Expert discusses how collaboration can be used as a strategy to promote equity in education
COVID-19 has shed light on inequalities within our education systems, an expert has told Qatar Foundation’s virtual Teaching & Learning Forum – adding that collaboration within, between, and beyond schools can help make change happen.
“But we shouldn't assume that collaboration is an easy answer,” said Professor Mel Ainscow, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Manchester, during the keynote speech at the event, organized by the Education Development Institute (EDI), part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education.
“The challenges we meet – we try to educate every child effectively – are complex and collaboration can help us to think in new ways, to share ideas, to invent new possibilities. But collaboration in itself is time-consuming.”
Equity, according to Professor Ainscow, means that every child matters equally, but treating everybody as being of equal importance doesn’t necessarily translate into success, as he raised the question of how every child can be given the opportunity to participate and learn effectively.
“It's a big shift, some would say a paradigm shift – a different way of looking at the task,” he said. “Change is complex and difficult. And we have to take steps slowly, but we have to make progress.
Schools have to be a place where it's not just the children who are learning, but the teachers and other support staff are learning together
“First of all, we have to look within our schools. That's where professional learning has to take place. Schools have to be a place where it's not just the children who are learning, but the teachers and other support staff are learning together.
“The schools that make progress are the schools that are constantly inquiring, analyzing their own context, finding examples of good practice, moving things around, and then working together to develop further forms of practice.”
He also spoke about the importance of the relationship between schools, saying: “There is a lot to be learned from schools learning together.”
Professor Ainscow also emphasized the role of factors beyond the school, saying: “there are many other factors in society that bear on children's lives – transport, housing, economic circumstances, and employment.
“And from the research we've done, we’re seen that it is vital to work with the family, to work with other agencies – businesses, universities, arts organizations – to add value to what the schools are doing.
What people have to do is demonstrate a commitment to collaboration: not just talking about it, but actually actively engaging in it
“What people have to do is demonstrate a commitment to collaboration: not just talking about it, but actually actively engaging in it. We have to be encouraging of an inquiring stance, where we're asking questions all the time, so the school becomes an inquiring place.”
Forum participants attended a series of virtual discussions and breakout sessions, including Building Inclusive and Accessible Learning Communities, Personalizing Teaching and Learning, and Marketing for Schools.
During the Glocalizing the Curriculum session, Malcolm Nicolson, director of educational consultancy Erimus Education, said glocalization is “a fairly recent innovation within education - it’s a great avenue for seeing how we can relate learning to real-life experiences.
If we can use glocalization to provide authenticity and relevance, then that relates directly to motivation, engagement, and students achievement, because the more engaged and motivated the student, the more they will learn.
“If we can use glocalization to provide authenticity and relevance, then that relates directly to motivation, engagement, and students achievement, because the more engaged and motivated the student, the more they will learn. Happy students learn, anxious students do not.
“We’re talking about learning global themes, talking about big global issues, and then using examples that are local, where students can engage in doing something, and use the skills and knowledge they’ve developed. They will then use in a meaningful action locally that has the relationship with a global issue, and vice-versa.
“Essentially, global issues viewed in a local lens – providing a global context for local gain of knowledge and use of skills.”
The event – held under the theme of Education for Resilience – brought together more than 1,600 participants to look at how learning can be made sustainable post-COVID-19.