UK Study Tour – Algerian Ministry of National Education
I’ve just returned from an exhilarating and inspiring week in the UK, accompanying a group of Algerian school inspectors and heads of schools on a Study Visit to Manchester, Edinburgh and London. The visit was designed to support the activities being delivered in Algeria under the Supporting School Reform Project, now coming to the end of its third year while we are preparing to start a new three-year project, also funded by HMG CSSF.
The Schools project, running since 2016, has supported and continues to develop the capacity-building of Algeria’s school inspectors and leaders and, through them, the professional development of teachers, thereby supporting better learner outcomes. Algeria’s ambitious plans for education reform seek to address issues such as the centralised nature of the system, poor teaching quality, high levels of school drop-out, and high failure rates in the school leaving certificate. The Ministry of National Education is keen to learn from UK best practice in quality assurance, leadership and pedagogy.
I was bowled over by the enthusiasm and energy of the Algerian participants who were as happy and engaged at the end of long coach journeys and late dinners as they were at breakfast. This was despite millions of Algerians demonstrating that same week against the 5th Mandate of President Bouteflika. They asked many highly perceptive questions of the speakers, headteachers, school staff and pupils and it was really satisfying to see the lightbulbs flashing on and hear comments like “Now we understand what the trainers meant in Algiers” “This school visit has brought everything together” “Seeing these classrooms proves that the methods and activities we’ve learned about really do work”. When asked to give one sentence about what they were taking back to Algeria, Zahira said: “Let’s move from theory to practice: Autonomy, Nurturing and Responsibility”.
It was humbling to see the passion, creativity, commitment and sheer hard work of the Headteachers and their teams in all the schools we visited: Matthew Moss High in Rochdale, Barrowford Primary in Nelson, Harrogate Grammar School, and Letham and Peel Primary Schools in Livingstone. They were all outstanding and very different. What also struck me was the attention given to diversity and inclusion in every classroom, and the sense of ownership and belonging. In Scotland in particular, what we heard in the briefing sessions about the education system was later seen on the classroom walls and heard in discussions with teachers and pupils – that congruence and sense of purpose felt hugely positive.
The highlights for me were a group of Letham Primary children singing to us in French and then being taught on the spur of the moment some Arabic by one of the Algerian inspectors; and then the laughter and “camaraderie” during and after the basket-ball game that erupted spontaneously between the Algerian team (led by the women in the delegation) and Letham Primary boys and girls. We all agreed “This is cultural relations! It’s what the British Council does best!”
Special thanks to Fares Layeb Schools Project Manager and Amine Souami Project Officer, to Alison Kambi and Natalie Arnold at British Council Scotland, and Yvette Hutchinson, British Council Schools Advisor.