Outside The Classroom Windows

Anyone who is interested in the global effort to see more children reap the benefits of literacy, numeracy, languages and a broader awareness of the world will be used to seeing headlines like this, from the guardian: “Drive to get children back to school failing worldwide”. To many of us, ‘back to school’ has become synonymous with ‘back to learning’. When we mean to say ‘learning’ we are happy with the shorthand phrases ‘in school’ or ‘in the classroom’ or ‘at their desks’.

The images conjured by this language are clear. In the west, we have a shared experience of what ‘education’ means that informs our thinking on a subconscious level. Learning looks a certain way: rows of uniformed kids at cantilevered desks, a teacher at the front, textbooks and alphabet posters, double maths and a bell that’s for them not for you. We know that education is more complicated than that but the metaphors that we use have powerful connections attached to them – and so that’s what we think about when we think about it.

Anyone who has seen the realities of providing access to learning up close will know how woefully inadequate this conception can be. The one constant in international development is variety. Cultures, political realities, even the particular features of local geography – all of these can drastically alter the way that learning is best provided.

Haiti, for example, is the smaller half of a small island beset by natural disasters and still bearing the scars of centuries of political turmoil. The Steve Sinnott Foundation’s Learning Resource Centre there, providing a central hub for a network of teachers, is a tailored solution to a unique problem.

Because Haiti is small, a hub makes sense. Because the Haitian people are urgently engaged in the building of a modern democracy after the autocracy of the Duvalier dynasty and the subsequent years of turmoil, it makes sense to empower teachers to share ideas and teaching materials; and to give them a structure to facilitate this exchange.

But what works in Haiti will not necessarily work in mountainous Nepal or in Sierra Leone, hit hard by 2014’s ebola epidemic, and where 39% of girls are married before they turn eighteen.

If we step outside the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach that would have us just build schools and staff them in every country where literacy rates are low, we can find that unexpected actions can have surprising effects. In countries where girls have traditionally been excluded from schools, for example, something as easily overlooked as providing adequate toilet and sanitary towel disposal facilities can do wonders for increasing female attendance.

Technology, too, is giving us a glimpse of a world beyond the desk. Already, today, apps like Duolingo are providing free, self-directed learning to millions. Learning marketplaces like Udemy are connecting people who know things with people who want to learn them on a peer-to-peer basis. The Global Learning Xprize is offering a $15 million bounty to the team that best develops “open source and scalable software that will enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within 15 months”.

In Africa, where Smartphone adoption is rapidly catching up with the global average, it might well suit some children better to help them self-direct their own learning using free, open source apps than it will ever suit them to round them up into photogenic classrooms in the service of our idealised vision of education.

If the international community wants education for all, it will have to realise that the goal of seeing every child ‘In School’ might not only be unachievable, but might not even be desirable. We have to be willing to treat different situations differently and to embrace positive change when we see it.

Schools are vital, Classrooms will always play a central role in global education. But we should not be wedded to them, they have always been a means to an end and outside their windows new shoots are sprouting.

Our end, our purpose, must be Learning. Learning. However, wherever and whenever lessons can be learned.

If we maintain our commitment to learning above all, it really is possible to imagine a future where every child can be given the tools they need to create their own ideals and to make the world anew.


FRIDAY Digest!

It’s been a busy (and hot!) few weeks.

A couple of weeks ago Chief Exec Ann Beatty was invited to, and given a generous donation by, the Zonta Club of Guildford, and met with Baroness Sharp and Sue Doughty, the President of Zonta Guildford.

In her own words: “It was great to be with so many like minded women who are passionate about the importance of girls education”.

Ann with Sue Doughty

Ann with Baroness Sharp

Ann had an inspiring time at the NUT Young Teachers Conference 2017 at Stoke Rochford Hall. Sienna-Rose wants to be a teacher when she grows up!

Isata’s Journey, part of Steve Sinnott Foundations’ #MyLifeChanged films, was shown at the conference. Miss it? You can watch the films on our Vimeo.

ASPnet Project Manager Shaista Khan visited Hockerill College with a team of researchers from the Korean Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE).

In just FOUR DAYS TIME Pamela and others, together with NUT Caerphilly, will be doing a sponsored Walk for the Steve Sinnott Foundation. Will you contribute? Visit Justgiving.com to DONATE!

Ingrid’s page for her sponsored swim for the Steve Sinnott Foundation in September for Swim Serpentine is UP! You can read her story, and DONATE at Justgiving.com

The Denham Divas Choir held a cream tea concert a couple of weeks ago, raising money for the Steve Sinnott Foundation. The Divas raised £123, which will add to their target of £1000. The money will buy a range of musical instruments for the Haiti project. They’re halfway there, at around £500!


And finally, coming up on June 30th, we’re taking part in Education For All Awareness Day, at West Herts College. Have a pretty save the date flier to remind you!

And please get in touch if you need more info admin@stevesinnottfoundation.org.uk

That’s all for this week, keep cool and don’t forget to drink lots of water!

Julia @ SSF

ASPnet member school, UK participates in international GCED Research

Shaista Khan ASPnet Project Manager with Ms. Soo Jung Lee & Ms. Meejee Kim from KICE with staff at Hockerill College

We are very excited to share with you the wonderful two days spent at Hockerill College with a team of researchers from the Korean Institute of Curriculum (KICE) and Evaluation. As the National Coordinator for ASPnet in the UK, we were contacted by KICE to help them approach schools in the UK that would be part of their research on Global Citizenship Education (GCED). This research is being conducted in six  countries namely Korea, Germany, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom & USA. The final paper will be published by end of this year.

It was a pleasure to facilitate this research in the UK and also accompany the researchers Ms. Soo Jung Lee and Ms. MeeJee Kim to Hockerill College in Bishops Stratford on 5th & 6th June 2017. This gave me an opportunity to interact with one of our more active members. We are very thankful to the college staff who took out time for us in spite of their busy schedule amidst student assessments.

College Reception

Special thanks to Ms. Shamiela Davids who made our visit a very enjoyable and enriching experience. Hockerill College takes great pride in being a UNESCO ASPnet school and ensures that the universal values and ESD themes are integrated across the college’s academic and co-curricular activities.

The team was able to observe lessons and interact with students. Ms. Soo Jung Lee gave a very informative presentation on the Korean Education system and the GCED research. This was well attended by teachers and a very motivated student body who take a keen interest in international development and education systems. They posed several questions about the educational system particularly how students chose institutions of higher studies and the assessment process.

We were able to meet teachers and department heads in charge of the different subject areas. The college’s extensive Languages department and Social & Cultural Anthropology units were of particular interest. Our discussions covered several dimensions from the importance of global minded teacher attitudes to organizing an Indian Curry event as part of a fundraising project by students and efforts made by eco-captains for preventing waste. Overall it was a great experience.


The excitement of the Model United Nations presidents from the student body was heartwarming. They were very excited to meet someone representing UNESCO ASPnet and sought advice on careers in humanitarian and diplomatic fields. The college organizes Model UN days every year and selects presidents who are responsible to carry out certain responsibilities.

As the researchers took notes on GCED practice, I was able to interact with teachers and students and talk to them about the Education 2030 Framework and encouraged them to relate their activities to the Sustainable Development Goals and see how every little action they take has a global impact.

In a lesson with Year 12 students the teacher explored what the students perceived as the main global issues. Responses included environment, artificial intelligence and mental health and wellbeing. One of the students also spoke about the Millenium Development Goals while another questioned why the new framework now has 17 goals as opposed to lesser goals earlier. Sparking this interest and initiating a dialogue will surely result in better student outcomes for the SDGs.

Another literature lesson explored the concept of place and time in poetry and used a piece of poetry to discuss cultural contexts and social inclusion. Students value this approach and one of them commented-

“ Having someone who is global minded makes a difference to me and helps me learn more “ ~ Student Year 11

A personal highlight for me was when I was invited to participate in a lesson that talked about Malala Yousufzai. This was a literature lesson for Year seven and the teacher wanted to give students a broader and positive image of Pakistan and interact with a woman from Pakistani origin who had a different journey than Malala. This also reflected the school’s efforts to provide opportunities for students to look at events and people with an open mind.

It was good to see the motivation of two teachers I met who will soon be leaving for jobs overseas. They were very keen to encourage their new schools in Cairo and Spain to enroll for ASPnet. This is a great testament of how the teachers value this association. One of the teachers who will soon be joining a school in Cairo commented;

 Being a teacher at a UNESCO ASPnet school gives relevance to what we do inside and outside the classroom on a daily basis, providing links with other schools around the world and promoting the discussion of global issues. The Sustainable Development Goals align closely with our mission to allow students to become enquiring, knowledgeable, responsible global citizens as well as providing added support to the work done in Creativity Action Service as part of the IBDP and MYP and in our outreach programme” ~ Hugh Michell, Head of  Italian & Teacher of French Theory of Knowledge, Hockerill College

We left the school after discussing ideas for future collaboration and in particular making the ASPnet community more vibrant and interlinked. As part of our engagement strategy we are visiting member schools, looking at ways to collaborate and also working on expanding the network.

“Shaista, it was lovely to meet you! Your enthusiasm gave us the shot in the arm which we needed.” ~ Shamiela Davis, Director of Innovation Hockerill College

For enquiries please contact: unescoaspnet@stevesinnottfoundation.org.uk

FRIDAY Digest!

Hello, and welcome back to the Steve Sinnott Foundation Blog!

We’re going to be updating this a little more often, to keep you posted about the Foundation’s latest activities and the events we’re taking part in. This week and last we’ve been sharing footage from Chief Exec. Ann Beatty’s trip to the Steve Sinnott Foundation Learning Resource Centre in Haiti, as well as a brief stop in Cuba.

If you want to see up-to-date posts about what we’re up to, the best thing to do is follow us on social media!

If you just like photos, follow our Instagram: @ssfoundation_ (don’t forget the underscore!)

For FacebookSteve Sinnott Foundation (give us a ‘Like’, we just reached 500!)

For Twitter@ssfoundation

Thanks very much!

Julia @ SSF

Chief Librarian at the Learning Resource Centre, Williere Jean Gilles

The Learning Resource Centre in use!

Bags hanging up outside the Learning Resource Centre in Haiti

Study in the library

Student teachers learning on computers at the Resource Centre in Haiti

Attending a sustainability workshop in Haiti, with Mona, Roland, Lency, Samson, Billy Jean, and our youngest contributor Cedric!

Billy Jean and Ann were invited to visit L’ouverture Cleary school in Port au Prince on their trip. Students Eve and Cooper were our guides.

Younger children at L’ouverture Cleary school watching a film in the library.

Computer lab at L’ouverture Cleary school

Student Eve and Billy Jean crushing stones.



Ann in a taxi with Miguel Valdes Amaro, our scheduler and translator in Cuba.

Ann with one of the original Literacy teachers, Norma Guillard, in Cuba.

Ann meeting with the Cuban Teachers Union, Gertrudis Simon Pineda, Niurca Gonzales Orbera, and Maribel Vasquez Lozano.

Ann with Luisa Campos, Director of the Alphabetisation Museum in Cuba.