Inquiry-based Learning (IBL)
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To ensure a broad understanding and depth of knowledge with regards to what constitutes ‘excellent education’ we have made the most of opportunities to meet local stakeholders, attend education conferences / workshops, and visit existing schools in South Africa.
In addition, we have sought to learn as much as possible from innovative approaches to education beyond South Africa. This has involved extensive research, reading and a series of Skype conversations with people in various parts of the world, who are involved in, and passionate about education in their contexts.
Towards the end of last year we re-connected with ‘K’. Reconnected, because ‘K’ was a member of a youth group that Phil and I hosted in the late 90’s. More than 20 years later, ‘K’ is married, and has a little boy who is one and a half years of age. ‘K’ and her husband, moved from her / our home-town of Stoke-on-Trent, and now lives in New Zealand, where she works as a teacher. The education system in New Zealand values inquiry based learning
What is inquiry based learning?
Inquiry based learning is about providing an environment where children can ‘understand their world’ rather than purely having a ‘knowledge of their world’.
Inquiry based learning (IBL) happens through a provocative statement, or is based on an event, with the inquiry being relevant to the children’s interests and world. Adults and children work together to co-construct learning. IBL is all about meaningful learning, which takes place when children connect their learning with their lives and find ways to apply what they have learnt to their context.
This approach has been used by teachers over the last ten years in New Zealand schools. It means teachers have to change the way they think and plan, identifying what understanding about the world they want the children to develop and why, and considering learning experiences that will highlight the understanding for the children.
You can read more about this approach here
How might ‘IBL’ apply to South African schools?
In communicating our goal to establish inclusive and equitable quality education for all, we have previously referred to the Reggio Emilia Approach to education – a pedagogy that views children as capable, creative, curious and full of potential. Reggio teachers take on the role of guide and facilitator; co-learning with the children. Established in Post-World War II Europe, Reggio is a tried and tested approach among children aged 3 to 6 years of age.
With strong links to liberation (see Reggio Africa’s thoughts on this), we believe the Reggio Approach will form the basis of how we work with 3 to 6’s (known as Early Childhood Development or ECD) in our affordable, excellent, polysensory and transcultural school.
But what about primary school education?
What we’ve been asking ourselves during our research, is how do we value creativity, curiosity and child-centered learning, whilst also ensuring that children fulfill the outcomes stated in the South African curriculum? From what we have read and heard thus far, we suspect that this may be where inquiry based learning will come in; it represents a way of continuing to view the child as full of potential, whilst working within guidelines set out in the curriculum. In June, we plan to investigate this approach more thoroughly.