Education Beyond Borders

Is it important for the world's teachers to work together? Why? How?

The harder part of this question might be the "how". Is there value in educators traveling to work with colleagues from one country to another, from advantaged to disadvantaged, from access to isolation, etc. ? How can we be able to help colleagues whose realities can be quite different from our own? We are hoping to publish some of the responses to this question in our next newsletter which will be out on October 5th, World Teachers' Day. We are looking for responses from many countries. Please respond before Oct. 1st.

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Canada has one of the world's best education systems, especially Ontario. Many countries around the world (China, Korea, South Africa and USA, just to name a few) look to us as a model of great education. Educators from around the world visit our schools to learn what we are doing that is making a difference in our students' learning. I believe that we have a moral responsibility to continue to build a culture of collaboration with our colleagues in Canada as well as to extend that culture to the rest of the world. The culture of 'global teacher collaboration' is one that requires teachers from around the world to work together towards common goals that are supported collectively and recognized as the goals that would close the global education divide. So is it important for the world's teachers to work together? I don't see any other way that we can create and sustain a culture of collaboration that is absolutely necessary for the prosperity of our nations and for the health and success of our children around the world.

Mirjan Krstovic, OCT
Now you've added the HOW part to this question : ) Great! In reference to what I was mentioning in my last response, I think that there is definite value in establishing a global collaborative culture amongst educators in different parts of the world. The one advantage of such a global culture is that is gives educators from around the world an opportunity to share stories of success and failure, and to dialogue about some common or uncommon challenges. Although we may have different realities, it does not mean that we cannot gain new insights about teaching and learning. There are some common denominators when it comes to teaching children, no matter where we are in the world. The importance of nurturing children's emotional, physical and intellectual growth should be universal; however, not all school systems are created equal. We know well enough that there are parts of the world where there are some major issues with safety, malnutrition, lack of clean water, diseases and poverty. How do we help our colleagues who live and work in school systems that are plagued by these challenges (or others)? I wish there is a simple answer.... We must not stop searching for the answers to these global education issues. Raising awareness about such issues in our own classrooms, schools, communities and the Boards is the first step. Teaching our privileged students, who study in one of the best education systems in the world, to understand that they too have a social responsibility towards the less privileged in our world is equally important. Empowering our colleagues to share their expertise, to open the doors to their own classrooms and to give their time to make a difference to the less privileged children in countries with a large education divide is critical to building this global culture of collaboration that I am talking about....these are just some of my thoughts...not even sure if I am answering the question, but I am reflecting...

Having participated in TWB-C workshops in Africa, I cannot but help see glaring differences between teachers in developing countries and those from the North. Exchange programs enables teachers explore creative and interesting ways that they are leveraging technology to make teaching and learning more exciting and responsive to the needs in the contemporary society.

In a world whose boundaries are closing in fast and increasingly dependent on computer technology, answers to the question of how to prepare students for the workplace of the future are not easy to come by.Combining theoretical and applied learning, can greatly help break the education and digital divide.

Today, the education system in most developing countries seems ill-suited in helping young people develop their creativity, initiative, team-working, problem-solving and reasoning skills, which they need as they pursue higher education and at the workplace. It only makes sense to go where the problem is, understand the challenges and work collaboratively with teachers and students in closing the Education Divide One Teacher at a Time
Education systems for teenagers require the most creativity, energy, sensitivity and wisdom of all the three education systems - elementary, secondary and post-secondary- in a country, in my opinion. Just as varied as a random sample of adults engaged in their work within that country, so should its education system be as accommodating yet structured. From video I saw of schools in North Western Tanzania (Kagarwe), students who were not "academically inclined" were encouraged to enroll in "trades' schools" and learn an occupational skill: boys to learn carpentry and metalwork, girls to learn sewing and home economics. One of the videos showed the successful graduates, who spoke English haltingly (kiSwahili is their other national language) yet were proud to show their hands-on school-work results E.g. wooden box; baked pie, etc. My first impression is that this is sexist and the "old British system" of "O" level exams for 15 years old to determine who stays on in academic schools and who goes to the "blue collar" trade schools. But the teachers' union President from that area said they were not trying to be sexist, this is what the parents and the local society want at this time and actually, the biggest problem was getting students to attend secondary school in the first place, many stopping in elementary and having no money to pay the school fees required for secondary schools. So the Culture of that society needs to be taken into consideration and the Reality of what most of the population does - living off the land in a semi-rural setting, dealing with drought and having little leisure time to read or "amass capital" to produce a middle class that can pay taxes and relieve parents of spending so much to educate students higher than elementary grades.
What interests me the most about International Collaboration is to provide material help when requested and to learn from an Earlier and more land-based culture on how to live in tune with Nature more and to bring that information into the school system - this is my science (Biology) teacher bias showing through. As North Americans, we can support curricula that doesn't just require school leaving exams to be mounds of FACTS correctly recalled or culturally biased questions that are not relevant to the Tanzanian life experience. These sorts of struggles go on even within our BC curriculum and keeping curriculum relevant to today's youth and our world is important.
Another thing we can learn from International partners is - how to motivate students? Some of our high school students in Vancouver, BC, are quite unmotivated, turned-off and unwilling to make an effort to really get "inside" a topic or subject. Yet many of the Tanzanian students I met in 2003 in Dar es Salaam and elsewhere were very enthusiastic about schooling, they just couldn't get enough money to attend all the years of it. Their lifestyle in the tropics has always intrigued me- and I hope it doesn't get lost as Globalization and Climate change may force Tanzania away from financial independence.
I think both the Overdeveloped world and the Developing world in education can learn from each other, as long as we listen and question first and not just rush in with pre-conceived solutions that may be totally inappropriate for that region.
Rosalind Kellett
Vancouver high school teacher, BC, Canada

I love your passion and intensity for closing the global achievement gap. I think that it's necessary that educators in the US share their experiences and collaborate beyond American borders.


I think that is a great rhetorical question. This is an age old problem facing USA & abroad that many teachers lack the knowledge and understanding of communities outside their back yards. Many educators have not had the benefit of working in marginalized communities and fall short of the differences in more affluent places. In the USA, we live in the free world where everything is directed towards leveling the playing field, especially those subtexts associated with race and economics that divide our classrooms unequally.  The economics and race are threads of our educational system that seemingly drives outcomes. Why can't the poor achieve at the same level as more advantaged populations if teachers are teaching from the same standards?  As long as we are classified (poor, middle, and upper) we will continue to widen the gap of teaching and experiences that should be automatic civil right for all children.

I don't feel that educators who choose to broaden their wheel house to work in isolated places (other countries) are at a disadvantage. I see this as an opportunity to experience education at a different level and broaden the level of expertise. Either way, there is a benefit on both a personal and professional level.

One of the ways that educators alike can benefit from this level of experience is to establish a collabortive network and share experiences, lessons and stories.

If you are stuck with a problem, sometimes it makes sense to look at it with a new pair of glasses. There are problems in the education system of every country, which directly or indirectly affects the future of students. If teachers all over the world join hands and team up to solve these problems, you would be surprised to see how better the lives of students could be. It is understandable that some nations are being plagued with severe issues with respect to infrastructure, finances and planned curriculum. So, at first, our focus should be in helping out those countries to form a better education system. Secondly, the teachers need to be trained to teach slightly difficult subjects like Science or Math as they require a great deal of understanding.While changing a country's financial and educational system is out of our hands, we teachers can and should train each other in different skillsets. I believe we all have something to teach others. It would be great if more institutions are open to teacher exchange programs. But if that is not possible, some kind of an audio-video online platform where teachers can connect and teach would be great! 



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