Schools are teaching children how to navigate global issues

When I worked as a teacher, I participated in running of two environmental clubs.  It was a few years ago, but already at that time children were very interested in the topic.  Recently it became the big movement.  Below I will share with you some information from the media on how schools react to it and incorporate this topic into the curriculum.

Should pupils bunk off school to attend climate protests? This year, the swelling ranks of teenagers joining environmental demonstrations posed a dilemma for teachers. On the one hand, they want pupils to become engaged and active world citizens. On the other, they want to keep them safe and in school.

Rather than officially permit the students to attend, Bristol Grammar school laid on alternative climate activities on the day. It is also one of the first schools in Britain to have a UN-accredited climate change teacher. Climate awareness is just one answer to a greater question: what exactly should schools be teaching? Headmaster of Bristol Grammar and many heads believe “exam factories” have had their day and it’s time to step up efforts to deliver a more rounded education, paying more attention to the bits in between academic subjects. “Parents choose the independent sector not only for the hard currency of exam results but because of the ethos. It’s desperately irresponsible, if you have the time and resources, not to encourage students to think about the bigger picture.”
But how can schools ensure pupils are engaged and informed, and help them develop a social conscience?

“We are teaching our children far too much stuff,” says Professor Bill Lucas, author of Teaching Creative Thinking and professor of learning at the University of Winchester. “We need space in between to explore and have ideas.” He’s currently looking into how schools can teach creativity, which, he says, is linked to critical thinking – how to have good ideas and see links across disciplines rather than through the lens of a single subject. Some UK schools, particularly at prep level, do take advantage of the freedom to teach creativity, says Prof Lucas. But, actually, it’s an approach that can be embedded in any subject rather than a timetable add-on, and comes down to school culture and the skills of individual teachers. This kind of approach will foster the thinking required to tackle big intractable questions of the immediate future: migration, scarce resources, a heating planet and inequality.
“Resilience is a core part of creativity and critical thinking,” says Prof Lucas. “Some high achieving kids are good at regurgitating model answers but have never learned how to be creative, to keep going when faced with questions they have not been prepared for. Such kids may well go on to good universities but crash and burn because they’ve never had to think for themselves.” Schools in the independent sector have long sold themselves on the development of “character”. But today this should mean more than toughness and stoicism. Marcus Culverwell, headmaster of Reigate St Mary’s, has worked with the Independent Association of Prep Schools to help develop a programme called Education for Social Responsibility. “We’ve seen the strength of feeling there is among the younger generation, as it’s their future we are jeopardising,” he says.

If inspiring pupils to think more deeply is the goal of educators, then Bedales School is trying hard. In 2017, the Hampshire school introduced a Global Awareness qualification, one of several alternatives to GCSEs offered by the school. The course, which looks at areas from human rights to the arms trade, has proven popular. “Students are genuinely interested in engaging with social and political challenges around the world,”
says the head teacher, a good education is one that prepares young people for a world where no one knows the answers. To paraphrase Albert Einstein – “education is what remains when one has forgotten what one learned at school.”
(Source – extracts from Daily Telegraph)

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Elena Colquhoun, MSc, PGCE, ACIL,

Director Best Start Education, qualified teacher and examiner