Sawston Village College has recently hosted Yulia, Zhanar and Ayan, teachers from Kazakhstan, who visited us as part of the partnership between the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education and Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is currently undertaking an ambitious reform of its education system. At the heart of this is their desire for their teachers to learn directly from various educational systems and schools around the world, whether in Singapore, Germany or the UK.
It was fascinating to discuss teaching and learning and professional development with our visitors. Of particular interest to Yulia, Zhanar and Ayan were how we used “emotion” and our relationships with pupils in our teaching; they also commented upon how enthusiastic and motivated pupils were. They commented upon the level of critical thinking that was expected of pupils from a young age, and how this was integrated into all lessons, and they enjoyed that pupils in science were investigating for themselves even in Year 7.
Zhanar and her colleagues had interesting points to note about areas that we are continuing to develop as a school. In particular, they noticed that in whole class discussion, comments were addressed to the teacher rather than to peers; we considered together how it would be possible to change this so that pupil whole-class discussion could be facilitated rather than led by a teacher, such as by making greater use of the community of enquiry model. They were also interested in the use of peer assessment and how this could be broadened, including looking at how this could be used when spending more lesson time reviewing homework. It was refreshing to have outside eyes from such different educational and cultural contexts observing how we teach and how our pupils learn.
It was inspiring to learn from our Kazakh guests about the rich international professional development opportunities that were available to all teachers in the NIS (intellectual) schools, supported by generous government funding for precisely this purpose.
On a cultural level, sport clearly plays a larger part in Kazakh schools – amongst the staff. In addition to inter-school competitions for pupils, teachers themselves compete in team sports, athletics and dancing against other schools!
Much to reflect upon for all involved. We now look forward to hosting new Kazakh colleagues, in October.