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From the editor

ISASA’s executive director, Lebogang Montjane, has written about his recent trip to Turkey on page 12 of this edition of Independent Education.

There he met with the Turkish Private Schools Association (TPSA) and visited the Ayazağa campus of one of its member schools, the Işik Schools group. Reports Montjane, “The Işik Schools… are distinctive in Turkey for their innovative curriculum and philosophy.”

Montjane says his visit confirmed for him that independent schools across the globe are generally “committed to adopting new knowledge to improve the quality of education they provide”. In the most committed independent schools anywhere, I would add, the adoption of new knowledge and ways to implement it, is innovation in action.

Well-respected futurist Gary Marx agrees. Writing for us on page 86 about his new book, Twenty-one Trends for the 21st Century. Out of the Trenches and Into the Future, he opines:

If we truly do hope to build a more promising future… [We must] consider the need to develop: education that is broad, deep, personal and purposeful; an ability to tap human imagination, creativity and ingenuity, while we encourage innovation and entrepreneurship; and preparation that helps us become both employable and good members of a civil society.

If we use Marx’s criteria, then the ISASA schools profiled in this edition of the magazine are all innovative. And, as they are all quite clearly “committed to adopting new knowledge”, they must surely rank alongside some of the best schools in other parts of the world. Pioneer Academy in Ormonde, Johannesburg, Gauteng – the founding school in the Pioneer Academies Network – is our featured new ISASA member. On page 16, principal Gavin Esterhuizen writes about the thrill of starting a brand new school at which the pedagogical focus has shifted from ‘This is what we are going to be learning about today’ to ‘How would you explain the following?’ Explains Esterhuizen further, “We have asked that our teachers teach in teams… [To] foster open collaboration among teachers and provide a continuous apprenticeship for all our teachers to develop higher levels of mastery in their craft.”

This approach is right on trend. In his research, Marx and his International Futures Council (comprising researchers in a multiplicity of fields from many different countries, including South Africa) discovered strong evidence that millennials (those born between 1982 and 2003, and who started turning 30 in 2012 and assuming leadership roles in our societies) will insist on collaborative leadership, service and results.

Such powerful global practices are shaping ISASA schools across South Africa. At Hermitage House, in the citrus orchards of the Sundays River Valley in the Eastern Cape, says principal Hilton Keeton (page 48), “We find that generally our pupils have positive attitudes towards school, higher self-esteem and more encouraging social relationships due to their exposure to multi-grade classes.” At Tyger Valley College in Pretoria, Gauteng, the new Institute for Mathematical Excellence has, says Kim Masson on page 52, “every desirable mathematical resource [for] all teaching staff… to share.” Here, the class maths teachers team-teach with a permanent institute teacher, ensuring smaller groups of students, dynamic classes and individual attention.

Dederick Swart, principal of Wembley College in Greytown in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, has correctly identified another key 21st century trend: the ability to be assertive, articulate and confident. To this end, at this school, students are completely in charge of all school assemblies. Read the heartening account on page 54.

You will also want to read (on page 68) the story of Cowan House, another ISASA school based in KwaZulu-Natal. Sally Evans, in charge of the school’s eco-programme, says everyone is aware that water scarcity is an increasingly urgent global issue. Cowan House students protect the precious wetland on its border and delighted in finding out about the nocturnal habits of amphibians on International Save the Frog Day.

Whilst our schools are charged with preparing for an uncertain future, they must also teach our children about the ancient past. You may have been following the story (see page 26) of the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the University of Cape Town’s campus. Montjane undoubtedly seized a valuable opportunity to view some statues of significance in Turkey, home to sites like Ephesus, at one time the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor. It is an insurmountable tragedy that Islamic State (Isis) insurgents have already destroyed Nimrud and Hatra in nearby Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, while smuggling countless portable antiquities into Turkey itself for sale on the black market.

Now is also your chance to use the ‘phenomenon teaching’ trend (see page 32) to share with your students images of the “largest concentration of World Heritage Sites anywhere in the world, unique in their style and in their mixture of Hindu and Buddhist and secular traditions”. This is how Debra Diamond, curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, describes the ancient temples destroyed by recent earthquakes in Nepal (see our related story on page 32).

But, while trends come and go, the very best schools know that human resources are irreplaceable. You will, I know, be moved by Bruce Pinnock’s story (page 95) of the mild-mannered science teacher who “instinctively engaged with the ‘soul’ of a troubled class community”.

Such ‘innovation’ will always stand the test of time.

Category: Regular Columns, Winter 2015

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