The Latymer Link - page 3

The death of Nelson Mandela on 5th December was not a shock but it was the
cause of much writing and expressing of opinions by commentators. I thought of
the time, in the early years of democratic rule, 2003, when I spent a summer holiday
teaching in a school in the Eastern Cape, not far from Qunu where Mandela lived his
early years. Since then I’ve visited our link school in Mwambisi, Tanzania, taught a few
lessons there, and I’ve also revisited South Africa in 2012.
Models of education differ. The traditional system of learning in India was for
students to stay in Gurukulas, where they received free food, shelter, and education
from a “guru” (“teacher” in Sanskrit). Luke Skywalker became an expert in using
“the force” by training 12-14 hours a day for several weeks in a one to one setting
with Yoda, an expert. But more usual is to have a room with an adult and a group of
learners; and to collect together these rooms into what is called a school. All schools,
certainly the ones I am familiar with, are like that.
How would I approach the question, “Compare and contrast education at Latymer
and in a school in South Africa or Tanzania?” Common features of the three schools,
Latymer and the ones I know in South Africa and Tanzania, are these:
1. Students want to come to school: they have a thirst for education, for learning
the academic disciplines covered in the curriculum.
2. Their parents want them to come to school and they support their sons/
daughters in doing so. This has a large opportunity cost to many parents in
South Africa and Tanzania since some children from an early age could be
helping with the family income.
3. Teachers are well trained, well qualified and deploy whatever resources they
have effectively.
4. Education is high-stakes; it has an impact on life-chances for individual young
people.
5. There is oversight of the school by the community. At Latymer this is by a
governing body, in South Africa and Tanzania it is by a “School Committee”,
drawn from adults living in the immediate area.
6. The school is an essential part of the community. Buildings and other
resources are used for the benefit of the nearby community, not simply the
group of current students.
These commonalities seem much more significant than the contrasts.
1. There is a great variation in physical resource and therefore teaching and
learning styles.
2. The curricula are different.
3. There is a great divergence of transport methods by which students get to
school.
Governments, understandably, concentrate on the structure of the country’s
education system. They concentrate on types of school; provision of enough school
places and teachers, curriculum, assessment, teacher supply and performance
management of teachers to ensure high standards. But the core activity, a teacher and
a group of learners in a room exploring something new, interesting and exciting to the
learners, is the end-product. It is exciting for me to be in a school where this happens
to such good effect, today and on every school day.
From the Head
Compare and Contrast
Mark Garbett - Headteacher
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