In the last of our special blog series for International Education Week 2018, Keri Reid, Principal Teacher and International Co-ordinator at Muthill Primary School in Perth, shares her inspiring story. 

“Our primary school partnership with the Juliet Johnson school in Ghana has very much stayed with me. As a result, I was more curious to travel, see different parts of the world and to foster new relationships with people of different cultures. It inspired me to take part in a high school exchange programme with a school in China which was a life changing experience,” Ross.

“Our school partnership between was built on mutual respect. We incorporated aspects of Ghanaian lessons, while they took on aspects of ours; something a classmate and I were able to see on a visit to Ghana to meet teachers and pupils at Juliet Johnston School at 16. At primary school I gained the opportunity to engage with a new culture through music workshops, food tastings, Ghana-styled class lessons, and found the teacher exchange trips through our partnership to be invaluable,” Mae.

“I am so fortunate that I got the opportunity to visit the Ghanaian school we learned so much about as children. Experiencing their amazing culture and being welcomed by everyone encouraged me to consider visiting other parts of the world. I recently solo travelled to South-East Asia, sight-seeing and learning more about other parts of the world. Our trip to Ghana taught me to take a step out of my comfort zone and also made me appreciate some of the facilities we have at home," Katy.

These wonderful quotes are from now 21-year-old former pupils of mine. I was lucky to bump into them just as I was thinking about this blog, which is about how our school’s partnership work has encouraged children and families to develop informed attitudes about the world they live in and the part they can play in it.

Muthill Primary School and the Juliet Johnston Schoolin Ghana have worked collaboratively on sustainable development issues through Connecting Classrooms programmes. Our way of working has created exciting and relevant learning contexts where pupils see a clear purpose as they learn with, through and about one another. Pupils in both countries quite naturally compare and discuss the similarities and differences between their learning experiences within a shared topic, which helps to view issues from more than one perspective and develop ‘glocal’ thinking.

Communities in both schools are curious to hear what the children are learning about with their partner school. Learners are encouraged to share their learning with families and community groups too, particularly when campaigning about issues; for example, Children’s Rights, Fairtrade and Sustainable Development Goals. In this way, not only are pupils able to apply their learning to the real world, they also see the influence they have to bring about positive changes. One of our favourite Connecting Classroom projects was creating a song together to encourage people everywhere to save water. 

Teacher visits between schools undoubtedly bring learning to life. They provide opportunities for further learning, planned and incidental, and naturally break down stereotypes. In both Muthill and Tafo, communities are extremely hospitable and homes are opened up to host teachers. Both schools also hold community events when teachers are visiting, such as multicultural evenings, ceilidhs and azonto dancing afternoons! Evaluations from both school communities are remarkably similar, with stakeholders recognising the advantages and added value of our partnership.

Community members, as well as teachers, have accompanied me on visits to Ghana – a retired Depute Headteacher who had worked with VSO in Ghana many years ago and a member of Womaid, a local women’s group. The latter also organised a community Ghanaian Day, which included a drumming workshop with Chief Suleman Chebe and Ghanaian food at night. In Tafo, local Ghanaiains love to hear about our partnership work (especially our songs) through the local radio. 

Perhaps the best testimony of our partnership’s long-term impact on pupils was travelling out to Ghana with two sixteen year old ex-pupils, who both saved and fundraised to visit their primary partner school. Along with several of their peers, they have maintained an interest in Ghana which began when they were eight years old. This goes to show that international education plays a vital role in shaping the next generation of global citizens.

Involvement from the wider school community has enabled our partnership work to create impact beyond the classroom and curriculum. Since our first reciprocal visit in 2008, it has been the strong support shown by both partner schools, which has maintained, strengthened and developed our approach to international education.

It was a compliment to both Muthill Primary and the Juliet Johnston School to have our work commended in our HMI inspection: “Outstanding approaches to learning about sustainability, citizenship and global issues. The school’s work over the last decade in this area is making a real difference to children, the local community of Muthill and a community further afield in Ghana.”

To sum up, Assietu Assi, a P6 Ghanaian pupil says, “We should keep working together, bringing our minds together for smart and beautiful projects."

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