5 Qualities of a Good Leader: Interview with Vawsum Schools

I recently did an interview with Aditya Maheswari, the co-founder and CEO of Vawsum Schools PVT Ltd as part of their Edutalk series.

Some links of the interview are below:

ūüďĎ Blog Link – https://vawsum.com/qualities-of-a-good-leader-vawsum-edutalk-yasir-patel/

ūüéôÔłŹ Podcast Link – https://anchor.fm/vawsum-edutalk/episodes/5-Qualities-of-a-Good-Leader—Mr–Yasir-Patel-e1et55f

ūüďĻ Full Interview Link – https://youtu.be/NIEkiMYSK94

Recruitment and Tips: Interview with Staffroom

Staffroom (https://www.staffroom.school/) set up and owned by two Australian international teachers Ollie and Cheraine Escott, aims to help teachers (especially “non-native” English speakers) land their dream job. Staff room help teachers by training them on how to:

  • optimise their LinkedIn profile so that schools and recruiters reach out to them.
  • write resumes and cover letters.
  • network and build connections with schools.
  • answer interview questions.

I recently did an interview with Cheraine and Ollie about recruitment and general tips for international teachers.

Philosophy of Education

Somebody asked me recently for my Philosophy of Education (with a one page limit!). It really made me think deep and I am glad I was asked. My response is below. What is your Philosophy of Education?

All children can learn and be successful, and they all deserve the best education.

My educational philosophy stems from the above statement; a simple yet powerful statement.  Students are first, second and third in all my decision-making processes.  This should be for all aspects of schooling.  It includes timetabling, recruitment of staff, infrastructure considerations, retention of staff, legal questions, financial discussions and much more.  A question often used by myself, and one I encourage all stakeholders in the school to use is, ‚ÄúWhat is best for the students?‚ÄĚ  The answer to this nearly always guides one in the right direction.  I keep this question at the forefront of all decisions that need to be taken on a daily basis.

The students are the most important members of a school community.  Under the correct conditions and with the appropriate strategies, all students can and will learn.  Every student must make significant progress in every lesson.  This goal and my personal definition of High Quality Learning should be of utmost importance and the top priority in all classrooms every day.  I believe the classroom is a living community and that everyone, from the principal to the students to the parents, must contribute in order to maintain a positive atmosphere.  I will not shirk from my responsibility as a leader to promote and enforce this aim.  Promotion of this involves developing and training the teaching body in ensuring the success criteria that make a great lesson are agreed upon, transparent and understood. Enforcement of this includes a clear appraisal system that takes into account all the aspects of a teacher‚Äôs job, and not solely one or two lesson observations, leadership is sufficiently trained to assess performance and follow-up is always done.  The ultimate goal towards teachers, as with students, is to encourage intrinsic motivation toweards their own personal development.

Children need constant support and guidance and their welfare should be a key focus at all times.  Happy and safe students are students who learn more effectively.   All children should be valued, respected, nurtured, encouraged, praised and supported. Children must learn and develop both academically and socially, and we must work hard to prepare them for adulthood.  This means creating well-rounded individuals who are not simply excellent at subjects such as Mathematics or Art or History, but who can hold a conversation, debate, empathise, care for others and all with humility, respect and modesty.  The world needs kindness more now than ever before.  It is our duty as educators to create these kind young adults.

As for the teachers who I am fortunate to work alongside with; I want to work with teachers who are academically well-qualified, who enjoy working with children, who are prepared to work really hard for those children, who have genuine humility, who are open to improving their practice for the entire length of their teaching career, who are idealists, who acknowledge the fallibility of the human condition, who always see the funny side of things, and teachers who teach for the love, not solely for the money.  In return I want to provide teachers with the very best opportunities for continuous professional development and learning, give them as much professional autonomy as I can over how they manage their working lives, treat them with respect, honesty and kindness, show them unqualified humanity, the highest level of integrity, acknowledge that they have a life to live outside of school, give them free tea and coffee on demand, and, even if they do it for the love, to pay teachers well.

Crisis…What Crisis?

Tuesday 30th April, 2019, 5am: “A coup is happening right now, switch on your TV” a parent informed me as I was getting ready for work. Indeed, an uprising by the Venezuelan opposition looked like it was taking place. “What do I need to do?”, “We have the IGCSE Mathematics exam today, does it go ahead?”, “Do we close school?” and many more questions needed answering, and needed to be answered quickly. Luckily, we were well prepared in managing crisis situations and were able to act, think and move ahead swiftly and effectively.

After seven years in Caracas, Venezuela, many have asked me to write a book about my time in what is probably the most volatile country in the world over the last decade. I was the school Headteacher/Principal for six years (2014-2020). This article is intended to discuss my experience of leading a school during what turned out to be, a constant crisis situation, through arguably the country’s most difficult period in its history. Maybe a book will follow one day… Please feel free to add comments, questions, suggestions or disagreements.

A school crisis is any traumatic event that seriously disrupts coping and problem-solving abilities of students and school staff. It is typically sudden, unexpected, dramatic and forceful and may even threaten survival. A crisis can cause a drastic and tragic change to the environment. This change is generally overwhelming and uncontrollable as well as unwanted and frightening. It may create a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and vulnerability combined with a loss of safety.

A 2009 research paper titled, ‘Crisis Management in Schools: Evidence-based Postvention’, talks about crisis as being, “Critical incidents in or involving schools include shootings, stabbings, other forms of homicide, terrorist activity, suicide, road traffic accidents, major fires and natural disasters, which result or might result in death and/or serious injury to students and staff.” The NEA describes a crisis in school as, “School crises can be on a large scale, such as severe violence, hostage situations, and natural disasters that require an emergency response from the community.
Or, they can be more individualized, such as a car accident or the unexpected death of a student.”

All of these are of course, valid definitions of the word ‘crisis’ and what constitutes a crisis, however, a few more examples can and should be added to the list (these are very much based on my own experience over the last seven years):

  • Major civil unrest (protests on the streets).
  • Kidnapping.
  • Robberies at gunpoint.
  • Hyperinflation.
  • Currency devaluation.
  • Food shortages.
  • Water shortages.
  • Water rationing.
  • Gas shortages.
  • Fuel shortages
  • Medicine shortages.
  • Power outages.
  • International Sanctions.
  • Issues with travel (both a reduction in flights and issues obtaining correct paperwork).
  • Security (Caracas is the ‚Äėmurder capital of the world‚Äô).
  • Political instability (e.g. attempted presidential coup, fraudulent elections, two presidents operating in parallel etc)
  • COVID-19.

Situations such as the above spring up on you quickly and how a leader manages the situation is key in moving forward productively, and indeed in many cases, vital for school survival. Much of what is in this article can be used in various scenarios.

I would like to begin by emphasising one of my favourite quotes, “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.” As with most things in life, a plan will go a long way when faced with difficult situations. Yes it may be that the plan has to be changed, often drastically, but a plan will nevertheless guide ones decisions. Secondly, the WHO recently stated that in a crisis situation you have to think and decide quickly – a quick decision is better than no decision. Take a decision now that you will no doubt have to make later. And finally, “where crisis management plans exist, they might be based on ‘common sense’ or clinical judgement, risking worsening rather than improving outcomes.” By preparation and planning, a leader could improve outcomes instead of thinking intuitively. Furthermore, it allows quick and effective decisions to be taken, another vital aspect of managing crisis situations.

Below are some pertinent and key points with respect to handling a crisis situation based on my own experience.

1.  Communication, communication and communication:  this is ever so important.  Your stakeholders (I include employees, schools, students and parents here) need to hear from YOU.  By writing YOU, I mean the leader Рthe person they trust the most.  Many messages that have been sent during the current COVID-19 crisis have been empathetic, lovely and assuring Рthat is the way to do it.  Regular messages are necessary to avoid double guessing. If possible, face-to-face, whether virtual or in person, is the best approach. Be open, transparent and exude confidence to others.

2.  Transparency:  maximum possible transparency is required. This will help avoid distrust, anger, theories, gossip and speculation. Be clear, succinct and any plans presented, should be easily understood.

3.  Sympathy and empathy: Everybody wants to be listened to, and understood. A huge amount of sympathy and empathy is required to all stakeholders, taking into consideration they will most likely have their own issues in their personal lives that they are dealing with. Avoid messages that come across dry and soulless. 

4.  Human beings v Policy: Policies are of course important, however, the human being matters much more.  In all communications there needs to be assurance that you are aware you are dealing with human beings, young people, anxious parents, worried staff who have been stressed for many months, for many years in some cases.  Policies are just policies Рdry and black and white, not considering the subtleties nor the nuances of context. Every individual has a story that needs to be listened to and acknowledged. Encourage your leadership team to put aside administrative tasks and talk to the staff body.

5. The Leader Leads:  YOU are the key.  YOU have to stand up and be counted.  Every school, parent and student is relying on YOU. If needed, a constant review of the processes has to be undertaken in fine detail, maybe with some objective unbiased lens – including people with a different angle.  If necessary, changes can and must be made given the evidence of any review.  It takes a strong and humble person to admit ones faults but that is what one does if that is the case.  Keep asking yourself, “has my organisation kept to its vision, its mission, its values and have we role modelled these?”

It is worth noting that in any crisis situation, a team should be formed quickly that can help guide your school through. Carefully select members on this team and be aware that too many will prove counter-productive. However, the leader must lead and it is fair to say, long days working with little sleep is to be expected in such a situation. Rise up to the challenge!

On a personal note, despite the challenges, my seven years in Venezuela were wonderful and will forever be remembered with fond memories. The troubles and obstacles faced may have been difficult, but were a great life experience. Both my daughters are Venezuelan and the country will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Please feel free to add comments, questions, suggestions or disagreements.


Crisis Management in Schools: Evidence-based Postvention 2009: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251442974_Crisis_Management_in_Schools_Evidence-based_Postvention

NEA School Crisis Guide: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NEA%20School%20Crisis%20Guide%202018.pdf

International Teaching: Decisions, Decisions…

It is natural to feel anxious, even extreme anxiety when looking to work internationally. This can be the first time looking for a position abroad or even the fifth. After all, what do we really know about these schools and places? The online world only goes so far, inspection reports often give a snapshot at that particular inspection date, accreditation bodies are the same and leaders at schools no doubt paint a rosy picture.

This post proposes that there are simply three key factors to consider:

  1. Finances: Does it make sense for you on a financial level? What will your ‘take-home’ pay be? Take into consideration cost of living (various websites can help with this), benefit package (e.g. housing, flights home, insurance etc) and not just the salary. Does the currency of payment fluctuate with respect to your ‘home’ currency?
  2. School: Look at inspection reports, reviews online, speak with teachers and triangulate all that information to make an informed decision about whether you would ‘fit’ in that school.
  3. Location: What are your hobbies and will you be able to pursue them? Or pick up new ones? Is it safe? And if not, how secure will you be? Travel options, things to do, weather and safety are all considerations to be taken into account.

Finally, one strong, and probably the most important tip is to communicate with existing staff at the school. This will allow for a true opinion of the school, finances and location. Open (and quality?) schools would share all staff email addresses. Some would be selective but be very wary of the schools that do not share any. Why not? What is there to hide?

Communicating with staff currently at the school will give you a lot of information about the school, location and finances; The 3 key factors!

If anybody hits all three, please share!

Happy hunting!

Yasir Patel

Followership: Quality Teachers

Followership refers to a role held by certain individuals in an organization, team, or group. Specifically, it is the capacity of an individual to actively follow a leader.  Followership is the reciprocal social process of leadership.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Followership).  A note here that Followership was the theme of my dissertation for my MSc in Educational Leadership.  A simple overview can be seen HERE. A previous post (https://yasirpatel.com/2017/01/28/followership-a-new-stream-of-leadership/) expands on the notion of Followership in more detail.   (For the full dissertation with references shown, please contact me.)

This is not a post about entirely about Followership, although it uses many of its key features.¬† The intention within this article is to focus on the concept of quality teachers within schools (in Followership, this could be referred to as Exemplary staff), in particular, measuring ‘quality‘.

Is it even possible to measure it?  What cannot be counted/measured?  Or how do we count what can be counted?  How much weight do we give to each factor?  This post is a culmination of thoughts, a mix of research, experience and intuition.  Any comments, questions, thoughts, doubts etc are more than welcome to enhance the dialogue.

Educators are aware that teaching staff are multifaceted and various aspects make up the ‘quality’ teacher or the teacher we wish to have in our schools.¬† What are these precise factors?¬† It is hard to argue against the fact that the quality of teaching and learning is the key trait.¬† However, think of that teacher who was (or is) brilliant in the classroom, yet something or many things just stopped him/her fitting in to that school.¬† Why is this so?

Quality Teachers:¬† It must be possible to structure our thinking into a more scientific and logical manner so that decisions to be taken have justification, beyond just ‘gut feeling’ or as often happens, a surface level discussion.

Proposition:  A Scientific and Measurable Approach

In order of importance, the five criteria listed below are proposed as the key factors when defining quality teaching staff, in order of importance with a suggested Scoring Key after each one.  The terms used within the Scoring Keys would need to be agreed upon as they can be subjective if not discussed and maybe they even need expanding further.

1. Quality of Teaching and Learning:  Without doubt, the vital ingredient.  Within this, a school must define what it means by Quality Teaching and Learning.  Some examples are:

  • ‘Sensibility and doing the hard intellectual yards are what makes a teacher great – and memorable’ (Pringle, 2002)
  • ‘Quality of teaching is its fitness for the purpose of promoting learning.’ (Ellis, 1993)
  • Quality teaching is doing whatever it takes, ethically and responsibly, to ensure that your students learn and that they leave your unit with a passion for learning.
  • Significant progress made by each student in every lesson‘ (TBSC)

Within these definitions and big-picture statements, schools may have rubrics that break down teaching into various areas (e.g. behaviour, assessment, instruction etc).  A clear, open, well understood (by everyone) definition and structure is key here.

Scoring Key:  Excellent = 10, Very Good = 7, Good = 4, Satisfactory = 1,  Poor = -2, Very Poor = -5, Unacceptable= -8.

2.¬† Impact on School Culture and Morale:¬†¬†¬†Organisational culture is defined as the collection of day-to-day habits.¬† This is the ‘feel’ of a school when you walk through it and a culture that all staff should fit into (in the ideal world).¬† Teachers that do not fit in, often affect the morale of the school negatively.¬† This can be difficult to manage and its effect on the teaching body could be irreversible, if not addressed.¬† However, often, listening and professional development does close the gap.

Think about the culture a school has or wishes to obtain.  Then reflect upon how particular teachers fit into this and thus, the impact on the general morale of the teaching body.  Are they positive to this culture or the worse-case scenario, are they toxic to staff morale and school culture?  This also includes professionalism outside school.

Scoring Key:  Exemplary Follower = 8, Positive = 5, Neutral = 2, Negative = -2, Toxic = -5.

3.¬† Input and effect upon School Improvement:¬† Initiatives rolled out should generally (and once again, ideally) be well-thought out, discussed with various teaching groups and implemented with a lot of time.¬† Often though, ideas need to be implemented quickly and without the desired checks and balances.¬† How does a particular teacher react to change and new initiatives?¬† “Yes let’s do it and give it a chance” is the answer you wish to hear.¬† “Here we go again, what a waste of time” is not what one wants to listen to.¬†¬†Obstacles, constant rejection, argumentative, resistance to change etc result in a low score here.

Scoring Key:  Positive and willing to help in order to move school forward = 8, Positive = 5, Neutral/Passive = 2, Negative = -2, Negative, not willing to try, resistant and can result in negative school improvement = -5

4. Relationship with Parents:  Maintaining a pleasant and positive relationship with parents is important.  However, it has to be within school policies and guidelines.  This is an important trait that can affect the day-to-day operations if not taken into account.

Scoring Key:  Excellent = 4, Very Good = 3, Good = 2, Satisfactory = 1,  Poor = -1, Very Poor = -2, Unacceptable= -3.

5. Time Served:  In line with professional development, the above should be worked upon before a tough decision is taken.  For example, it is different to obtain a low final total score in the first year of service than in the fifth year.  Leadership has a professional obligation to work and develop staff, give them the time to improve and help all teachers fit in to the school.

Scoring Key:  1st year at school = 10, 2nd year = 5, 3rd year onwards = 0.

Add up the points.  Suggested final score and interpretation of the results:

  • <6 (RED) = Not the right fit for the school/Time to move on/Do not renew contract.
  • 6-10 (PINK) = Serious consideration to be given not to renew contract/Advise to look elsewhere/Not a good fit for school.
  • 11-15 (YELLOW) =¬† Serious discussion as to whether the school is for them/Consider not renewing contract.
  • 16-20 (Dark Green) = Can develop further/Worth retaining for now.
  • 21-25 (Green) = Retain and renew/A good fit to the school.
  • >25 (Light Green) = Retain and renew at all costs/Perfect fit for the school.

Try the above with a fictional (or real) personality.

To make life slightly more difficult for school leaders, they also need to ensure their recruitment policy and procedures pick up greens at the point of hire (again this is idealistic!), or staff are hired that will be give the correct professional development to guide them towards green (of course, a strong Retention Policy also comes in to play).  Recruitment is tough, getting harder by the day and needs a lot of thought.  See the post on recruitment for further details (https://yasirpatel.com/2016/11/19/recruiting-against-the-odds/).

Comments?  Amendments?  Questions?  Will this approach work for other organisations, outside of education?  What tweaks would be needed?  What is missing?  Ideas and opinions welcome.

Yasir Patel

A day in the life of‚ĶYasir Patel

A recent article from TES, pasted in its entirety below.


Running a high-quality school while managing the huge uncertainty that exists in Venezuela is extremely challenging. I have taught at The British School in Caracas for five years, and things have sadly deteriorated ‚Äď for pupils and staff ‚Äď since I started.

Caracas is the murder capital of Venezuela, and the school has had to increase security significantly in recent years: we provide any international visitors and our expat staff with transportation to and from the airport, a night-driver service and regular security advice. The dangerous environment has seen swarms of local people leave the country for a better life: pupil numbers have decreased and budgets are being used to increase admissions.

Funding can be a problem, especially when the income is the local currency, which is losing its value. What was once was a US$2,000 (£1,530) salary is now US$50. This, of course, reduces spending power and saving potential, and the school has to be creative when it comes to helping our local staff.

We provide them with lunches, increased health insurance, and pay them in foreign currencies wherever possible. Venezuela has the highest inflation in the world (estimated at 28,000 per cent): imagine a bottle of milk going from ¬£1 to ¬£2 to ¬£10 all within a week. That‚Äôs a common occurrence here ‚Äď all products normally have a 12- to 24-hour quotation period.

Such a turbulent culture leads to a lot of anger. In 2017, we had more than 100 days of protesting from April to July. We have policies to deal with such events, but it’s particularly tough to deal with during exam season.

Our dedication to ensuring that both pupils and staff have a safe and consistent environment to come to every day is reflected in our staff turnover. In the past two years, we have had an all-time low of 20 per cent, which is amazing given the difficult and challenging political, economic and social times facing all residents of Venezuela.

It is not a great education that is rare here, but any education at all, so teachers are really respected.

Local schools may be suffering with lack of funding, poor teacher training and little resources (some schools don’t have enough desks, chairs or books for all of the children), but education is truly seen positively and isn’t taken for granted.

I arrive for school at 6am. The students arrive an hour later; school starts at 7.30am and ends at 2.45pm. Our primary students have 25-minute lessons and secondary students have 45-minute lessons. We follow the English national curriculum throughout school, mixing it with the international primary curriculum for the younger students. We offer IGCSE in Years 10 and 11 and the International Baccalaureate diploma programme in Years 12 and 13.

I wish that I could ease the worries that my students, staff and parents face. The events that happen outside of our schools’ walls range from disturbing to absolutely horrifying, and the anxiety that this brings affects the day-to-day activities in school. If peace was established, I could see Venezuela once more becoming a powerful and attractive country for all.

Yasir Patel is the head of school at the British School Caracas


Blame the Teacher

Recently, England released its league tables for schools based on its new system of measuring ‘successful schools’. These focus on the results of a pupil’s best eight GCSE results including English and Mathematics alongside a raft of data from the Department for Education to evaluate how well pupils progress in a school. This is not unique to England with various countries (For example, USA, India) and organisations (PISA) now relying solely on exam results to measure success. A pertinent question to ask here is, is the data being used, valid (and reliable) evidence in order to judge the performance of a school (and even an individual teacher)? When one remembers that a school is much more than the exam results it produces and research consistently showing that various other factors play a role upon student results, a slight skepticism is only fair.

There is in fact little evidence to suggest we can link the performance of a teacher to exam results, and vice versa. However, there exists plenty of evidence to suggest hereditary and environmental factors have the dominant impact. Evidence that seems to be conveniently ignored. In a recent and extensive study by researchers at Kings College in London, they concluded that individual differences in educational achievement at the end of compulsory education are not primarily an index of the quality of teachers or schools: much more of the variance of GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment.  In a sample of 11,117 16-year-olds, they found that heritability was substantial for overall GCSE performance for compulsory core subjects (58 per cent) as well as for each of them individually: English (52 per cent), mathematics (55 per cent) and science (58 per cent).

Research conducted by the American Statistical Association (2014) concluded that only 1-14 per cent of educational outcomes can be attributed to the “teacher factor”. Then even within that 1-14 per cent, there are plenty more factors outside of the individual teacher’s control to take into account, such as class size, available teaching resources and budgets. The Coleman study on educational equality found that the remaining 86 per cent can be put down to “out of school” factors. This explains the findings from Cambridge Assessment last year: “It is normal for schools‚Äô results to change ‚Äď even when teaching practices stay the same.‚ÄĚ Yes, this is because, for the most part, results will vary depending on the children and parents, rather than the teachers.¬† The counter-argument, although arguably weak are the cases of schools, many in deprived areas, that achieve outstanding results.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, recently stated that the tables revealed only a limited amount about the true quality of a school. After all, how do we measure whether a child has become more polite? More respectful? More of a critical thinker?¬† The list is endless.¬† Furthermore, Professor Gorard from the University of Birmingham, stresses that attempts to measure pupil progress while at secondary school are doomed to failure due to a lack of reliable data.¬†¬†Professor Gorard‚Äôs findings suggest that it does not matter what type of school a pupil attends ‚Äď academy, grammar, private, specialist or faith school ‚Äď as the institution itself will have little impact on student attainment.¬† Why then is there so much coverage on results? More cynicism could point to it being an easy political pawn for political parties. Some may say that is a simplistic viewpoint, but others may say it is entirely true. Unfortunately, the impact is felt strongly and most intensely with the students, and the teachers.¬† Students are unnecessarily stressed, resulting in demotivation and losing the love for many subjects, often learning itself. Many teachers are leaving the profession or moving abroad as a result of the unrealistic expectations with its inevitable stress-related consequences.

The current state of affairs has been foreseen and forewarned. In 1979, the psychologist Donald Campbell theorised that, ‚ÄúThe more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.‚ÄĚ He also wrote: ‚ÄúAchievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.‚ÄĚ Quite simply, when the measure becomes the objective/goal, and when people are punished or rewarded for meeting or not meeting this aim, the measure is corrupted.

In a 2008 research paper, Holding Accountability to Account, Richard Rothstein points out that accountability and performance incentive plans in education are compromised by goal distortion, gaming, and corruption.  Tying high stakes to measurable goals affects behaviour in negative ways in every field, not just education.  Education policy makers who design such plans have paid insufficient attention to similar experiences in other fields.  He does feel accountability measures work but not the current ones in place as they are prone to corruption.  Instead, he advises more open-ended and subjective measures to be implemented.  The lesson of Campbell’s law: Do not attach high stakes to evaluations, or both the measure and the outcome will become fraudulent.  Daniel Koretz, author of The Testing Charade: Pretending to make schools better concluded that the reform movement in USA failed badly because of its devotion to high-stakes testing as the one and only measure of educational quality.

Despite the clear failure of test-based accountability, which Koretz amply documents, policymakers cling stubbornly to this corrosive doctrine.  Testing taps into peoples’ love of competition, incentives, and scores.  It makes perfect sense to rank football players and sports teams by their wins and losses, but it does not transfer to children or schools. Children may be talented in the drama or sports or other areas, and it will not show on the tests.  Education is a developmental process, a deliberate cultivation of knowledge and skills, a recognition of each child’s unique talents, not a race.

Sadly and finally, it seems that Albert Einstein‚Äôs famous quote, ‚ÄúNot everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts‚ÄĚ, has not been heeded by the various governments and organisations.¬† Instead, we seem to have a system whereby gaining immediate and quick approval, via so-called tangible results, is the norm.¬† A perfect example here is George Bush Junior’s educational reform in 2002 based on so-called success in his method in Texas.¬† It is quite baffling how our educated and high-profile leaders resort to leaning towards such weak ‘evidence’ and worryingly allow it to dictate wholesale policies.¬† The result is what we see now – overemphasis on testing, teachers fired (or leaving) based on this measure and no real educational improvement.¬† This rash, uneducated and ill-informed approach appeals to the masses but is affecting our children.¬† It must stop, but who will be brave enough to say enough is enough?

Yasir Patel








Be Nice and Care

The International Baccalaureate¬ģ aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

–¬†IBO Mission Statement¬†–

In an increasingly uncertain world, we should aim to connect, not divide. ¬†We should be promoting love, not hate. ¬†Different cultures and traditions should be celebrated, not criticised (also not simply tolerated). ¬†Our differences and personal identities should unite us. ¬†At the recent Dr. Martin Luther King Day Breakfast, civil rights activist and the Representative of Georgia, John Lewis gave a speech where he emphasised that, ‚Äėlove is a better way, the way of peace is a better way.‚Äô ¬†Recent events have seen people of different backgrounds, religions, races and nationalities uniting with each other against injustice, and maybe that shows that we should never lose faith, that there is always¬†hope in humanity.

The president of Harvard University pointed out a few¬†weeks ago that ‚Äėinternationalism is a paramount source of our university‚Äôs strength.‚Äô ¬†Drew Faust also highlighted the fact that half of their deans are immigrants and thousands attend their university every year. ¬†‚ÄúIn times of unsettling change, we look toward our deepest values and ideals,‚ÄĚ Faust wrote. ‚ÄúAmong them is the recognition that drawing people together from across the nation and around the world is a paramount source of our university‚Äôs strength.‚ÄĚ

A recent article by Headteacher Neil Bunting emphasises the need to embrace global citizenship and internationalism, now, more than ever.  Despite much education, he points out it is unfathomable that in the 21st century we continue to see events that shock and distress us.  We teach our young people to be tolerant, forward-thinking and lifelong learners, yet it seems to contradict with the global trend.  Without meaning to go political, Neil writes clearly and concisely.  Many may disagree with aspects of his writing but the overall message is hard to argue against;  many barbaric and uneducated choices are being made by world leaders, both in the so-called developed world as well as developing world, that seem to be catering to xenophobia, prejudice, stupidity and cultural intolerance and in turn, also promoting them.

Education is key; both in and outside schools, to help people understand the benefits of internationalism, connecting with others from different faiths and religions, and in order to separate fact from fiction (fake news is something we should debate in all classrooms, not just theory of knowledge).  History has a tendency to repeat itself Рthe use of propaganda for ill-intentions, manipulation of information and selfishly looking after number one.  More integration, not less, is a major part of the solution.  We all have a responsibility to help in this.  Connecting all the various and different parts of societies is another major factor.  The infamous 1%-99% divide must be bridged, bringing people together and understanding each other’s situation.  We should intensify the teaching of global citizenship, of being responsible, balanced and wise decision-making.

Let us promote sympathy and empathy, and condemn hate and terror.  Students (in fact, everybody) should have the opportunity to practise activities that foster respect, responsibility, compassion, courage, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and citizenship.  Students should also be given the chance to show kindness and develop their character, serving others whenever possible.  The importance of character, kindness and working as a team for an agreed shared goal, cannot be stated enough.  Schools should continue to work together with communities in order to enhance all childrens’ learning experience.

Nel Noddings, author of various books and articles that call for all schools to focus on ethic of care, argues that caring should be a foundation for ethical decision-making. ¬†How does one become a caring person? ¬†¬†Noddings states that a caring person ‚Äėis one who fairly regularly establishes caring relations and, when appropriate maintains them over time‚Äô. ¬†Noddings identifies education (both in the traditional sense and the not so traditional, including at home) as central to a culture and creation of caring in society. ¬†In fact, she views the home as the primary educator and argues for an adjustment of social policy to this end. This is not to sideline the role of schools but simply to recognise just what the home contributes to the development of children and young people.

We must encourage civil, harmonious and peaceful attitudes towards each other.  A critical mind is required in times like these; ask the Why? What? Maybe? questions, which may be tough and initially not seem harmonious and peaceful.  But honesty in asking them, with love for each other, seems a positive and genuine way forward.  We are fortunate that we now live in a world where many people have worked hard to allow people to travel freely, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality.  Do we really want to go back to the narrow-minded mindsets where people are judges on their passport or worst still, on their religion?  Do we really want our young people to have obstacles when travelling as opposed to the freedom many of us have experienced, and the amazing benefits gained from sharing what we have seen and learned?

‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. ¬†Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime’

– Mark Twain –

A final word of warning; it is worth bearing in mind that the distinction between ‚Äúus‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúthem‚ÄĚ is often just a step or two away from bigotry and chavinism. ¬†It may seem that we are going backwards and reverting to stereotypes and prejudices we thought were long left in the past. ¬†Yes it is depressing, but the answer is not to bury our heads in the sand, to give up or become apathetic. ¬†We need to champion the values of global citizenship, intercultural understanding, cultural intelligence and open mindedness. ¬†At the end of the day, we are one being on one planet. ¬†Let‚Äôs work together and put our faith in humanity.

Yasir Patel