I have now lived and worked in four African countries (Malawi, Kenya Zambia and Uganda) and while Malawi will always have a special place in my heart as the place where I spent a significant portion of my childhood, Uganda compares very favourably with the others. Of course, there are challenges to be faced and overcome in all of these countries, as there are everywhere in the world, but my family and I feel very lucky to have been made to feel so welcome in a country that truly deserves its moniker “The Pearl of Africa”.
Of course, independence is something that both we (and, if it is not too patronizing, you) should be trying to develop in our young people. As an IB school we are committed to the learner qualities extolled by the International Baccalaureate Organisation. In its learner profile under “Inquirers” the IBO says:
“We nurture our curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research. We know how to learn independently and with others. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning throughout life.”
As you know I have been conducting “snapshot” observations of all KISU teachers in the past fortnight and I expect to finish these today (my colleagues will be relieved to hear!). One of the very things that I have been looking for in these lesson observations is whether or not the teacher has planned opportunities for students to show independence in their learning. Happily, I was able to observe many examples of young people being trusted to take ownership of their own learning and tackle problems and tasks with commitment and persistence on their own. And of course, the classroom is not the only place where we try to develop independence in our students; Outdoor Education Weeks are almost upon us and these provide excellent opportunities for students to stretch themselves personally and build the self-esteem that will allow them to be comfortable and confident when they are required to “go it alone” in their learning or in other aspects of their life.
But independence is not just about being willing and able to work at something on one’s own; it is also about being independence of thought and action. More than ever we need to teach our young people to have the confidence to trust their own values and make up their own minds up about what is right and wrong. We must help them to develop sufficient self-esteem to be willing to stand apart from the crowd if they think it is right and to be morally courageous in the face of peer and media pressure. I really believe that the work that our students do in “Learning to Learn” at Key Stage 3 and in “Global Perspectives” in Key Stage 4 is really helping students to take ownership of their own learning and to understand better the challenges that the world they are heirs to is facing.
Happy Independence Day everybody!