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Widening the dialogue: Promoting learner-centred teaching in the developing world September 29, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.

Glynn Richards is head of access projects at the International Baccalaureate. This is the first half of an excellent article featured in the autumn 2010 issue of is (International School) magazine.

The home computers and Facebook accounts of many teachers in international education teem with photographs from an array of colourful and fascinating countries. But how many of us have actually engaged with colleagues teaching in local schools in those same countries?

Herein lies an uncomfortable paradox for many teachers on the international circuit: the passport stamps suggest extensive travel, but the CV often reveals little interaction with the teachers and administrators outside our international school’s walls.

The unfortunate fact is that most of us don’t actually have any real opportunity or invitation to come together with local teachers in the developing world. And this is a shame because many teachers in the countries we work in would welcome the chance to meet us, to begin a dialogue on teaching, share some of their own experience, and come up with negotiated solutions to some of the problems we face as educators.

In short, they yearn for the same inspiration, ideas, communication, and insight that we gain from fellow educators at our own conferences and workshops.

The International Baccalaureate is actively involved in trying to bridge this gap by facilitating teacher-to-teacher interaction through volunteer training projects. Within projects in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, and India, the IB aims to widen the circle of conversation so all can come away enriched and wiser. These projects bring together international teachers – both IB and non-IB –

with their counterparts in national schools with few resources and fewer means to connect with teachers outside their districts.

The aim of the projects is to develop together practical, culturally-relevant, learner-centred approaches to teaching and learning that take into account the low resource environments within which the teachers work. Volunteer trainers come from all over the world, from all types of schools, to share their experience and be part of an ongoing conversation. For their part, teacher trainees come from a variety of backgrounds, both urban and rural, but all are from low-resource environments. Salaries of $50 a month are not uncommon.

In Sri Lanka, the IB works with non-governmental organisations as well as local and national government to train leaders in early childhood education. To date, over 30 workshops have been facilitated for leaders and potential trainers, each received very enthusiastically by educators.

The schools are alive with custom and music, providing rich material for all to work together to fashion authentically Sri Lankan approaches to learner-centred, interactive education. Teachers of all ages and backgrounds enthusiastically work together to come up with realistic approaches to helping their young children hone their models of the way the world works.

The IB is now engaged in training a new set of teacher leaders in the newly accessible north and east, as well as working with Sri Lankan experts to develop a set of professional development materials to complement the government’s own national standards.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please click here to view the is (International School) ezine.



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