Forging a Path to Quality Learning: Creative strategies from the sunny side of the world

By Dr Peter Kent

I thought I would tell you about a recent trip to the Maldives. ‘Alright for some,’ you might be thinking. Well, before you become too jealous, let me tell you a little bit more.

Being President Elect of the International Confederation of Principals (ICP) has given me the chance to swap ideas with a whole range of leaders from across the world. I never cease to be impressed by how transferable good practice can be, whether it comes from the school next door or a colleague on the other side of the world. One of those leaders I have kept in regular contact with is Dr Abdulla Rasheed, the Minister of State for Education in the Republic of the Maldives. Having shared a platform at an online event, we regularly swap emails about developments in our two countries and one of the things I often share are the policy ideas being put forward by Geoff Barton and other colleagues at ASCL.

Some time ago, Dr Abdulla asked me to provide the opening keynote for the Republic’s Innovations Conference. In ordinary circumstances, I would have delivered my address face to face, but sadly in these days of Covid, that was not possible. Hence, much to the amusement of my colleagues at school, what might have been the conference invitation of a lifetime turned into a rather different experience. I found myself getting up at 3.30 am on a Saturday morning to speak to a virtual conference that was carried live on Maldives TV channels, Youtube and social media.

As suggested by the title, the conference focused on innovation in response to the pandemic:

As the snippet above indicates, Maldive schools have tried out a whole series of interesting and creative strategies in response to the pandemic. In the light of this, I used my keynote to focus upon three trends that seem to be reshaping education worldwide and which I suspect will have a resonance for years to come:
  • Technology and remote learning Whilst platforms such as Google Classroom and Zoom offer new opportunities for remote education, what matters more than anything is the quality of teaching that is provided. Access to ICT and other learning technologies varies hugely around the world, but regardless of location, these fundamental elements remain crucial whether teaching is delivered face to face or remotely: bringing your subject to life, avoiding long periods of ‘passive learning’, providing opportunities for peer interaction, offering the chance to research and engage in problem solving and employing a varied range of strategies that help students to learn.
  • Collaboration Working together and sharing ideas at local, national, and international level is more important now than it ever was. Many colleagues have also shared with me that the pandemic has re-enforced the need to be willing to look within and learn from the examples of powerful practice that exist within every school and college.
  • Keeping your balance All of us need to respond to the immediate challenges of the pandemic, but to also leave some time to plan for the future. Events such as the Maldives conference highlight how we can all play a part in building what Steve Munby describes as “a better normal” for pupils worldwide.
At the end of the question and answer session, the very well-informed and articulate Maldives Minister of State for Education asked me pass on to everyone in the UK her “good wishes from the sunny side of the world”. Strangely, that phrase popped into my head as I scraped the ice off my windscreen the following Monday morning.

Dr Peter Kent is Headteacher, Lawrence Sheriff School, ICP President Elect and ASCL Past President
Posted: 01/02/2021 11:07:55