Ha Mai, our Society and Development Officer, shares about the East Asia Teachers’ Professional Training Study Visit in the UK in February 2015.
Our Vietnamese delegation consisting of 8 members including myself and 7 secondary English teachers together with the Korean and Indonesian delegations has just finished our study visit to the UK early this February. By attending actual classes in UK primary and secondary schools as well as taking part in the “Taking curriculum deeper” conference, what we ‘bring home’ goes far beyond our initial expectations.
The teacher-student boundary
The most outstanding difference we witnessed in the UK education system is the teacher-student boundary. While the traditional formal teacher – student relationship remains in Vietnam, in the UK, teachers take the role of facilitator or instructor and it is up to the students themselves to actively acquire the knowledge. In all the schools we visited, it was easy to recognise the common characteristics of pro-activeness and confidence in students in the learning process. Taking for instance, in “Science” class at Bristol Bruney Academy, the kids were eager to work in groups to test the acceleration of 2 airplanes with different masses, which were dropped from the second floor of the building. They all actively participated with joy and noted down the findings in detail. Then came the report writing and self-assessment based on the criteria set forth earlier by teacher. The student-centre approach is one of the crucial factors that build up kids’ confidence, independence, pro-activeness and their learning approach.
One factor that we all really appreciated was that the teachers in UK never stop innovating and finding new teaching methods that foster students’ interest in lessons. At Lampton School we spoke to a very nice French language teacher, Ms. Muriel Huet. To avoid the boredom of the old traditional methods, Muriel has turned the French class into a mini theatre! Pieces of fun cartoon are carefully selected and edited to match lessons’ time. This obviously caught the attention of the kids, and they were all eager recording short films for themselves in French as part of the homework!
Another creative teaching method that we were introduced to in the “Taking Curriculum Deeper” conference was the “School without Walls” inspired by 5x5x5 = Creativity in combination with the Theatre Royal Bath. The pilot project of the “school without walls” allowed students at St Andrew's C of E Primary School to stay in The Egg area (which is actually a theatre) for 7 weeks during summer term. There, the students had a chance to learn in open space, get to know artists and enjoy the performances in the theatre. The project was a big success: building the confidence, creativity and pro-activeness of the kids not only in self-learning but also in team working. What’s more, the conference was organized at Wallscourt Farm Academy which is a perfect demonstration of the concept of the “school without walls”. Instead of the hard physical walls that divide a normal school into class rooms, the program introduced “learning zones” marked by colours: orange, green, blue, etc. At the school, students actively find the learning zones for themselves and choose the most comfortable way to learn while teachers move around and support the kids when necessary. The learning spaces without any black/white boards or walls enhance students’ creativity and eagerness to learn while minimise the stress they may have found using in traditional approaches.
Connecting resources, utilizing local resources
During the “Taking Curriculum Deeper” conference, we were also impressed by the way UK schools connect and utilize resources. Different schools connect with each other for sharing teaching and learning experience regularly, thereby any new and effective practice or method developed by one school will be introduced to others. In her speech, Doctor Keri Facer from Bristol University raised the importance and benefit of the connections between schools and city. According to her, it is the local environments around schools that possess the facilities and valuable resources for learning. For example, in the Heritage curriculum program at Glenfrome primary school, Bristol, the students were encouraged to learn about the history, traditions and culture of Bristol, which fosters a love and pride about the city.
We gained valuable experience and knowledge during this study trip to London and Bristol. In the report after the trip, all of the teachers shared their take home lessons that they intend to apply in their own classes as well as their recommendations for the UK colleagues. I am amazed to see the light of eagerness in the eyes of those studious teachers, who are fully committed to their noble life-long teaching career.