European differences

This has been a difficult week in the camp. There continue to be very significant comings and goings and we lost another dozen students over the last five days. The camp has been tense this week and we had a couple of days of disturbances on the neighbouring motorway. This led to police action, which in turn led to some of the children staying at home for several days.

Educational programmes continue. There are currently 114 children in camp, of which we saw 92 in school during the week. Over the last few months our focus has been upon producing educational programmes which attempt to pitch the learning at the age appropriate levels which would normally be expected in European schools.

As education is not compulsory, one of the key features of programmes has to be a built in sense of achievement, which enables the children to feel that they are making progress and encourages them to keep engaging hour by hour and day by day. We have done this by essentially designing the curriculum around very clear and distinct weekly focuses. Each focus is broken down into 5 elements, so that there is a day by day progression towards the end goal for the week. This enables the children to see very clearly for themselves that they must attend each day in order to complete the programme and complete the focus before the next week begins, with a new focus. With children coming and going so often, our programmes have had to be flexible enough to accommodate children starting at different points. We have also found repeatedly that children of similar ages have very different educational backgrounds due to the scale of disruption of their previous education. We can have a group of 12 year olds, for example, with 3-4 years difference in the amount of schooling that they have had previously. One pupil reported that his school was blown up and so he didn’t go to school for two years before he left home. And he has been wandering around Europe for the last nine months. So he has been out of school for almost 3 years.

We continue to be fortunate enough to have volunteer teachers working with us from a range of European countries. This helps us to identify the key elements of different national educational systems quickly. It also means that we can sometimes smile at the foibles in our different educational systems and approaches. Taking a trivial example, we were putting desks on chairs in order to sweep the floor at the end of the school day this week and suddenly noticed that teachers from Belgian, France and England seemed to have distinctly different ways of putting the chairs on the desks. It made us laugh at ourselves and the way that we get set in our educational ways. We never expected so much international collaboration when we started and one of the big benefits to us all, is that it keeps making us reflect on what we do, and why we do it in specific ways, in our own individual national educational systems.

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