Whilst not an authority on this matter I thought I would write a quick piece on this whilst I can still remember what its like to teach in the UK, its already a fading memory……
Whilst I realise my market is niche, there may one day be people in the situation I was in 12 months ago who are coming out here to teach and have no idea what to expect in terms of their day to day classroom teaching. There may also be others who are just interested how teaching and learning in secondary geography is different in the Indian Ocean, for those people this may prove a little interesting too.
Firstly, for reference I am teaching the iGCSE Cambridge Geography spec and its the first time I have taught that which in itself is a learning curve too, its more a watered down A-Level than a GCSE and very old school.
From a geographers perspective the main thing I noticed was how in tune with the natural world students were compared with their UK counterparts. In an early piece of fieldwork I wanted Y9 and 10 students to complete transects where they had to record the names of plant species found. Of course I armed myself with an extensive guidebook to the plants of the Seychelles lowland regions so that I could help them identify the plants they came across. This was not needed. Where UK students would not be able to distinguish even the most common local plants, Seychellois could tell me the names in Creole and in most cases translate them into English. This theme has continued, students here have grown up with an added interest in their environment and a passion for learning about it. Quite why this would be is a mystery but I put it down to there being such a wonderful natural environment here and their being not a lot in the way of games consoles and shopping malls and all the other things which UK kids have to distract them.
This brings me to another distinct difference, that being that Seychelles kids have no concept of celebrity or brands or fashion. This is very refreshing in so many ways but can also make the teaching of certain things like Trans-National Corporations and advertising very difficult. When they are not exposed to slogans or logos or anything like that its hard to teach them the power of them. Remember this is a country with no McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, Subway or even Tesco. There are no celebrities here due to local media having such limited funds and local sportsmen and music stars having such limited fan bases (think of a country with the same population as Burnley) and this means the concept of celebrity is very alien. In an early lesson I did in the whole of year 8 nobody knew who Beyonce or Didier Drogba were but they all knew Bob Marley, reggae culture is big here. Since then I have had numerous reminders of the lack of globalisation here. Students all support English football teams but know of no players by name, Formula 1 is unheard of here and Western pop music is not big here, very few British and American acts are on the radio here. A colleague of mine did a brand recognition task in a lesson and nobody knew the Nike logo for example. You might think this is not a problem for a teacher but when you have lesson plans built around UK kids it can spring surprises. In the past I have built lessons around ‘hooks’ which draw kids in, maybe a music video, a youtube clip or similar which would grab their attention as something they like and I use this as a basis of a lesson. We all do this. Out here, it often falls flat which can be a source of great frustration when a youtube clip you have used 10 times before as an inspiring or thought-provoking starter is met with shrugs.
In general though here very little is met with shrugs. The average student here is so much more enthusiastic and motivated than their UK counterparts. In general they want to work and will work hard on any task given to them. In particular I have noticed they take much longer over tasks than UK kids and this is both good and bad. The good is that they want all tasks to be completed to a high standard with much better standards of presentation than UK kids. The bad is that they struggle to work to a schedule. This is a country where time is not a currency, very little runs of time and most people are late for most things and so if you don’t complete classwork in time no matter. The problem is that when it comes to exams, not completing in time does matter. So far its been a painstaking process to stop year 10 students copying out questions in exams before answering them and stopping them from colouring in diagrams when taking notes.
Another issue is the opposite of one mentioned earlier, in that whilst they are very good at recognising and being interested in the natural world they have a much weaker understanding of some aspects of geography than their UK counterparts in particular urban geography. This makes sense as Victoria, the capital city of the Seychelles is a small market town by UK standards and differs greatly from the kind of world cities studied at GCSE. Certainly concepts like Burgess models and inner city issues are alien concepts here and ones which I have found students struggle with.
The final issue is specific to working in a new school here. All of our secondary students had spent a good deal of their education in the government school system here, which it is fair to say is very different to what is encouraged in the UK. From what I can gather teaching is very text book and teacher lead and discipline is given utmost importance over progress. This leaves us with students who are very well behaved but for whom independent learning and class or group discussion can be difficult. Student led lessons which I have taught many times in the UK and felt progress was excellent (including a lesson observed by OFSTED in May as outstanding) have failed here, whereas more teacher led lessons have yielded good student engagement and outcomes. Most students would rather be handed a text book and told to sit in silence than an interactive out of your seats style lesson. My world turned upside down!!! Thankfully, our head is keen to keep pushing us to push independent learning on them and slowly they are coming round. Exciting to see this process going on.
Generally I have found teaching in the Seychelles to be a interesting and exciting experience so far and I have enjoyed the challenge or trying to adapt tried and tested good or outstanding UK lessons and turning them into lessons which work here. Long may this adventure continue.