LEAPS Webinar explores challenges and opportunities presented to progressive schools by COVID-19
Leaders from progressive schools around the world have gathered for a Qatar Foundation webinar that highlighted how – in a COVID-19 era that has seen education shift online – children and their parents are beginning to help shape their own learning environments.
The discussion, hosted by Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Pre-University Education (PUE) and titled Leading Educational Advancement in Progressive Schools (LEAPS) Webinar, brought together six experts from five different countries to address some of the effects of the pandemic on schools globally.
Ms. Maryam Al-Hajri, Director of Academyati – a progressive school established by QF - spoke about the importance of child agency, saying: “I believe child agency and independent work were one of the great enablers for this change.
“Children are no longer in that environment where the teacher is directing everything. The teacher will have interaction with them, but they are also doing a lot of independent work.”
Echoing this view, Dr. Frances Wilby, Head of International Development for Lumiar Education, said: “Our main takeaway has been to consult with parents, and give them multiple access points, so we haven’t used a one-size-fits-all model.
And for me, the takeaway is how we are allowing the children to start shaping their curriculum.
“We’ve really understood that, for some families, this is really a challenge. The idea that they will be online everyday doing schoolwork is difficult for them. So we’ve offered a menu of activities, and multiple access points, where parents with their children can dip in and out. And for me, the takeaway is how we are allowing the children to start shaping their curriculum.
“Every Friday we have virtual feedback session in small groups. And the children are starting to say, ‘I’m doing a project on X, I really want to share it’, with another child saying, ‘Can we do a joint project in pairs?’ So what we’ve found is they are driving learning, and telling us what they want. There really are some incredible things happening.”
While children are beginning to develop their own ways of learning, parents have become increasingly important stakeholders in the process, as Gitanjali Sarangan, Founder of Snehadara Foundation, India, explained.
“Parents have been a part of our designs and plans,” she said. “They’re accessing this online, they’re preparing the materials for it. That itself has brought in an element of an observer and a supervisor who strengthens the confidence of a facilitator.”
The most important things we’re trying to build are that independent learner personality, that creative problem-solver mindset.
Stuart Bamford, Co-Founder of Kingsland Pre-Prep, UK, added: “We come from a place where we involve families a lot in a child’s education, and we’ve taken this opportunity, through the world being in crisis and lockdown, as an opportunity to support parents and almost re-set education, especially from an early years perspective.
“We are engaging in parents in a curriculum at home that really sparks children’s imagination, where they can then use their play skills and creativity to almost teach their parents. This is a great experience; one that is hopefully creating a family bond, and making parents’ involvement in their child’s education a little less daunting.”
Concluding the discussion – which was moderated by Aysegul Sert, International Presenter and Journalist – and highlighting the components of virtual distance learning that are essential to ensure students learn through this process, Ms. Al-Hajri said: “Always allow children to choose.
“In our setting, the most important things we’re trying to build are that independent learner personality, that creative problem-solver mindset. We don’t want to do anything that will take away from this. Agency choice and nurturing curiosity is very important for all of this.”
The recent webinar was the second LEAPS event organized by QF’s PUE. Designed to support the global education community, it will continue to be held biennially.