International flavour added in classroom

Hira School is developing a taste for the international.

Principal Tonnie Uiterwijk returned to the school this year after spending tw0 years teaching in Italy.

He brought back with him a desire to expose his students to other cultures and languages and has picked up a few ideas he is putting in place at his school.

"We want to look beyond New Zealand. Something I will be promoting more and more is that we look at ourselves as global citizens. In New Zealand, everything is quite insular."

Uiterwijk taught in an International Baccalaureate school in Italy. It was an expensive private school teaching children of diplomats and football players, or those on international contracts. There were schools like it through the world which provided consistency of education for transient families.

There was an international staff, with 150 students and 32 staff.

"People pay big money to be in these schools, about € 13,000, that's about $18,000 per year, per student. You walk into the class and think ‘there's $280, 000 sitting on my carpet'."

His school in Hira has 50 students, and while it is decile 10, the highest in decile ranking, he estimated if the Italian school had a ranking, it would be about 23.

There would be specialist teachers for a range of subjects such as music, art and PE.

Hira School is currently focusing on learning different languages. Uiterwijk wanted to encourage his students to learn languages because it would help in their futures.

"To choose languages at secondary school you need to be exposed to it [before then]."

Students were learning Samoan, French, Italian and Japanese.

He was also inspired by the school's emphasis on interpersonal skills in the child, rather than purely looking at academic outcomes.

"They have key competencies in the learner profile, like being a risk-taker or well-balanced."

Next term Uiterwijk plans to introduce another idea taken from the International Baccalaureate.

"One thing I thought was really great, was the student-led conference day, where children were in charge. Parents came to school and they would go through it with the child. The child tells them about what they have been learning."

They would do activities together so parents would understand what the child did in the school day.

"It's a good way to get the parents involved in their education and the child takes responsibility for their own learning rather than telling it in a report."

The Nelson Mail