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From the editor

| November 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

“What would you like to be when you grow up?” This is a question asked of many children. An article by journalist Athene Donald entitled Diversity starts in schools – children need to see a wider range of careers published in The Guardian newspaper this year, reveals that in 2018, the answers to that question are still largely limited by gender: great numbers of girls tend to fancy careers in ‘caring professions’ such as nursing and teaching, while many boys dream of being firemen, soldiers or sports stars. Donald writes: The lack of awareness of primary school children of the full spectrum of careers is highlighted in a new study, Drawing the Future, carried out for the British organisation Education and Employers… The current situation in engineering, for instance, is neatly summed up in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s phrase “9% is not enough” – the percentage of women in the engineering workforce. The study argues school children need classroom visits from female as well as male engineers, astronauts, top athletes and medical specialists. This kind of approach is important, because it feeds into a larger conversation about how our schools need to change. The dismal sight I saw recently of children seating in neat rows in a poorly lit and ill-ventilated classroom on uncomfortable wooden chairs, whilst the teacher intoned from the front needs to disappear – and quickly. In short and generally speaking, schools must free up staid approaches if they are to make transformation really effective. While this statement may sound blasé, consider another I came across: “[Schools] don’t change because they see the light. They change because they feel the heat.” The heat is on, both literally and figuratively. On page 19 of this edition of Independent Education, you will find ways for your school to become part of the global climate justice movement. If we don’t get our global act together by 2030, the human race will face dire consequences. Climate justice and social justice are interwoven imperatives and schools are the epicentres for change. However, these institutions are more often than not tied to cumbersome curricula and excessive assessment that prevent schools from instituting innovative transformation programmes. However, says Jacqueline Aitchison, director of Education Incorporated Boutique School (EIBS), on page 53, South Africa needs to consider prioritising teaching over testing, and skills development over continuous assessment. Independent schools have the right to make changes in these areas that will, in turn, make their schools more inclusive. Our cover shows two students from EIBS tackling technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) issues and loving it. On page 66, you’ll find the story of girls at St Mary’s School in Waverley, Johannesburg, who recently sailed through an innovative, teacher-designed robotics projects with verve. And nearby, at St Stithians Boys’ College, English teacher Chelsea van Lieshout, advises that (see page 29): “The [English] curriculum, particularly the set work selection, should mimic the diverse, polyphonic nature of South African society”. Another way to invite innovation and diversity in, is to visit schools in other parts of the world. Kyle Lauf, who teaches at Assumption Convent in Germiston, in Johannesburg, recently visited the Evangelische Schule Berlin Zentrum (ESBZ) in Germany. On page 48 he writes that at this innovative school: Pupils choose themes of work and start answering questions independently. Working individually or in small groups, [read] required information and explanations, discussing relevant topics, and answering questions in writing. It might take a week or longer to complete each of these themes. This thematic structure is called bausteine – building blocks – which the teacher oversees while groups do different work, and individuals complete tasks at their own pace. Other South African independent schools are moving towards greater transformation by starting oncampus conversations. At De La Salle Holy Cross College, Lucious Leballo reports (see page 18) questions inform every aspect of school life. Stakeholders have committed to asking: What is happening now? What needs to be changed? Why are things the way they are, and who controls them? What does our faith have to say about this? What are we going to do to make things different? And, what have we achieved, and what still needs to be done? And at St. Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria, says the Reverend Canon Angus Paterson on page 23: We have a sub-committee of the governing body wholly concerned with transformation and diversity matters. A parent forum, expressly constituted, advises the subcommittee on these matters. There is a separate parents’ association, which is also represented on the governing body panel. Learners have a leader dedicated to transformation and diversity. Learners interact through what we call ‘Circles of healing’, or ‘Letsema’, which meet bi-weekly or whenever necessary. Part of any whole-school conversation should be about what girls and boys will be doing with their lives in 2030 and beyond. Trash engineers will be in great demand, as will alternative energy consultants and earthquake forecasters. Medical mentors, body part creators, personal internet of things (IoT) security repair people and commercial outer space pilots will also find jobs easily. Are your girls and boys ready for the challenge?“

Category: Summer 2018

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