At 65, Hala Fadda still dances in the classroom - a place where diverse groups of learners work together as if trying to solve a puzzle. The Palestinian-British teacher with 40 years of experience behind her does not feel the urge to control her vibrant students unless disciplinary issues arise. She believes that students have no time to be naughty once they are exposed to the new world of learning -where the curriculum framework has turned truly global.
The educational program is called IB (International Baccalaureate). Formed around 1999 by a group of visionary educational enthusiasts, IB is a program that 'aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people that help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect'.
Hala was in Kuwait last weekend at Kuwait Bilingual School (KBS), Jahra, which follows the IB Primary Years Program. She held two workshops separately for the Arabic and the English teaching staff. "I'm happy that they didn't shoot me," Hala quipped. She dispelled the myth of change-resistant teachers that have settled into comfort zones, "The 85 teachers at the Jahra school are ready to take up IB, good news for Jahra and for Kuwait," she said. She spent an entire working day with primary students as well, singing with them, reading out stories set in the Arabian deserts enlivened by local characters.
Hala believes in taking a trans-disciplinary approach to learning, supporting her views with examples using children's books to write specifically about the Arabian Gulf, history, literature, culture, myths and legends. Without downplaying the importance of essential elements in education, IB underlines ongoing assessment and effectiveness of collaborative planning in an international curriculum that caters to the needs of tomorrow's global citizens. In Kuwait, KBS Jahra has been running the IB preliminary program for the second consecutive year.
Hala's workshop was an inspiring experience for staff members. Teachers were highly enthusiastic about participating in the workshop, said Rebecca Hawtin, the IB Coordinator at KBS. "This was a culture swapping experience," said an American teacher, recalling a story that Hala read out. In the story, 'The Sandwich Swap', Lily and Salma, American and Arab characters come to accept and respect two cultures symbolized through the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the hummus-pita sandwich, after displaying an initial reluctance. "The story spans across continents and transcends our mind." Hala had a piece of advice to teachers when she was leaving KBS: 'Do not work more than your students'.
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