An equal and integrated South African society, which begins with citizens – children, their parents-carers, and the wider communities that they represent – learning how to live together, through the provision of education that is high quality, diverse and accessible.
Research shows that quality education requires a child-centred inquiry-based approach to learning where children can develop C21st skills in the foundational literacies of science, technology, mathematics, and languages – not just ‘spoken’ languages, but through a variety of medium, e.g.
‘drawing, painting, building clay and wire sculpture, shadow play, collage, dramatic play, music, and emerging writing, to name a few’Edwards C., Gandini L., and Forman G., 2012. The One Hundred Languages of Children: the Reggio Emilia Experience of Transformation. Santa Barbara: Praeger, p. 7.
Children develop competencies as they respond to complex challenges creatively, critically and collaboratively, all within a context where character qualities of curiosity, initiative, adaptability and leadership are valued (The World Economic Forum 2015, A New Vision for Education).
We are committed to being a school where the capabilities, creativity, curiosity and intelligence of every child is recognized and encouraged, as they actively participate in their education and development; voicing, shaping, forming and creating their future (Cagliari 2012:195).
Quality education involves making space to unlock the potential that all children possess to be the co-creators of a future South Africa that is equal and integrated.
Facilitating diversity within the classroom is central to a school’s ability to offer quality education. Studies show that, ‘Diverse groups do best at complex problems and innovation when the facts aren’t clear: each individual’s perspective allows him or her to tackle challenges differently, and, when stuck, rely on others’ differing points of views to progress’ (The World Economic Forum 2018, Why diversity is more important than Talent).
We are therefore committed to establishing an approach to education that is intentionally inter-cultural, in a school where children, educators and parent-carers develop deeper understanding, appreciation and respect for all cultures through the mutual exchange of ideas about the past, present and future (The Spring Institute, 2016).
“We will find the future in places where new forms of human coexistence, participation, and co-participation are tried out….It is necessary for us to learn this unity in diversity, and this diversity in unity”Rinaldi, 2001. Making Learning Visible: children as individuals and groups. p. 45.
As we seek, celebrate and embrace diversity, no one is left unchanged, because we all learn from one another (The Spring Institute, 2016).
As one of the world’s top 10 culturally and ethnically diverse countries, at the tip of the most diverse continent on the planet, South Africa has one of the most sought after resources to facilitate the world’s best education system – diversity. To facilitate a diverse, quality education accessible across South Africa’s socio-economic divides – which currently dictate that, ‘…if you’ve got money, you have a better education’ (Gallie 2015) – requires proximity to diverse communities and an innovative fee structure.
Calculating school fees on an income-based sliding scale increases access to quality and diverse education, which nurtures the foundational literacies in a character building context that develops the competencies that every child requires to thrive in the 21st Century. In 2016 we asked one hundred parent-carers whether they’d be prepared to pay school fees calculated based on their household income; 86% of parent-carers said ‘Yes’ – they would – provided that the education their child received was ‘high quality’.
Praxis – how we realize the theory
The image of the child
Every child is a unique individual who is capable, intelligent, creative and curious. To fulfill their potential, children need to be active participants in their learning and development. In our school, educators will work alongside / with students to determine what should be learnt and how best to learn it. A child-centred inquiry-based approach to education ensures greater involvement and sustains interest; learners discover for themselves in authentic situations, constructing knowledge with others. Our approach will enable children to develop knowledge, understanding and skills which are necessary to fulfill their aspirations and relevant for today’s society; competencies that help them approach complex challenges through critical thinking / problem-solving, creativity, communication and collaboration.
In order to believe, encourage, and support children – as they fulfill their holistic potential – teachers – just like the students (children) they teach – need to see themselves as capable, creative, curious, intelligent and active participants as they teach, learn and develop. Class teachers and the school’s leadership model what it means to be life-long learners as they dialogue, listen, observe, provoke learning, research, respect thinking, welcome questions, and work with each students’ unique cultural experiences, ideas and views. To ensure an intentionally intercultural context that encourages exploration, teaching and learning, staff will plan, teach, review, reflect and re-plan collaboratively, as a team.
The school environment will provoke learning and discovery by making space for children to express and explore their creativity. ‘Modern Learning Environments’ (MLEs) are adaptable, changing, emerging, full of possibilities, interconnected, limitless, open, always varied, with different levels, perspectives and points of view. Children will be encouraged to use various learning spaces, and move freely between disciplines, both inside and outside (example, right).
The built-environment will be conducive to the cognitive, physical, spiritual and socio-emotional development of 21st Century character qualities such as curiosity, initiative, persistence, adaptability, leadership and social / cultural awareness.
Relationships with parent-carers
Establishing, sustaining and developing quality, diverse and accessible education in praxis is the shared responsibility of the school’s leadership and staff team, the child, and their parent-carers / the wider community. Research shows that where parent-carers are co-learning, committed and contributors to their child’s education, those children are more motivated (Okeke, 2014).
As the leadership, and teaching staff of a quality, diverse and accessible school, we will be intentional about developing genuine, meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with parent-carers, and the diverse communities represented in the school, by prioritizing practices, rhythms, and ‘ways of being’ that accommodate, celebrate and promote relationships that are welcoming, inclusive and life-enriching for all.