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Month: April 2018

School uniform decision in a participatory way

In some countries school uniforms are a usual practice while in others there are ongoing discussions about introducing them or not. The following article is offering a participatory solution for introducing or revising school uniform practice making it possible for students and parents to develop and exercise their active citizenship skills in a few simple steps.

Step 1 – Sense of belonging

As a first step organise a survey among students and parents finding our why they are proud of the school of their choice, what they like (and dislike) about it, whether they feel good if they discover somebody went or goes to the same school. In case the school already has a uniform you can include questions about the likes and dislikes around that. The dislikes can always be used for improvements later on.

Step 2 – Discussion about school uniforms

Organise for a (on school level, class level, online, after school) to discuss the benefits of and problems with school uniform. Prepare facilitators to evaluate current practice, also to discuss partial solutions (eg. uniform for celebrations only, uniform for practical lessons to protect clothes, uniform for outings, etc.)

Step 3 – Finding ways of flagging that you belong

Announce a design competition for students of any piece of clothing and/or accessory they would like to wear to show others that they belong to your school. In the announcement tell them they have to think about material, price, production possibilities.

Step 4 – Create ownership of the new uniform

Once the proposals are collected, make a virtual or real exhibition and make it possible for all students to evaluate them. The evaluation should be based on whether you would like to wear the given item on a daily basis or for celebratory events.

Meanwhile have a similar vote among parents who should state if they were willing to buy the exhibited items.

Assessing the results of the competition, organise a second, similar round with the sets most popular with both parents and students – this is to ensure that children like and are ready to wear the chosen pieces, while parents are also happy about the looks and are likely to be able to afford it.

Step 5 – Make a joint decision

Use whatever democratic means you have to make a final decision on

  • whether there is a consensus or convincing majority to introduce (new) uniform
  • what is the scope of the new uniform (everyday or celebratory, for the whole schoolday or for special lessons)

involving school staff, students and teachers. If there is no consensus, be prepared to work on convincing the minority to ensure their ownership, too.

(Source of cover picture: WikiHow)

Playful solutions to tackle the global learning crisis

Both the World Economic Forum and the World Bank have warned us of a major ’learning crisis’. It effects a large number of children who are not in school, but also those who do attend it. The LEGO Idea Conference 2018 (10-11 April, Billund), held in the inspiring environment of LEGO House tried to offer solutions for it on several levels: the breadth of skills an individual child needs to develop, attitudes and behaviour of adults around them, the collective impact of their community and the social norms and requirements of society. Experts, researchers and practitioners discussed their ideas and practice, ones that all have a certain playful element.

The 2018 edition of the Davos World Economic Forum discussed the main issues around education and learning today. They highlighted the huge gap between skills developed by schools and those necessary for the labour market today and tomorrow. Education systems are not responsive to changes in society, and evaluation of the necessary breadth of skills is missing from most systems. As a result children lose the feeling of engagement with their schooling.

World Bank findings underline these statements also by highlighting that 44% of children do not even attain basic level in reading and 53% in maths globally. The head of education at the World Bank, former Minister of Education of Peru, Jaime Saavedra compared education to a car the 4 wheels of are 1. curriculum, instruction and assessment, 2. teachers’ careers, 3. management and 4. infrastructure. The 4 need to change together to move the vehicle forward. The necessary reform takes time.

Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings Institute introduced the notion of leapfrogging highlighting the fact that reforms that need a lot of time will not help today’s children who only have this one childhood. The goal of leapfrogging in education should be to use pedagogical innovation to harness a combination of basic skills and 21st century skills for all children, including those coming from low socio-economic status families. There is a need for action as 75% or countries are committed to developing the necessary breadth of skills while only 13% has plans in place to do so. The goal of leapfrogging would be to overcome skills inequalities and skills uncertainty together. She also emphasised that whole school development doesn’t necessarily mean a need for all children to be in school – and this increases the need for empowering parents and other members of local communities.

Later she also mentioned that it is the nonprofit sector that is leading pedagogical innovation, especially since formal education is resistant to change. The question is when the ‘Wikipedia moment’ of schools will happen (similarly to that of lexicon publishers).Currently 70% successful innovative initiatives have a playful learning methodology (eg. Duolingo, LIMA, BRAC) and only 20% of them are aiming at teacher training.

During the event there has been an opportunity to witness, try and evaluate several innovative education initiatives and think about ways of scaling them in different environments. An important issue mentioned in connection to this was the fact that ‘marketing’ is not the job of the practitioner, otherwise what happens in the classroom, stays there and others have no opportunity to learn about it.

The IDEA Prize 2018 was awarded to Sir Fazle Abed, founder of BRAC

In the concluding remarks John Goodwin, Director of LEGO Foundation reinforced their commitment to changing education and highlighted Playfutures as an important platform for policy, research and practice to meet. It should be a vehicle for integration, a place to share examples for shifting mindsets, facilitate leapfrogging by introducing innovations from approaches to scaling, an advocacy tool around the breadth of skills by promoting learning through play. Come and do join us there.

Guidelines for parental involvement in VET and apprenticeships

Key principles and methodology

Starting points:

  • In VET and apprenticeships there is a need to differentiate approaches according to the age of learners (minors or adults);
  • Parents play a fundamental role in guiding decisions and supporting learning of all students, regardless their age, so the guidelines apply to all parents regardless the age of the student;
  • Parents are solely responsible[1] for educating their children in the format of their choice, to become lifelong learners and active citizens, helping them in the harmonious development physically, morally and intellectually, this responsibility is often voluntarily extended after the 18th birthday of children while parents are still providing for their children in all aspects of their lives while they are doing their full-time training – thus parents of minors have a legal basis for being engaged in the training process;
  • Parents need information and support in their parenting for the best interest of their children;
  • Education and training systems should be providing equitable learning environments for all children/young people and their parents, a free and informed choice for parents of the education of their children. This choice should never be restricted by the financial capacity of the family.
  • Challenges of the 21st century in the field of employability on an individual level necessitate an aptitude for learning, the ability to embrace change and entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial skills
  • Teachers and parents alike need information, training and incentives to embrace new approaches to education including the importance of their own lifelong learning.

Parental involvement in VET and apprenticeships needs to be

  • asset based (and not deficit-based) – building on the strengths of what parents are doing well
  • structured in order to reach all parents to support full engagement and peer-to-peer impact
  • positive to instil confidence of parents in themselves and their ability to trust in their child
  • responsive, tailored to the needs and realities (circumstances, social and cultural norms, and environment) of parents and caregivers
  • sensitive by recognising the full scope of responsibility of parents and their constraints with regards to time and access to materials and information
  • holistic by taking lifelong and life-wide learning approach, focusing on a breadth of skills and competences to support learning across domains and throughout life.

Key principles of collaboration between parents and VET/apprenticeship providers[2]:

  1. School/workplace staff and parents participate in supporting the learning of the student
    1. Learning objectives are to be defined together (within curricula)
    2. Teaching methodology needs to be introduced to the parents beforehand
    3. There needs to be a clarification of what is necessary for future success and what is taught for tests
    4. There should be a preliminary agreement on timing and amount of homework, breaks are observed as well as reasonable family requests
    5. Teachers should help parents to find ways of encouraging school-related learning other than overseeing homework
  2. School/workplace staff and parents value the knowledge that each brings to the partnership.
    1. The relationship should be built on mutual curiosity
    2. The school/workplace should create a non-frightening environment for communication for all
    3. The school/workplace needs to understand parents’ ‚backstory’
    4. Collaboration should start by building trust
    5. The school/workplace should openly acknowledge the educational work of parents
    6. There is a need to explore reasons for mistrust and animosity
  3. School/workplace staff and parents engage in dialogue around and with the learning of the student
    1. The principle of ‘Nothing about them without them’ should be rigorously implanted for both students and parents
    2. Parties should adjust timing, communication channels, culture and language
    3. Rules should be set at the beginning, together
    4. Professionals should be ready to leave their comfort zone
    5. Priorities and emphasis should be set together
    6. Collaboration of school/workplace staff (other than teachers/instructors) is essential for success
  4. School/workplace staff and parents act in partnership to support the learning of the student and each other
    1. There is a need to assess the level of engagement of each parent – no one size fits all solution for any class
    2. Build partnership according to engagement level
    3. Create opportunities to empower parents and professional educators
    4. Create opportunities for mutual learning
    5. The school/workplace should openly seek help from parents in teaching – go beyond the fundraising and formal participation tradition
  5. School/workplace staff and parents respect the legitimate authority of each other’s roles and contributions to supporting learning
    1. The school/workplace should openly acknowledge the parents’ primary role as educators and their sole responsibility for bringing up their children
    2. No position, as teacher or parent will create respect l’art pour l’art, so you need to make your case
    3. All partners should make an effort to highlight contribution to learning
    4. It may seem to be a lot of effort, but at the end of the day it will make your life easier

[1] UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Articles 3, 5 & 18

[2] based on Janet Goodall, 2017