It's a small world

29th June 2012 at 01:00
So should Scotland's global education programmes be doing more to broaden schools' outlook and embrace international links?

Three-quarters of business leaders believe young Scots are unprepared for the global economy, according to a survey commissioned by the British Council and education charity Think Global.

This comes at a time when exports to other countries are worth pound;22 billion to Scotland's economy and the Scottish government has set an ambitious target to grow them by 50 per cent within five years.

The survey findings have prompted British Council Scotland to launch a World Scots initiative this month, which aims to increase the proportion of Scots participating in its main "outward mobility" programmes by 25 per cent by the end of the next academic year.

Current programmes include the EU-funded Erasmus and Comenius schemes; work placements abroad run by IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience); language assistants and school linking and twinning.

Global citizenship is now on a stronger footing under Curriculum for Excellence than ever before, but concerns remain that Scottish pupils and students trail behind their European counterparts when it comes to Erasmus and Comenius participation.

There was widespread dismay in schools when the UK government's Department for International Development announced last year that it was closing its Global Schools Partnership programme. Earlier this month, however, the successor programme was announced. It aims to reach 15 per cent more schools (1,800) through linking programmes, but will have a budget that is 24 per cent smaller.

Web-conferencing, online discussion forums and mobile phone apps will all be harnessed under the new three-year Connecting Classrooms scheme, funded by the UK government and the British Council. The new technology will, it is hoped, allow at least 18,000 additional schools to collaborate online.

The programme will build on existing work by the British Council to provide an "improved and simplified service" to schools, a spokesperson said. It will also allow more than 15,000 teachers to complete professional development training in global citizenship, ICT and English language for international exchange.

Links with universities around the world will enable teachers in the UK and developing countries to gain accreditation for their new skills. Courses in school leadership will also help more than 3,200 headteachers overseas to improve their school management skills, while teachers in the UK will be able to share their leadership expertise with peers in developing countries through a mentoring programming.

Lucy Young, head of education at British Council Scotland, told TESS: "We see the Connecting Classrooms programme as a key bit of the World Scots campaign to encourage more young people to develop a global outlook."

Instead of offering a range of funding for different criteria (see panel, page 12), it is based on a fixed grant of pound;1,500 per school in a school- linking programme. Research had shown that this approach would be less confusing and make the money go further, she said. But the deadline of 20 July for the first tranche of applications may prove too short notice for Scottish schools already on holiday for this round of funding.

"Connecting Classrooms" was the title given to an earlier programme, but rather than lose an internationally recognised brand, it will now be applied to the refreshed version. Key ingredients will include continuing professional development for the teachers involved and a focus on making school links genuine two-way partnerships, rather than unequal benefactorrecipient relationships.

These are all areas familiar to Nick Morgan, Education Scotland's national development officer on global citizenship, who specialises in international work. He believes most schools are already doing something around global citizenship themes - eco-schools, pupil rights or international work - but only a minority combine them all.

Less than a decade ago, the focus was more on development education. Now it has broadened and instead of a school just raising money for an international cause, there is more discussion about the reasons for poverty and the issues behind the need for development aid.

Some school partnerships have been forged privately and are not dependent on government funding, he points out. It could be through a church relationship or a teacher connection. But in cases where it is based entirely on their own work, it may be a more sustainable partnership.

The Comenius programme in its current form will end in 2013, he adds, and the European Commission is currently discussing what will happen next.

The programme has inspired some wonderful work, says Mr Morgan, but he has slight misgivings that it has not always been a whole-school activity. Sometimes, a partnership meeting may have involved only two teachers and 10 pupils. "It's been an incredible experience for those involved, but what about the rest of the school? Is it genuinely involved?" he wonders.

He also cautions that all too often school exchange and reciprocal visits are left to the efforts of a single school champion. Should that champion retire or move, the connections wither.

"The ideal scenario is that over a period of time partnership activity is embedded in school life through the school improvement plan," he says. Getting the senior management group on board is critical.

Isabel Gilchrist, teacher of religious and moral education at Stonelaw High in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, is perhaps the archetypal school champion. But over the years she has helped put in place a partnership committee and has had strong support from senior managers. The result has been an impressive track record of international partnership.

Since 2003, pupils have had a pound;140,000 turnover in Fair Trade sales, making a pound;22,000 clear profit which has been devoted to funding the education of around 300 Aids orphans and vulnerable children, in equal numbers of boys and girls, in South Africa.

The scheme was initiated through a former pupil's contact with paediatrician Dr Ruth Bland, who is the clinical research leader with the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. It started with seed funding of pound;100 from IDEAS (International Development Education Association Scotland).

To put into perspective how far pound;22,000 can go in South Africa, when the scheme started nearly 10 years ago Stonelaw's principal teacher of PE, Alan Byrne, made a personal donation of pound;50, which paid for the education of three siblings, their school fees, uniform, equipment and other educational needs for a year.

Last year, the school won both the Scottish and UK Young Persons' Social Enterprise of the Year awards.

Mrs Gilchrist is also the catalyst behind a reciprocal schools link with Ikusasalethu High in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu Natal, initiated three years ago.

Dr Bland drew her attention to the school (attended by some of the children supported by Stonelaw's fundraising) after a local newspaper article highlighted that its exam results exceeded some of the private schools', despite the fact that it was poorly resourced and overcrowded. The key factors in its success were, it was suggested, the teachers' dedication and the pupils' commitment and hard work.

Since then, two teachers from Ikusasalethu High have visited Stonelaw High under the Global Schools Partnerships funded by the UK government's Department for International Development, and Mrs Gilchrist and a former senior pupil, Stewart Aitken, have visited the South African school - twice in the case of Mrs Gilchrist.

The GSP funding stopped earlier this year, so the school had to raise pound;2,600 itself to bring over a further two Ikusasalethu teachers - deputy principal and physics teacher Jabulani Mbuyazi and maths and physics teacher Bonginkosi Sibisi. They have just returned home from a two-week visit to Stonelaw.

TESS caught up with them earlier this month during their visit to the Scottish secondary. Both African teachers talked enthusiastically about the opportunities to learn about new teaching methodologies and improve their English (their first language is Zulu).

Mr Mbuyazi described the everyday challenges of teaching science lessons to classes of 50-70 pupils.

"It is difficult to do practical experiments - mostly youhave to do demonstrations. Then, sometimes we can use computer simulations," he said.

The two men have been reassured to find that the content of their lessons is actually very similar to the Scottish curriculum - physics is the same in Rutherglen or Mtubatuba.

When Mrs Gilchrist visited Ikusasalethu High in February, she taught lessons based on the Olympic Games-inspired global citizenship programme "Inspiregt;Aspire". The South African school was subsequently named "school of the month" for its work under the "GetSet" Olympic schools programme, and one of its pupils won one of the top awards in the initiative this month.

She has since discussed the Ikusasalethu pupils' ideas and work with her Stonelaw pupils. Their responses included:

- I have learned a lot from the people from South Africa. I have learned never to give up on your dreams and to believe that you can do it, and do not care what other people think and say about you. You can prove them wrong.

- People in Scotland care less about education, even though they get a better one. In South Africa, they like getting an education and want more of it.

- Comparing the work of Stonelaw to Ikusasalethu, I think that Ikusasalethu's work is better.

- It shows the difference between the people in UK and the people in South Africa because they don't take things for granted and people in the UK take everything for granted and most of us are spoilt.

Even if Stonelaw is unable to access funding under the new Connecting Classrooms programme, Mrs Gilchrist is determined that the link will be maintained through school fundraising "no matter what it takes".

Next year, she hopes to take pupils with her to Ikusasalethu High and then organise a reciprocal visit.

"I do think it's life-changing. I can't understand someone who would go to Africa and not come back totally different. What we do can make a difference," she says.

Turning to her African visitors she adds: "And you coming here makes a difference to our pupils."

IN NUMBERS

25% - The target set by British Council Scotland for the proportion of young Scots participating in its key outward mobility programmes by the end of the next academic year.

pound;1,500 - The grant per school available under the new Connecting Classrooms school links programme, funded jointly by DfID and the British Council.

15% - The targeted increase in number of schools involved in school link programmes.

24% - The cut in funding for school links programmes across the world.

1,000 - The number of international school partnership projects in 2011-12 in Scotland, reaching 24 per cent of Scotland's 2,700 schools.

37,000 - The number of overseas students who came to Scotland last year, representing 1.2 per cent of the world's share and 12 per cent of UK share.

HOW FUNDING SCHEMES WORK

Two different funding schemes operated in the past: one under Global School Partnerships (GSP) and the other under the previous Connecting Classrooms (CC) programme.

Global Schools Partnerships

There were two types of grants from 2003 to 2011 - Reciprocal Visits and Global Curriculum Grant. Each partner school received between pound;1,000 and pound;3,000, depending on the grant they applied for, how long they had been working together and how many teachers travelled. To receive over pound;1,000, schools had to budget for more than one teacher travelling in both directions and for curriculum project costs.

Connecting Classrooms (former programme)

There was a wide range of funding opportunities which depended on where the partnerships were and funding deadlines.

Connecting Classrooms (new programme)

Overall, the new annual grant of pound;1,500 for each school in the partnership (involving two or more schools) is much larger than the old grant offer, the British Council argues.

- Schools apply together for an annual grant of pound;1,500 for each one in the partnership.

- The grant must be spent on reciprocal partnership visits; if any money remains, it can be used for project resources and communication costs.

- After one year, schools submit a report on the project.

- If the report shows that the project met the criteria and objectives (as detailed in this guidance), schools can apply for another year's grant.

ONE PLANET: A SCHOOLS VISION

In the run-up to last year's Holyrood elections, the Scottish National Party made a manifesto commitment to the vision of One Planet Schools, originally set out by the environmental charity WWF UK.

"Imagine a school where everyone cares - about themselves, each other and about the planet; now and in the future. Now imagine a school where this caring touches everything it does - what and how pupils learn; how the school manages its physical environment and resources; how staff and pupils relate to each other; how they work with their local community - and how they reach out to the wider world," wrote WWF.

"What you are imagining is a One Planet School: a place committed to reducing its impact on the planet here and now; a place which prepares young people to act as drivers for sustainability in the future; a place with a vision of how people and nature can live in harmony on a thriving, green planet."

Scottish learning minister Alasdair Allan set up an advisory group, under the chairmanship of Pete Higgins, professor of outdoor and environmental education at the University of Edinburgh, which is expected to report towards the end of this year. Its work on One Planet Schools cuts across a number of disciplines and policy areas.

"The vision is that you can't live on more than one planet's worth of resources, and in the end we'll get caught out if we do," Professor Higgins told TESS.

The group is exploring ways to help schools "become more one-planetary", which relies on them having an understanding of what that means, explained Professor Higgins.

That requires elements of change within the whole education system outwith schools, including procurement processes, teacher training, school leadership and government policy.

Professor Higgins' group has been feeding information into the National Partnership Group set up to implement the Donaldson report, Teaching Scotland's Future, on how its vision could affect initial teacher education and continuing professional development for existing teachers.

It is also seeking to develop stronger links with the Scottish Futures Trust to influence the design and use of schools estates. And it is hoping to raise the visibility of the One Planet Schools concept through the SQA's qualifications structure.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland, which is developing professional standards for the 21st century, has also established a sub- group on sustainability to ensure that it is embedded in teachers' thinking.

Many schools already embrace sustainable development education, citizenship education and outdoor learning, but Professor Higgins warned of the dangers of "potential conceptual confusion".

These are three distinctive concepts and more work needs to be done to create an all-encompassing vision, he said. Outdoor education should encourage a better understanding of how the planet works, while education on sustainability and global citizenship should promote certain values which develop a greater sense of responsibility to the planet.

"That's the big idea," Professor Higgins said.

Two years from now will see the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development end. The Scottish government is viewed as having been more progressive than most in taking these particular responsibilities seriously, said Professor Higgins. He hopes it will want to maintain that momentum.

Original headline: Young Scots urged to enter the world of global citizenship

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