Tag Archives: education

Café, Curriculum, Catalysts and Computing

T Minus 44

So back to Legoland for a second day. This time I have the important but less glamorous task of manning the base, a role that basically involves sitting in the café at the entrance and waiting for any issues that might crop up, being a point of contact, drinking coffee etc.20140709-102712-37632989.jpg In this case it’s a mocha and a chocolate orange muffin. Even so it’s a long day ahead and hopefully not too exciting.

All this time gives me a chance to do some work – for me that involves looking at the schemes of work in my new school in Mwanza. Isamilo International School is a British Curriculum School. At the moment it looks as though I will have classes in Year 9, Years 10 & 11 (IGCSE) and Years 12 & 13 (A level). The curriculum is a little different from the GCSE I am currently delivering so I need to spend a little time. A few hours here will help.

I have stated elsewhere the positive reasons that I have chosen to give up teaching in the UK and move to Tanzania. As with all decisions there are negatives although in truth these are catalysts for action rather than reasons in themselves.
As a Chemistry Graduate and former science teacher I recognise the role of a catalyst in speeding up reactions (effectively stimulating them) to occur which otherwise wouldn’t occur due to a barrier known as the Activation Energy. The catalyst lowers this barrier and since in Chemistry all reactions rely on probability (chance) more reactions occur.
I have always wanted to teach in Africa but things got in the way, the barrier has been too high. In this case the catalyst has been the recent reforms to Education in the UK. In the case of ICT there has been a systematic undermining of the subject through policy and pronouncement by an education secretary (politician) who knows little about education and has been influenced by powerful voices in Computing. Now I have nothing against Computing, it is a valid and worthwhile subject and a vital element for the future, but do is ICT – the use of computers is as important as their programming. It is more than simple spreadsheets and PowerPoint. To hear government speak ICT is dull and boring (those words have been used by the Education Secretary) – I’m sure that like all subjects this can be true at times but it is a characterisation with which I heartily disagree. The government want more students studying Computing and (in theory) ICT. However, the over promotion of one subject over another with the perceived negativity towards one has been unfortunate. The result of this is that schools are making ICT optional rather than core. In my current school both ICT and Computing are going to be options next year. Perversely although we have polled strongly in the options, less students will leave school with a qualification in either in the years to come, which saddens me.

As I said at the outset all of this has been a catalyst to action rather than a reason for leaving. It remains to be seen what the knock on effect will be internationally, though I hope the errors made in the UK will not make it overseas.

In spite of all of the above I am moving to a Mwanza for many positive reasons. Just 10 days to go 🙂

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How did I get here?

T Minus 175
Taking up a job in a foreign country in a city you’ve never been to and a school you’ve never visited is a daunting thing to do.

Granted – teaching is teaching is teaching and I’ve been doing that for twenty-six years.

Faces change

hour by hour,

day by day,

week by week,

term by term,

year by year.

Even so  the role is essentially the same. Even changing country doesn’t phase me too much. I have spent (albeit very briefly) some time in a Gambian school and found that in spite of being on a different continent there were many similarities.

Gambia Classroom

Classroom at BUBS, Brikama, Gambia (May 2006)

Time spent travelling in the Gambia with colleagues in 2006 was a great experience and fired up a desire to return to Africa at some point. This desire had actually been with me since I qualified in 1988- before I’d even heard about my future wife Anita who was then a development worker in Malawi.

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To be honest the death of my dad, 10 weeks later put these things on hold for a few years. The needs of family were paramount for a time.

Within a couple of years I was appointed as Head of ICT at my school. This was a new challenge and one which I relished. It was exciting to take the reins and plot the future of a subject. There were pressures of course but I relished the challenge. I built a good team around me. Much of my first year was spent interviewing, it took time to find the right people and we didn’t take the first available person who applied. From the latter part of 2009 I had my Team and I believe it to be a fantastic group dedicated teachers – who I will miss very much.

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The ICT Team – Admin Assistant: Sue; Teachers: Naveed, Bernadette, Debbie and myself; Network Manager: Darrell

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ICT Teacher Nik (at Angkor Wat, Cambodia whilst on World Challenge)

Lord Williams’s has given me great opportunities – I have mentioned already the Gambia Trip. Our school is partnered with a national school (Brikama Upper Basic School) and as part of an Staff trip. The next opportunity arose last year as I was able to partake in a World Challenge Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. This trip accompanying sixth form students lasted nearly 4 weeks and incorporated a combination of Treks, cultural visits, some development work and lots of travel.

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For me this was a great opportunity to re-experience the developing world (especially in Cambodia) and I loved it! I especially loved Cambodia – the people were friendly and the country was amazing. Angkor Wat was a highlight but so was the week working in the orphanage. Most of the time we were painting a dorm – but I managed to sneak out a couple of times to spend an hour or so in the classroom where orphans learnt some English.

I returned to the UK wondering whether it would be something I’d like to do more permanently. A conversation with Mum in the Autumn had a profound effect – in essence she wanted to release me from any feeling of burden to stay in the UK. She was aware that I was becoming more jaded with the mood music in education – especially towards ICT. My school had decided to make ICT optional not core, partly in response to Government decisions to demote ICT from its core status, this was a concern to me.

Having reflected through Christmas I decided that I would actively seek my next job abroad. I started scouring the TES and within a few days came across several jobs in Thailand – these appealed to me, I told Anita but for reasons unknown to me I did not pursue them. Then on the 17th January a job appeared in Tanzania at Isamilo International School.

I pondered for a week by myself and checked out as much as I could on the net, quickly coming across a blog called Bousies in Mwanza. This blog had a major impact – giving as it does a real insight into expat life – I can’t recommend this blog enough  – it has inspired me to write this blog myself. One evening I came across a post incorporating a video of a road trip around Mwanza, this gave such a feel of the place. Other blogs have also been inspirational – check out some of these on the right of the page.

The following weekend a conversation at the BETT Show with my brother about education in general further confirmed in my mind that I should apply for and so I shared this with Anita. Another week of deliberation and then I went for it.  Elsewhere I recount the speed of the process from application to appointment so I won’t repeat it here.

So this has been my journey so far. As a Christian I believe that God has been a part of it every step of the way and this is the right time……………  and there’s more to come!