joseph Taylor writes.

Scotdec is investigating ways to get global education into initial teacher training. It would like to see teachers being encouraged to have a global perspective from the outset, which would be sustained throughout their careers with professional development sessions.

But encouraging teachers to use the writings and experiences of different cultures does not mean negating the Scottish character. Even at Abbeyhill Primary, where globalism is well established, the Scottish element of the curriculum is still strong. A day of internationalism, while celebrating the diversity of the pupil body, still included dancing, singing and poems from Scotland.

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