Educating Beyond Borders at Brescia House School

The strong shared bond between Brescia House School in Johannesburg, Gauteng, and The Ursuline School in the town of New Rochelle, in New York State, United States, is thanks to our global exchange programme over the past decade and our shared Ursuline mission.

Even though we could not travel this year to visit each other in person, we developed a synchronous virtual class exchange. Maria Barton, director of global education at The Ursuline School, and Adrianna Robertson, Grade 11 English advanced placement teacher, collaborated with two teachers from Brescia House School – Graham West, head of the history department and Laura van Houten, history teacher. The project was titled ‘Reaching for Global Equality & Equity’.

Substituting technology for passports, students met via Zoom and used Microsoft Teams as they researched 10 aspects of inequality in the US locations of New Rochelle, Westchester and New York City and the South African locations of Randburg, Sandton and Alexandra.

The 10 research topics investigated inequality in relation to housing, service delivery, education, health care, economics, law, transport, access to goods, gender, and environment/climate challenges. The student teams researched the origins and consequences of these inequities and then shared findings and possible solutions via video presentations.

In the student researchers’ own words It was evident that the students enjoyed the virtual exchange and learned a great deal from this global experience, as attested to in the following quotations:

‘I learned about the life of a student in South Africa, and I was able to gain new perspectives on the world and on inequity and inequality.’

‘It was interesting to interact with girls our age from a completely different location, while getting to learn the inequalities in other areas as well.’ ‘I was very grateful that my group mates were very sweet and understanding. I think we had great conversations and were able to connect through topics beyond the formal curriculum, which was also very valuable’

‘This exchange was valuable as it was so interesting to get to know a group of girls from a whole different country and continent. It was so interesting that we had so much in common even though we had never met each other before.’

Commenting on the value of the exchange, West said: This collaboration is an example of a project that Brescia House School has embarked on under the banner of Education Beyond Borders, where we seek to take our pupils into classrooms and environments all over the world. The advent of online communication technology in schools across the world has created the opportunity to expose our pupils to not only, different thinking and viewpoints, but to prepare them for the future of the working world.

Teachers at both The Ursuline School and Brescia House School have already started planning the continuation of this virtual exchange for 2022. ‘It was important to both schools to find ways to continue this strong global connection through curriculum and cultural learning’, said Barton.

The mutual objective is to continue this virtual partnership to explore important global issues and build upon the strong connection until the next visit. Both parties are grateful for the wonderful relationships that have formed amongst the students and staff, despite the global challenge everyone faced this year.