In this interview with Uchechukwu Nnaike, the Deputy Director of Education at Greensprings School, Lagos, Dr. Barney Wilson, explained why the school adopted the theme ‘Learning beyond Limits’ for the 2020/2021 academic year, and how it adapted to the new normal while ensuring that there was no learning gap during the COVID-19 lockdown
What is the idea behind having a theme every academic year?
By having a theme every year, it allows us to go deeper and deeper into what we do, which is learning. It brings us together as a community, gives us a common language, makes us focus and gives us a direction. It’s just like a catapult that drives us to the next level.
How did the theme for last year impact the school community?
Last year’s theme was ‘Rigour: Pushing Harder, Working Smarter’. Rigour is about intensity and what that did for the school was to encourage our students to learn at a deeper level. Our students not only get theoretical knowledge, but also learn how to apply the knowledge. As an example, for our students learning maths, rigour is encouraging them to learn more about topics so that they can apply it and understand it in context. It is about being more intentional and understanding what is being taught so that they can apply it later.
The theme took our students from just learning things that were in the textbooks into knowing that they know what they know and that they know that they know it- when it comes to what they are learning.
Could you explain the theme for the 2020/2021 academic year?
We are continuing with “Rigour,” but in a slightly different direction. The new theme is ‘Rigour: Learning beyond Limits’. In this context, the limit can be the classroom, textbook or syllabus. When we say learning beyond limit, we mean we want our students to think of how what they are learning is connected to the bigger picture; giving them the opportunity to explore how they can use what they are learning to collaborate with fellow students who are not on-site; thereby having the ability to connect to a global project. We want our students to think about how what their learning fits into the bigger body of knowledge.
Learning beyond Limits means making our students think beyond the grade and to realise that grade is not as important as the contents and the context of the things they are learning. It is about the students owning their learning and understanding that there is a bigger picture and that they are not confined to learning only the things in the textbooks. They can get additional books or go online so that they can master the subject and be more versed when they need to apply their knowledge.
In all, it is to make our students think beyond the limits they may have put on themselves or the teacher may have put on them. It is the expectation of making them believe they are part of something bigger.
What inspired the theme ‘Learning beyond Limits’?
Before COVID-19 and the EndSARS protest in Nigeria, students primarily learned in the classroom. But when the events happened, we created a robust online platform, which allowed students to learn from home. This gave them more learning options, and those limitations were no longer there. When all these events went down, our platform helped students across the world to learn beyond limits, and we now have students logging in from not just Nigeria, but also from Canada, United Kingdom and United States of America. They are all learning on our platform beyond their own limitations.
Also, we are ready to react and be proactive in any situation. Let’s say, for example, the government calls for another lockdown, we now have a platform that can sustain 100 per cent online learning. We also currently have hybrid learning options, whereby some students can learn on-site, while their counterparts learn online simultaneously.
Learning beyond limit is key. For example, students in the US have a natural curiosity about Nigeria, but many of them may not get the chance to visit the country. Nigerian students may have a natural curiosity about China, but may never get a chance to travel to China. Students should be able to talk to one another and learn together. So, we want to create an avenue, maybe project-based or curriculum-based, where students are more global and therefore would be able to see beyond the limitations of the classroom and syllabus.
What should parents expect from the school?
Greensprings School is the place to be. We are an academic and scholarly institution. We want to be seen as competent in what we do, and as a school that’s thematic, you can also expect quality from us. Our students are scholars, our teachers are scholars, and we are a learning community that embraces new ideas. We go beyond expectations so that we can reach another level of excellence.