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Lessons learnt and notes shared

Some came with notions of primitive methods and poverty, others had no idea what to expect. But for most, the experience was “beyond all expectations” — an enriching exchange of education, culture, art and life. For a group of teachers from primary schools in Wolverhampton, UK, visiting Calcutta schools meant picking up creative methods of helping children back home, as well as leaving behind some tips on the way they do things.

The nine-day programme, earlier this month, kicked off with a day visit to Calcutta International School followed by a week-long workshop and interaction with Loreto Day School, Sealdah. The group of 11 from four schools, including a representative of the local education authority, the team leader, was the second batch to come to India as part of the Teachers’ International Professional Development programme.

Funded by the Department for International Development and managed by the British Council, the project is aimed at giving teachers from the UK the opportunity to experience “good educational practices” in different countries. Creativity in the classroom is the key focus in order to make learning fun through innovative teaching techniques and tools.

While some of them had come to Calcutta assuming a funds crunch would mean limited means and methods, some city teachers thought the British would be from privileged environments. As they soon found out, all was not as it seemed. The Wolverhampton group unanimously declared to having had “a most wonderful time” and an “eye-opening experience”, and the teachers here realised that these educationists, too, have to deal with adverse circumstances to educate some very deprived children.

“I am taking back with me more than I have given,” said Jill Trevor, on the day of the group’s departure. “I learnt a lot from Sister Cyril’s Rainbow project. They are the most confident, friendly and affectionate bunch of children I have ever seen. I will miss them. They asked us questions on how we work in the UK, what the children there are like and what we teach. And we saw some amazing art work by them.”

The older children mentoring the younger ones in a system that made it possible for both to learn, was the one thing that all the Wolverhampton teachers claimed had impressed them the most. It was something they could implement in their own schools and classrooms.

Cynthia Hall, principal of a school, said she had keenly noted the administrative system “run efficiently on a limited budget” which she hoped to try on her return. And Joan Henrys explained how she shared her expertise on grids and number lines, which works wonders when teaching maths.

On the last day, teachers from both countries interacted at a wrap-up seminar. “It went off very smoothly, and worked really well,” said Marina Gandhi, director of British Council education, eastern region. “We will definitely organise the programme again next year.”

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