This article was first published here in the Guardian on-line’s education section.
If I could point to one idea that I would bring back to the UK from overseas it would be that that awful corporate-speak word ‘innovation’ – though I would call it creative teaching, rather than anything else.
In Spain, it’s uplifting to see how older kids treat and care for younger ones, and this is done naturally and informally, not with prefects or head boys or head girls. The quality of school food is generally good there, and Britain can learn from the health benefits of this.
In Australia, where I was blooded as a teacher during my first four years, educators were encouraged to take risks with their teaching methods, whether this was bringing in sometimes slightly unpredictable guest speakers into the classroom or just simply reading poetry outside in the sunshine.
Also, one or two states in Australia have not relied so heavily on exams and testing to assess students’ knowledge and abilities. This has given teachers better flexibility and lets students produce work not purely for regurgitation in an exam.
It’s easy to say that we should take personal and collective responsibility for our schools, but in Japan you will see teachers and students every afternoon, side by side, mopping and sweeping the corridors, classrooms and toilets. Admittedly, the low level of attention often paid to this ritual meant that the school was more spiritually clean than physically clean but there is a lot to be said for ‘doing the dirty work’ together.”
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