Saturday 19 February 2011

International summer camp

I have just received information about the 2011 the Tambo International Art Camp and Festival Tambo to be held in Pembo, Mozambique:

11th to July 18thJuly

The 2011 edition will be the sixth summer camp organized at Pembo. Here is a description from the organizers of last year’s camp:

Approximately 130 artists were during the week involved in workshops, visits and
performances.  1.900 people visited the art camp and festival giving them and the artists
opportunities not only to see expressions already known to them but also new experiences in
how art can be presented and done. Cultural and artistic exchange, friendships and knowledge were gained between artists and audience.
The local Nanhimbe Youth Choir with its teacher Ntessa presenting his songs composed to
bring joy and development to all generations showed once again the rich base of art talents
Pemba has.

The range and diversity of artists taking part is impressive. Here is just a brief selection from 2010’s report:
Mbizo, poet from Zimbabwe and  the young poet  'King' from Maputo.
Professor Orlando da Conceição renowned saxophonist from the Mozambican capital;
Mapiko de Mueda - 25 performers  drumming and singing, from the far north of Mozambique;
Miss Mamy from Nampula, an  18 year old singer;
Companhia Distrital de Canto e Danca de Chiúre (The Song and
Dance Ensemble of Chiure District).
Chirindza Carlos with his monologue, from Maputo.
According to the organizers:
Mutumbela Gogo live, one of the leading and most famous theatre ensembles in Mozambique, brought the play ‘The Daughters of Nora' by the Swedish writer Henning Mankell. It was performed by Lucrécia Paco, Graca Silva and Yolanda Fumo who also guided the theatre work shop at the art camp.
Os Novos Horizontes (The New Horizons) from the town of Pemba brought a surprise even for the residents coming from Pemba; a theatre play focusing on domestic violence…
PRONANAC, from  Mecúfi  (Province of Cabo Delgado) presented a theatre play about issues that their rural population are dealing with daily.

I have not been to the camp before and I have no personal knowledge of the organisation, so this is not a recommendation, but the list of sponsors includes, according the the organisers’ information:  
The Danish Embassy, Helvetas Mozambique, The Finish Embassy, SolidarMed, Cultural House of Pemba, Merkurfonden, Barbara Kruspan from Project CAP( Art project of Merry Trust) and Markus Nußbaumer (Horizont 3000).

The cost of attending this camp is really low, so it makes a very interesting option for a culturally enriching summer camp experience. Here are the contact details for the 2011 camp:

IE University…”the Oxford of southern Europe”

I had a fascinating conversation with a former student yesterday. He has been in England for a year and is planning to enroll on an undergraduate course in Architecture in Spain for October 2011.

He said he is looking at various options, and one that keeps coming up is the IE University, in Segovia, near Madrid. You can read more about the IE University in previous posts, specifically the post about a visit of students from Beijing to IE University  in January 2011.
The interesting thing about my conversation with my former student is that he said he had heard so much about IE University, for instance, that the internships arranged by the university include the most prestigious companies in each sector, and that visiting faculty members include visitors from world renowned institutions such as Harvard.
The curious thing about the IE University is that that it has yet to produce its first graduating class, as it only opened as an undergraduate university very recently. It is housed in historic buildings in Segovia.
In spite of its short history, the IE University is already recognised as an innovative centre of learning in Spain. My young visitor said to me that he has heard that IE University, “Is on its way to becoming the Oxford of southern Europe.”  

Friday 18 February 2011

How to succeed at interviews

Interview Guru

This resource which came to me as a tool for students preparing for university interviews. Then, when I looked carefully, it became clear that this is a really worthwhile training resource for jobs at entry level, and also for experienced professionals looking for a career move.

The materials have been prepared by  a very impressive team, including  Professor Cary Cooper CBE,
Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, and a group of industry experts such as CEO’s, Creative Directors, MD’s, a barrister and a leading chef.

You need to go to the web site and buy the product to get the full story, but here is a taster:

Interview Guru is an e-Learning resource created to boost your chances of success in today’s highly competitive job market.

Central to Interview Guru is a four-step e-Learning programme, detailing all the research and preparation that’s vital for interview success, and offering loads of useful tips on what to say, what not to say, what to wear and how to impress a panel of interviewers. Each step contains a video, a set of background notes and a multiple-choice quiz. This follows what’s considered best practice in providing the most effective learning.

Industry Leaders Answer Tough Questions

Backing up the central programme is a library of more detailed video conversations with industry leaders. What do they expect from the candidates they meet? What are the specific do’s and don’ts? We have many other video features including mock interviews, a feature on what to wear, and Chef Henry Harris takes us through preparing the ideal power breakfast!

Other Online Programme Features Include:

·         A library of interview questions complete with an approach on how to give the ideal answer
·         Interview scenarios and situations
·         Top tips for each day counting down to your interview
·         A library of articles and up-to-date information
·         A forum connects individuals, who can share their experiences, offer tips and advice of their own to other members of the Interview Guru community
·         Quiz History


Also available:

One-on-One Coaching

I really like the News feature, because it shows that the organisation is constantly updating its resources, and I must say that I am very impressed by the advice given in the promo video.
These are tough times: I just finished a phone conversation with a friend whose daughter is in final year and is desperate to find a job for next year.  
Among the really worthwhile comments, I like the idea that you should improve your interview performance by rehearsing with a sympathetic adult.

My favourite quote is from Henry Harris, Chef Patron of the Racine Restaurant:
To succeed in my kitchen... you need to work harder than anyone else, to a higher standard than anyone else and with greater enthusiasm than anyone else....

Thank you Interview Guru for reminding us that there are no easy answers, just really well-thought out preparation, hard work and determination...and some great advice like this  from Interview Guru.  

Thursday 17 February 2011

Children's Choir from Africa touring Europe

A very special children’s choir…


-              Teatro Mira de Pozuelo de Alarcón; 30 de junio a las 19 horas.

-              Teatro Auditorio San Lorenzo del Escorial; 3 de julio a las 20 horas. compra tu entrada anticipada en

En MADRID, ultimo concierto de final de gira:
-              Teatro del Liceo Francés; 4 de julio a las 20 horas. compra tu entrada anticipada en

Saturday afternoon in June, scorching hot in the Retiro park in Madrid city centre, there to organize my students’ participation in a Music Marathon organized for European Music Day, which is 21st June.

The next group on was billed as the Malagasy Gospel Choir. No idea what to expect, but it’s always interesting to hear another choir. Beautiful, bright coloured dresses, a sprinkling of African percussion instruments, and lovely singing of traditional Madagascar songs  in authentic arrangements. The choir were given a great setting as the sound system was really well prepared and showed them off at their best.
The presenter introduced the choir  and explained that they were touring Spain, a long way from home in Madagascar, funded by the Fundación Agua de Coco, which is  based in Granada, Spain, and is active in projects in a number of countries.
It was not a very long set, but it was enough to show the quality of the group’s trainers and the enthusiasm of the singers, and it was a thrilling experience.

You can find out more about the Agua de Coco Foundation: and you can follow their excellent work on Fb:
Is this just another kid’s choir set up by some music teachers to earn some extra cash in a few  hours of dead time? No, this is a very special choir, and the impact of belonging to this choir on these young lives is little short of a life-saver. If I say they had a difficult start in life it’s a real understatement. Thanks Agua de Coco, a great job....
I told you the choir is special... they’re all girls, all orphans, all blind.    

i-student group: university guidance for students, teachers and parents

I-student group is a really useful on-line guide to universities, courses and publications aimed at helping students match their higher education needs.

There are four sections:
i-studentadvisor publications are easy to use, interactive online magazines used by thousands of student advisors, counselors, IB coordinators and heads of sixth form throughout 165 countries.
i-studentenquiry is a free, online matching service designed to help individual students from around the world find the right course at the right college, university or English language school overseas.
Student life
i-studentlife is a social community created with the help of our team of international students from around the world, where students share their experiences and advice about studying overseas.
i-studentbrochure produce bespoke interactive e-brochures for individual colleges, universities and organisations. Our brochures are a carbon-free, cost-effective alternative to hard-copy printing.

I would say that  I-Student is really useful for teachers, guidance counsellors and parents as well as students carrying out their own research.
A recent innovation is the introduction of the new Flinders University iPhone/iPad App! Definitely worth a look....

If you find these notes useful, you might like to read two later posts with suggestions on How to Choose a University:

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Los exámenes de música por libre en Madrid: ABRSM

Hace unas semanas Chris Walters, el editor de la revista británica Music Teacher me invitó a colaborar en un debate sobre la evaluación en la música, y si hay demasiados exámenes. Los comentarios han aparecido en la edición de febrero:

En mi aportación al debate hago referencia a los años entre 1997 y 2004 cuando tuvo el honor de ser Representante en Madrid de la mayor organización del mundo en exámenes de música por libre: Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM). Entonces solía preguntar a los alumnos, mientras esperaban a entrar el examen, estas tres preguntas:
¿Has ensayado más al acercarse la fecha de tu examen?
¿Has notado una mejora en tu nivel de tocar/cantar gracias al haber ensayado más?
¿Disfrutas más tocando/cantando al hacerlo mejor gracias a ensayar más?

Siempre las respuestas eran positivas, y, ya que el número de alumnos presentándose a los exámenes aumentó año tras año, está claro que, por lo menos en el caso de los exámenes de la ABRSM, y en la opinión de estos alumnos, no era demasiado, y sí, los exámenes tienen un valor para ellos, para sus padres y para sus profesores.
El Representante en Madrid de la ABRSM es el excelente Kevin Robb:

Sunday 13 February 2011

Las redes sociales: tendencias

Lady Gaga, sin problema
30%, bueno con trampas, pero más o menos acerté…
Yahoo, incorrecto....
España,  no hemos acertado, lo cual es algo curioso, ya que es donde  vivimos…  
Todos los presentes son personas que usan los nuevos medios de comunicación como herramienta indispensable en su trabajo, sin embargo, el pequeño concurso de Kathryn Corrick nos costó…Las preguntas que van con las respuestas arriba son.. la persona con el mayor número de amigos en Facebook, por supuesto Lady Gaga, más aún que el joven Justin Bieber; las mujeres  dedican 30% más de su tiempo a las redes sociales que los hombres; Yahoo no es el segundo buscador más usado, ese honor recae en Youtube; y el país en el segundo puesto del ranking en el uso de las redes sociales es España: el número uno es Rusia. Supongo que eso lo sabías, pero  nosotros no.
Lo que este ejercicio demuestra es que si usamos los nuevos medios de comunicación en nuestro trabajo, conviene evitar las generalizaciones y concretar los hechos. La verdad es que Kathryn Corrick explicó  muchas cosas durante un día de formación  a lo cual yo tuvo la suerte de asistir de parte de la organización que me contrata. Estos comentarios los escribo a nivel personal.
Creo que lo más importante que ha dicho Kathryn es que la estrategia comercial es la que manda sobre la estrategia de los contenidos digitales. Da igual las palabras en Twitter y las líneas en Facebook: no sirven para nada si no apoyan una estrategia integrada y coordinada.  
El Segundo punto más importante del día, para mí, ha sido la importancia de no despreciar las herramientas de marketing tradicionales: esa hoja imprenta que aparece en el bolsillo al legar a casa y nos recuerde reservar las entradas al teatro; esa folleto a todo color, tan goloso y lujoso al pasar las páginas; y ese calendario que tienes pegado al frigorífico gracias al imán, que está allí cada mañana cuando buscas la lecha para el desayuno. Para no decir nada del correo electrónico, poco glamoroso, pero potente.
Me encantó la mención del  uso del símbolo # en Twitter, y el aviso sobre el viajero que terminó en la cárcel por enviar un mensaje incendiara, nunca mejor dicho, mientras soportaba una espera interminable en un aeropuerto en Inglaterra. Nos dio Kathryn una lista muy útil de enlaces de búsqueda. Ya sé que son cosas que debo haber encontrado antes, pero no es así, y agradezco mucho que si busco en algunas páginas puedo comprobar la visibilidad de una marca en tiempo real:  
Se trata de disponer de los hechos, de estadísticas, en vez de apoyarse en las corazonadas y fantasías. Estos enlaces nos proporcionan la información que nos faltó.
Otra cosa de gran importancia: hay que tener en cuenta que  cuando ponemos en marcha un nuevo blog , foro, página de Facebook o cuenta en Twitter, es gratis pero no es sin coste: el compromiso en tiempo para mantener la atención necesaria para atender a los clientes a través de cualquier de estos medios es considerable  y es inútil ponerlo en marcha sin antes planificar quién va a responder al tráfico que se genera.
Al investigar las páginas web de unas empresas nos quedamos impresionados por algunos ejemplos y decepcionados por otros: sobre todo porque en el caso de unas empresas multinacionales el contenido fue idéntico en todos los medios, sin diferencia entre ellos. También nos quedamos desconcertados al ver que, al entrar  en la página de Facebook de un editorial británico pudimos hojear las fotos de los amigos de los amigos de su página cuando la verdad es que no  era asunto nuestro ver las imágenes de esas personas. Creo que no sirve echar la culpa a las personas que no han programado correctamente  las condiciones de privacidad: creo que la culpa recae sobre el diseñador de la página de la empresa.  
En un momento del día nuestra atención se desvió y nos pusimos a debatir si es verdad que todo el mundo está pegado a su teléfono inteligente todo el día, enviando mensajes de texto y comunicando vía Twitter  los 24 horas del día. ¿Qué hay de una estadística que nos informa que hay un porcentaje de la población que no se mueve más allá de 10 km de su casa en todo el día, semana tras semana?
¿Y qué hay de la ética? Hay empresas que han desarrollado la tecnología que te permite ponerte en riesgo de peligro al informar a todo el mundo dónde estás en cada momento. ¿Cuál es nuestro deber cara a las campañas de marketing que fomento el uso de esta aberración de la tecnología? ¿Tomamos parte en su uso, o vamos a hacer todo lo posible para borrarla del mapa de las redes sociales?
Luego llegó el momento de la verdad, la dura realidad. Kathryn nos mostró uno de los muchos ejemplos  gráficos. El ejemplo en cuestión muestra una cantidad increíble de redes sociales, Hi5, Linked-in…. una tras otra, algunas conocidas aquí y otras desconocidas, porque la representación de estas redes a menudo  depende del idioma que  usan o  de su localización geográfica.
Kathryn fue tajante: ¿no es mejor introducirnos a través de las redes en las cuales nuestros clientes actuales y potenciales ya están inscritos que insistir en crear nuevos grupos, nuevas páginas de Facebook, ya que, al final, la gente tiene otras cosas que hacer?
Aunque cuesta creerlo, algunas personas prefieren vivir su vida, hacer no sé qué, incluso disfrutan de ver  X-factor en la televisión, y, peor aún, algunas personas quieren mantener sus redes sociales como un oasis de paz, un lugar para relajarse, estrictamente cerradas al negocio y personal, un pasatiempo divertido. Puede ser que estas personas no quieren nuestras ofertas en sus redes y que nos ven como intrusos: el único que van a hacer es enviar nuestros mensajes a la papelera.
Supongo que, al final, sigue siendo un poco cómo cuando estuvimos en el colegio: hay que quedar pegados a los verdaderos amigos, aunque sean pocos porque, sean cual sean sus razones, no todo el mundo quiere ser tu amigo en Facebook.  

Friday 11 February 2011

Gillian Howell: Music Work, a love song

Gillian Howell's blog is at

She is, in her own words,
a musician, composer, and creative director of composition and collaborative projects. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia. A lot of my work takes place in schools, but I’m not actually a qualified teacher – rather, I’m a very experienced educator and facilitator. I’m a clarinettist who makes occasional forays into saxophone and flute.

Her most recent project has been in Timor Leste. Right, I didn’t know where it was either, it’s next to Indonesia.

Here are the World Health Organisation statistics for the country:
Total population
Gross national income per capita (PPP international $)
Life expectancy at birth m/f (years)
Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003)
Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births)
Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population)
Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006)
Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006)
Figures are for 2006 unless indicated. Source: World Health Statistics 2008

46,360$ is the Gross national income per capita for USA, just so you can compare.

Don’t expect Gillian Howell to be intimidated by this prospect: earlier work has taken her to Bosnia. In her posts Gillian writes beautifully and over the months she has composed a travel guide, a whodunnit, a confessional, a music teacher’s manual, and a love song.
As this post is intended to whet your appetite and send you to the source, you will find just snippets to give you an idea of what awaits you at the Music Work blog:

Travel guide
Here are some excerpts which set the scene so graphically:
In Lospalos, it is not unusual to be awoken around 5.45am (before the electricity goes off for the day – we only have electricity overnight here) by someone playing music very, very loudly…... Once we got into Christmas season, the music of choice was things like revved-up Jingle Bells, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas in 4/4. Brahms Lullaby is also apparently a Christmas song in Timor….
We did another excursion on Thursday, this time to the coastal town of Lore. We’d been told it would take 3 hours to get there, but it turned out to be a journey of about 1 hour and a quartet only. The dirt road was slow-going but there were no big pot-holes or drops away at the edges, so I would call it a pretty reasonable road for Timor!
The beach at Lore was rocky, and had some of the biggest waves I’ve seen on this island so far. It’s a wide, long spread of beach, with horses grazing down on the rocks at the water’s edge, and palm trees lining the edge of the furthest-back sand dunes.
At a cultural festival:
The crafts on display were also fascinating. There was a man carving ornamental birds from buffalo horn. There were two men working together to make wooden bowls from lumps of wood. There were women with weaving looms and tais (traditional woven fabrics) for sale. There were women weaving baskets, and selling these in all shapes, sizes and colours. There was a goldsmith, creating tiny pieces of jewellery with his traditional tools (my friend ordered two gold rings from him, one for each of her daughters. He engraved their initials on the rings, and they looked superb when we collected them the next day). There were men from Oecussi, the East Timorese enclave that is marooned in the middle of Indonesian West Timor (you either travel there overland, or get there by ferry, once a week), who were making small metal bells in a fireplace, which then were strung onto strands separated by narrow macaroni-seized pieces of bamboo, and then wound around the ankles as a percussive accompaniment to dance. These are called kini-kini…,

We have discovered that our next door neighbour is a culture man, someone with knowledge about traditional instruments and how to make them. Timorese instruments are intricately connected with both the local environment and local rituals. For example, the kakalos we made on the weekend (following his design) were used by children in the fields, with the job of scaring away birds that might try and eat the crops.

An awful event occurs: the betrayal of trust and of hospitality when a saxophone is stolen in the middle of the night. As the weeks go by it is never clearly established who did it, but suspicion hangs on to the very end. The instrument was recovered soon after being stolen.

Music teacher’s manual:
Day after day I was struck at how comfortable and familiar these music exercises sounded and felt, thousands of kilometres away. There’s a trail going back to Professor John Paynter and his seminal work on creative music making and you can see the influences here in Gillian Howell’s work. No matter that John Paynter developed his work with poor children in Liverpool, England in the 60’s and that this work takes place in the Pacific in the 2010: the relevance is the same, the music touches human hearts.   When I studied with him at York University in the 70’s, his uncompromising desire to share genuine musical experiences was similar in every way to Gillian Howell’s inspiration.

We started with a name song which goes around the circle with each person singing their name, and it being repeated in unison by the rest of the group.
Then, as a rhythmic warm-up, we created word-strings, and clapped these. First I asked each person in the circle to volunteer one English word that they liked. Then as a group we invented three strings of four or more words each. We said these out loud, exaggerating the rhythm of the syllables, and then clapping the rhythms in unison, and then in three separate groups. I conducted groups in and out of the texture to create some variations in the layers, and then cued a tight stop.
Now that we were warmed-up (we taught them the word ‘warm-up), we discussed ideas for a song. Each group discussed their preferences, then we shared these and looked for common threads between the three groups. There were several themes that emerged:
·         A sad song, expressing sad feelings
·         A happy song, thinking about things that make you happy
·         A love song

From here we did some call-and-response rhythms. I clapped and tapped rhythms on different parts of my body for them to echo. I tried to  use a big variety of sounds – they particularly enjoyed the hollowed-cheek taps.
From here, I established two separate rhythms and divided the circle into two groups. I did this without any words at first, but in the end needed to clarify my intentions briefly in Tetun! Two rhythms, one clapped and syncopated, the other stomped and grounded on the beat. We repeated a few times, then switched parts.
Next I introduced a whole-ensemble stop. I showed them the countdown signal I do with my fingers – “1, 2, 3, 4, STOP!” – and we started to do this. This led to a counted-in start cue as well and before long they were creating some very slick starts and stops.
Now it was time to bring out the instruments. We started with drums, sticks and shakers, keeping to the same rhythms, and passing the instruments around the group so that everyone got to play something.

As Forrest Gump  found out, not everything works out the way we planned it. Sickness, complications with local bureaucracy … don’t have to go to Timor Leste to find that problem there’s plenty of that here in Europe, confusion and momentary dips in motivation… they’re all here.This section  includes one of my favourite posts: Motivation. Gillian Howell’s motivation, even in the face of so much difficulty, is so much stronger than many persons I meet who belong to the 3G generation with their attitude to work: Get there, Get through, Get out.

The last few days have passed by in a bit of a blur, partly because of the workshop whirl one gets into in the middle of a project, and partly because by Sunday I was struck down by a mosquito-borne tropical illness known as Chikungunya. I think it started on Saturday with an ache in my knee that I assumed was due to over-exerting myself in the warm-up games that morning, but in hindsight I now suspect otherwise.
Chikungunya Virus is one of the more exotic diseases I’ve ever had (and I’ve been hospitalised for quinsy, which I’ve always considered exotic for its Victorian quaintness even though it is a horrible thing to be sick with…). But it’s no fun

I feel a bit worried that we are incredibly behind the eight-ball in putting together a project like this. We don’t really have any support from local authorities. We don’t have a proper workshop space to create these pieces in (and I know that the workshop environment plays an incredibly important role in helping groups to develop original work).

I realised today – with a slight sense of dismay, I must admit – that the majority of my energy and thinking these last 7 weeks has gone into ‘managing’ my relationships with people here and trying to make sense of them all. It’s a constant daily task because Timor is not an easy place! But I am learning. I noticed, when my visitors first arrived, how many assumptions they made. .....You learn to assume you actually haven’t got all the information you need!
Getting stonewalled so resolutely by my local cultural contact last Monday had quite an impact on me. I’ve always thought of myself as a very intrinsically-motivated person. There is not much money, and there is an awful lot of work, in the kind of work I do. In fact though, lots of the work I do evolves through the working environment I have cultivated over time for myself. It is through the networks that I develop, and part of the motivation to do a good job is about building a reputation that will see more offers for work come my way. In other words, there is an extrinsic motivation at play too.
Here, almost no-one in any position within an organisation seems to be showing much interest in working with me.

Love story
These are the most moving parts of this incredible story. Passion, concern and humanity shine through.....
Yesterday we focused on the idea that from the moment a person is born they have the same human rights as every other person. We made a piece of music that started from the idea of the first breath. Today, the plan was to complete that piece of music with the children, and then move onto another right – the Right to Education (our focus topics were chosen in response to our initial discussions with the children about what they knew about human rights).
I’ve written quite a lot about the ‘Motolori boys’ who were our main participants in Lospalos. In this post I want to try and assemble what it is that I know about them, and the kinds of impressions they made on me. Together, we went on quite a learning journey.
That evening they had a visiting family member, a young woman who’d only recently returned to Lospalos from working in England. She was pregnant, and as she and I chatted, I asked her about her plans. She explained that after the baby had reached six months her plan was to leave it with her family and that she would go back to England. Such is the scarcity of work in Lospalos and Timor, and the significance of what she could contribute to her family by continuing to work in England. My heart ached for her when I thought how difficult it would be to return to England without her baby, her first-born.
But I also remember the delight that we all felt just about being in Kakavei, and sharing our music and our workshop with these people whose lives are really quite isolated. …Visitors like us are the kind of thing that people may talk about for ages afterwards.
A dilemma that comes at the end of many projects in developing countries is what to do with the materials you have been using, or that have been donated, once your project ends. It’s a dilemma about realities and likely scenarios, about ownership and power, access and equity.
As we began to move toward the car to go, one of the elderly women who’d been watching the workshop came up to me. In fact, this woman had been a participant in the workshop, playing a chime bar for much of the time. ...She leaned forward so that her face was close to mine, and I did too. Then she dipped her face slightly and rubbed her nose firmly against mine. The crowd roared their approval.
At the end of the workshop, I asked Lina, Rachel and Tony to play together. They played a solo each, and then improvised together, the crowd of young and old people gathered around them. The most musically magic moment for me was when they improvised – lightly, sweetly – on the kindergarten song I’d learned from young Dona in Lospalos, Ikan hotu nani iha bee.

I have never met Gillian Howell, and she would not recognize me if she sat next to me on the train here in Madrid, Spain, reading one of her blog posts.
One of Paul McCartney’s Wings songs, I think it’s on Band on the Run, says, Some people say the world has had enough of silly love songs.
 I think the world can never get enough of the kind of love song which is Gillian Howell’s work, her life and her passion. The world can never have enough persons like her, persons who make the world a better place by touching people’s lives, one by one, note by note.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

A strategy of international engagement for schools

Can young Muslims succeed in the French education system?
Student A can answer this because he stayed with a Muslim boy and his family in Paris in October 2010.
Does Romania provide for its socially-disadvantaged young?
Student B can answer because she has been part of one of a group of students who have spent a week at an orphanage near Bucharest helping local workers care for children and improve their facilities.
Does education in London offer opportunities across a multi-cultural spectrum?
Student C can answer this  because students from Bethnal Green have stayed in her home twice over the last four years……..
A well developed school strategy offers genuine experiences of international engagement by exploring the issue in three strands: institutional links and curriculum extension, where  intercultural dialogue is the common factor, and working in two directions: students travelling with teachers and students hosting visiting students.
. Institutional links

The strategy on institutional links can be divided into two groups: engagements with established partnerships, eg. Your town’s twinning arrangement, and with other institutions, eg. Comenius or Youth In Action projects.e

Here is the understanding behind the town twinning arrangement within the European Union:

Twinning towns for unity

Town twinning has long been an important mechanism for developing active European citizenship and a sense of shared identity. That is the reason why the new Europe for Citizens programme gives it a prominent position, expands its forms and activities, and allows it to develop its potential.
The modern idea of town twinning in Europe was born as a grassroots initiative in the aftermath of World War II to heal the wounds of that traumatic conflict. It is one of the most visible and lasting ways of bringing people from different countries together under the European banner, which is why the EU has been supporting it since 1989.
Today, thousands of twinning links in Europe create a powerful and robust network of citizens who are playing an important role in constructing an ever-closer Union. Twining promotes mutual understanding, and is a conduit for cultural exchanges across the social spectrum. EU support for town twinning injects a structuring effect and strengthens the strategic direction, as well as the European content, of such activities.
One major advantage of town twinning is that it involves large numbers of citizens directly, driving home the benefits of EU integration at the local level and helping citizens from different Member States to create a strong feeling of belonging and of a common European identity.

Weaving future webs

Action 1 supports citizens’ meetings in the context of town twinning. EU-funded gatherings share three common features: they show a commitment to EU integration; they build friendships in Europe; and they promote active participation.
One major town twinning innovation in the 2007-2013 programme is the idea of networking. Towns co-operate with their own twinning partners, as well as with the partners of their partners. This can help them explore a particular topic or theme, to share resources or interests, to gain influence or to face common challenges.
Support for networking will help them take full advantage of this synergy. In this context, Action 1 supports thematic conferences and workshops involving at least three towns. These should serve as milestones for networking and should encourage the development of long-lasting, dynamic, multifaceted co-operation between twinned towns.


Here are the priorities identified by the European Union, and addressed through the Comenius Programme:
The programme is currently focusing in particular on:
·         Motivation for learning and learning-to-learn skills;
·         Key competences: improving language learning; greater literacy; making science more attractive; supporting entrepreneurship; and reinforcing creativity and innovation;
·         Digital educational content and services; 
·         School management; 
·         Addressing socio-economic disadvantages and reducing early school leaving; 
·         Participation in sports; 
·         Teaching diverse groups of pupils; 
·         Early and pre-primary learning.

I was fortunate to be involved in a Comenius project, even though it did not run the full three years as planned. My students were able to collaborate with contemporaries from Iceland and from the UK, and spent a few days in London, culminating in a performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. You can read about this experience in an earlier post Music is Our Language

And here are the priorities to be met in Youth In Action projects: 
A key goal of the programme is to raise awareness in young people that they are citizens of Europe, as well as citizens of their own countries. The aim is to get youth actively involved in shaping the future of the European Union. Projects will have to show a strong European dimension if they are to receive programme backing.
Participation of young people: Youth in Action promotes and supports young people’s involvement in democratic life, spurring them on to be active citizens who care about their communities and understand the value of representative democracy.
Cultural diversity: Respect for people’s cultural origins is at the heart of the Youth in Action programme, as is the desire to fight against racism and xenophobia – forces that undermine European values and people’s solidarity.
Inclusion: The focus is on ensuring that young people with fewer opportunities get access to the Youth in Action programme, as well as on encouraging projects with a thematic focus on inclusion.
Annual priorities: In addition to these permanent priorities, each year the focus is also placed on specific annual priorities.

Additionally, when students  engage with institutions in an international context schools should attempt to facilitate personal encounters with leading figures and decision makers so that students become familiar with the physical environments of such organisations, and understand how these institutions function. Examples of such institutions can range from a municipal authority in a European twinned town to the European Parliament.
An additional dimension to the engagement of students with twinned towns and with other institutions, is that the  strategy contributes to increasing your school’s impact:
 in the home community your school becomes known as a school on the move; in the receiving community your school becomes known as a school from somewhere.

Curriculum extension

A truly global education requires first- hand experience of the places and peoples being studied, and communication in a foreign language is best practised in the foreign country.
School strategy can include students in international travel to provide curriculum extension opportunities in these areas of the curriculum and many more.

Hosting visiting students

An international strategy for student international engagement will address the need to make provision for those students who are not able to travel outside their own country, whether it be due to parental choice or due to physical or financial limitations. The strategy involves bringing as much of the world as possible to the school, hosting groups as occasional day visitors, or involving students as hosts of foreign guests in their homes without a commitment to a return visit.
There are school groups from many countries looking for hosts, and contacts with local, regional or national education administration will be the safest way to achieve this.   
Welcoming performing arts groups is an obvious example, and there are numerous high quality ensembles, especially from high schools in the USA, following their tradition of long-distance travel, who are very happy to come and perform for your students, and stay a day or longer. Locate reputable travel companies who work in this field and make your school known as a host venue.

The digital world 2.0

Of course, even without travelling with teachers and  without welcoming students into their homes, our students can link up effectively and meaningfully with their colleagues around the world. Yes, they might have to sacrifice a couple f hours sleep and get to school extra early to match waking hours in different time zones, but undoubtedly, quality connections can be made and maintained. In the end, though, in spite of Dr. Adams’ enthusiasm for digital connections, I am convinced that personal encounters are the key to real understanding between persons of different nationalities, and the true hope for intercultural dialogue.
Dr. J. Michael Adams, of Fairleigh Dickinson University in the USA, says:
Our students are ready for a global education. The pollster John Zogby has described this age group as "First Globals," and he concludes they are "the most outward-looking and accepting generation in American history" who bring a "consistently global perspective to everything... More than any generation, they see themselves as citizens of the planet, not of any nation in particular."
They have crossed the gateway to the global century. Through the Internet and social networking, they interact with people everywhere. They are tolerant and appreciate differences, and they want to build bridges across the diversity of world ideas, people, cultures and nations.

Finally...plan ahead to take part with your students in the International Education Week organised by the US government. Dates are already set for 2011 and 2012:
International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

We encourage the participation of all individuals and institutions interested in international education and exchange activities, including schools, colleges and universities, embassies, international organizations, businesses, associations, and community organizations.
The dates for IEW 2011 are November 14th - 18th.
The dates for IEW 2012 are November 12th - 16th.