The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Helen Morgan

What can we learn from working in an international context?

Helen Morgan explains the benefits of working abroad and what she has gained from it.

Working in an international context is fascinating on a number of different levels. From an educational perspective, it provides a fantastic opportunity to learn about the similarities and differences between the UK education system and international systems. From a personal perspective, it enables you to travel, meet lots of incredible people and experience their culture.

My first experience of education in an international context was through the fantastic International Inspiration Programme which was part of the London 2012 sports legacy programme. The goal of the programme was to create partnerships between schools in the UK and across the world in order to inspire the lives of 12 million children through PE and sport. We partnered a wonderful school in Bangladesh and succeeded in building a positive partnership for the benefit of students in both of our schools.

Over the last three years, I have had the privilege of working across the world training teachers and leaders. This has given me a real opportunity to reflect on education in its broadest sense and why it is important to build trust and work together to inspire future generations.

My experience of working internationally has enabled me to reflect upon the key things that I consider to be important in education.

The process of learning

Schools, colleges and educational organisations must drive the development of the whole child.

Every interaction I have with teachers in the UK and around the world places the development of the whole child at the centre. For me, the key to unlocking academic success is to invest in the personal development of young people. It is why people enter the teaching profession. By investing in them and nurturing their strengths and interests, we can bring out the best in them personally and academically.

Focusing on the process of learning and not just outcomes is an essential part of this; this helps young people to understand that learning from mistakes is positive, that being challenged is fun and that there are many different ways to achieve your goals.  

Global awareness

For young people, global awareness is crucial because we live in a world that is changing quickly. To make the most of the opportunities this presents, it is vital that we educate young people so that they can work fluidly across social, cultural, political, geographical and economic boundaries. The development of new technologies makes this an increasing priority.

Young people need to think about why things matters to them and why they matter to the world. As educators, we need to support learners to understand that building global knowledge, understanding and relationships is key to our future success. To do this, we must be outward facing and seek to design a curriculum that prepares students for life.  

Developing refl​ective practice

Having worked in a range of roles in education, I am increasingly confident that the key to continuous improvement is reflective practice because it is driven and owned by the teacher or leader. Facilitating a range of opportunities for teachers and leaders to reflect on their practice is important and successful approaches include networking, online forums, coaching, training and action research among others.

For many teachers and leaders in the UK and internationally, these opportunities are not easy to access due to geography, cost and technology. Despite this, I continue to work with many educators who have invested their own time, money and energy in their own development and that of their colleagues. I continue to be moved and humbled by this. 

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