This workshop explored key arguments about why quality global learning matters in Primary School contexts, and took a look at the contribution school partnerships might make to such learning. It drew on initial findings from research by Fran Martin and Jeff Serf, including consultations with primary teachers through the Bringing it together project.
We began by using the image of children beside a tank in Iraq from Jeff Serf’s presentation to raise questions about how children see the world … what were they thinking?
This raised key points …
Childhood is a social construction;
Children do not always see the world in an "adult" way – in the photo, children appeared fearless but the soldiers looked fearful.
Using statements from Primary teacher consultations as a starting point, we asked ourselves: Why does global learning matter for primary age children?
There was much debate, but strong agreement with the basic premise that it does matter, even with the youngest learners.
However, we quickly acknowledged that this is a complex question, and not one which can be easily resolved with 'soundbites and tickboxes'. It goes to the heart of children’s lives in a complex and interdependent world, and how they experience that world emotionally, socially, sensually and intellectually.
As part of this we need to build on their own innate desire to learn, to question, to allow them to build up a picture of and relationship with the world at their own level. We sometimes take a deficit view of children’s desire to learn. We noted a need to validate children’s thoughts, even if we do not wholly agree with them. Important within this is seeing children’s voices as an active agency within the school and classroom.
We found much to think about in Bill Scott’s assertion that "continuous responsive learning … is the human species’ most characteristic endowment".
We noted that as teachers we are not always aware of our own constructions of society, culture and the wider world. There is an important but challenging job to be done in looking at and learning to value perspectives other than one’s own. This may sometimes involve us as teachers having to re-examine our own views of the world, as well as supporting work with children in this area.
Related to this is a complex question about shared values and cultural identity. As a group, we tended to be uncomfortable with statements about global learning which tended to enforce a particular view of the world on children [eg "we all have the same hopes and dreams, wherever we are"]. However, we found ourselves hotly debating what [if any] might be the boundaries of purely personal values and morality … and where schools fit into that picture.
There was strong agreement that a balanced approach to global learning would accentuate the positive in the world as well as its difficulties: it would build on children’s sense of awe and wonder, and encourage an appreciation of the natural and human world.
Drawing on an account of an elicitation activity with young children, discussing their African link, we looked at the question of when a school partnership might help – and when it might hinder – global learning.
We began to explore the idea that there might be a difference between a partnership and a 'link' – with the former enjoying a greater degree of mutuality.
We were concerned that some links might actively reinforce unhelpful constructions of the world [including racist stereotypes and a 'charity mindset'].
We noted that more support might need to be identified for schools to help think these matters through in a critical way, rather than simply deal with the mechanics and practicalities of linking.