International school partnerships can bring real perspectives to a wide range of classroom work, and they can be particularly enriching for projects focusing on global issues, as Sharrow School found out when they partnered with a school in Bangladesh to explore the Global Goal of Gender Equality.
When Sharrow School, a primary school in Sheffield, England, saw an opportunity to work with an international partner to enrich their project on gender equality, they began to look for a partner country and school that would be the perfect fit. With support from Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning, they established a connection with Waliul Haque Adorsho School in Faridupur, Bangladesh, setting in motion a partnership that has inspired pupils, teachers and the wider community.
‘We chose Bangladesh because of the striking difference in culture,’ says Sharrow School teacher Gillian Wakelam. ‘Gender roles are vastly different in Bangladesh, and the fact it’s a country with a completely different culture is so broadening for our pupils.’
Together, the schools have explored male and female gender roles, encouraging their pupils to challenge stereotypes and social constructs, particularly in relation to STEM and engineering. Through sharing their work and experiences, the pupils have been able to look at similarities and differences in both cultures, listen to and understand different perspectives, and develop a questioning attitude in their learning.
‘It’s brilliant that the pupils in both schools can hear and respond to ideas from a different culture,’ says Gillian. ‘Having an international partner to work with on a project like this just makes it real. They’ve brought a completely different perspective to the work we were doing and our discussions.’
Gillian has worked closely with Zahidul Islam, the head teacher at Waliul Haque Adorsho School, to develop a sustainable and equitable partnership. Working in a very rural setting, Zahidul has been instrumental in finding ways to enrich partnership activities with wider support.
‘Zahidul is really passionate about making the partnership and project work and contributing to the longevity of the partnership,’ says Gillian. ‘We needed to get more people involved – particularly older pupils. So, he created a working group, gathering past pupils and people from the community together to contribute to project activities. He sends us photographs of his pupils and the working group, and shares their experiences, and we discuss and review their perspectives with our pupils.’
At Sharrow, Gillian has set up an ‘International Group’, where pupils prepare joint activities to work on with their peers in Bangladesh. She also got the chance to visit Waliul Haque Adorsho School, enabling her to see the teaching and learning environment first-hand and experience the wider Bangladeshi culture.
‘It was an amazing visit. Experiencing the cultural side was fascinating. We were immersed in the countryside and the people. We had a chance to experience how people lived, and we could share this experience back home,’ she says.
As well as gaining a greater understanding of gender equality as a global issue, pupils at Sharrow have been inspired and motivated by working in partnership with a school in Bangladesh, and this has greatly impacted on their overall learning.
‘Our pupils are really building on their problem solving and critical thinking skills. We’ve got real people in Bangladesh who we need to communicate with and solve problems with together. I’ve seen the pupils grow in confidence so much by working on this project. They are really coming on in leaps and bounds by improving these skills and working in this way,’ says Gillian.
Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning works with schools around the world to help young people develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to thrive. Learn more about finding a partner.