education.govt.nz

Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards 2015

Issue: Volume 93, Number 17

Posted: 22 September 2014
Reference #: 1H9csb

Ministers at the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers

The awards seek to recognise positive and promising practice in education from any of the Commonwealth member countries. Specifically, the awards seek not to acknowledge the efforts of individuals, but to highlight programmes, initiatives, policies, projects, or strategies that are achieving results for children and that have the potential to be replicated elsewhere.

The programme was launched in 2005 and is run every three years to coincide with the conference. The first round of awards were given at the 16th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in 2006 in South Africa. They were endorsed by ministers from throughout the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General Deodat Maharaj said in a press release, “what has worked well in one of our member states may well deliver results in another. By sharing news or successes and such experiences we can offer practical support to fellow practitioners and educational establishments across the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards have been growing steadily in size and reputation since their inauguration, with the last round attracting 123 entries from across the world. First prize went to a community-based project in Rwanda, which judges felt addressed an urgent need to revitalise education after the devastation of the civil war and genocide in that country.

Anatomy of an award entry

Annette MacDonald is a Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) practitioner who travelled as a finalist in the Jubilee Prize category to the 2012 presentation in Mauritius. She says she was inspired – with colleague Mary Hancox – to apply for the awards in 2011, but by the time she was contacted, she’d forgotten all about it.

At the time, Annette was national coordinator of the RTLB service, and Mary was a regional representative.

“We’d both been thinking along the lines of ‘there’s people out there doing really good stuff; we need to bring this together and create a resource so people across the country see what effective practice looks like for an RTLB. We hoped to put together a resource and use it as a catalyst for ongoing improvement within the RTLB workforce. Our intent was to use the resource to promote professional growth,” says Annette.

“We wanted this to be a supporting tool for induction – for training and for use within communications of practice – so teachers could look at examples of RTLB good practice and talk about implications.

“We called for examples of work from around the country, and we chose ones that had quite robust data that could demonstrate the difference that they made, the impact of the RTLB work. We then looked at the research to support what they’d done, so we annotated these examples and created this booklet. It’s not a fancy bound publication, but I understand it’s been well-used throughout the country.”

During the collation of this resource, Annette saw an article in Education Gazette promoting the awards, and so she thought it a great opportunity to throw some of the good news stories she’d gathered into the ring. A year or so later, following an email for the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, and with support from the Ministry of Education, she was on the plane to Mauritius as one of 12 finalists. Annette says the experience gave her a real sense of perspective.

“Some of the finalists were from developing African countries; one was from Rwanda, and they had these amazing projects where they had the communities helping to build schools, so they developed a real sense of ownership. There were others who had designed catch-up education programmes for young people that had been recruited as child soldiers and had missed their education. It was really humbling actually, being a finalist in that sort of company.”

Connecting cultures recognised in award

Annette and Mary came away with the special Jubilee Prize; this seeks to recognise programmes that best reflect the Commonwealth theme of connecting cultures. Annette says that it’s no surprise to her that the judges saw this in their entry, as cultural responsiveness underpins everything the RTLB service is trying to achieve.

“We don’t see it as being an add-on or an overlay, but it kind of threads through everything we do. That would be right from when we first pick up a new case, in terms of our connections with whānau, and meeting them in a place they’re comfortable with, hearing their priorities and aspirations for their tamariki, and involving them from the outset.

“We don’t come in as ‘experts’: we’re not the holders of all the knowledge. Our model is one of collaborative consultation, so we gather info about a situation, in an ecological way. We’re looking at what’s happening for the student, but in the context of the classroom, their family, the community, the playground.”

How to enter in 2015

Any entry must have the backing of your school, as well as the Ministry or other educational institution, or a civil society organisation. So if you think your programme is making a difference, talk to your principal in the first instance. Then if you decide to apply, let the International Division of the Ministry know about your application.

The awards will be judged independently. Those organising the awards have identified eight action areas; entries should be applicable to one or more of the following:

  • achieving universal primary education
  • eliminating gender disparities in education
  • improving quality in education
  • mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS on education systems
  • supporting education in difficult circumstances
  • using distance learning to overcome barriers
  • using education to promote sustainable development – e.g. climate change education
  • promoting civil paths to peace – e.g. respect and understanding.

Research example

One of the best-practice examples that Annette and Mary used to strengthen their application for the awards was a ‘playground audit’ that was carried out at a large, decile 5, primary school.

This particular school was facing familiar problems with negative playground behaviours and negative perceptions from teachers at the prospect of playground duty. Data was collected by speaking with students, teachers, and senior management. Questions to students included gauging their thoughts on whether they felt safe and welcomed into the playground environment.

From that initial data collection, certain negative perceptions emerged, from teachers doing playground duty to the high numbers of students on detentions every lunch time.

“Students who may have been referred to the RTLB service as individuals, were often those that were ‘benched’ or removed from the playground.

They did have playground equipment, but they had this system that was quite slow, and inequitable; it was a free-for-all basically, so lots of negative behaviour developed.

The resulting community consultation and enacted strategy saw negative playground behaviour drop by a whopping 66 per cent.”

Submitting your entry

Submissions must be received by 15 January 2015. Applications should be sent:

  • By email to: educationawards@commonwealth.int
  • and/or posted to:
    The Coordinator, Education Good Practice Awards, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House, Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX, UK

More information and the application form is available:

BY Jaylan Boyle
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:04 am, 22 September 2014

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