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EDUCATION MATTERS: How twinning brings the world together.

Byline: Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent

Gone are the days when school was about preparing youngsters for the big wide world outside the classroom. Today education is increasingly as much about bringing the world into the classroom. The vehicle for this revolution - like so many recent advances in everyday life - has been the internet. Education, like business, leisure and even romance, is fast becoming part of a global community that does not observe traditional boundaries. In Birmingham the bigger educational picture is most apparent in the increased numbers of schools twinning with those in other parts of the world. The internet, e-mail and video conferencing provide the technology to facilitate the trend which - as well as broadening the horizons of youngsters - yields social, cultural and psychological benefits. For in a city destined by 2020 to be the first major conurbation to have a majority black or Asian population, it is also helping give many pupils a greater sense of their identity and self-worth. An education spokeswoman for Birmingham said: 'Creating links with schools abroad can be very beneficial to pupils of all ages, whether it be by keeping them in touch with their ethnic heritage, or by exposing them to new cultures, languages and experiences.' Last year council chiefs twinned an inner city Birmingham school with one in Jamaica as part of a drive to to raise the attainment of black pupils.

The move joined Heartlands High School in Nechells with Titchfield School in Port Antonio, described in brochures as a 'remote hide-away for the rich and famous'.

As Birmingham's then head of Life Long Learning Javed Khan said: 'It is about trying to promote the cultural heritage of our ethnic minority pupils in this city, the bulk of who have an ethnic origin in one of those four countries.' That is exactly what is happening at Bordesley Green Girls' School.

It is currently playing host to a group of seven pupils and two teachers from Mohra Kanyal Girls School in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.

The girls, aged 11 to 15, come from a remote village in the lush hilly region of Mirpur, where many children have to walk up to three miles to get to school and some cannot afford to pay for their uniform.

During their two-week visit to Birmingham, which ends this Thursday, they have been learning about school in Britain, experiencing modern classroom technology, such as whiteboards, and going on visits across the region.

In return, pupils at Bordesley Green - 97 per cent of them are from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds - are learning something about their heritage.

'It has had a huge impact in promoting positive messages to the community,' said the school's head teacher, Clare Considine.

'It is about strengthening the identity of the young people in an international dimension.'

The visit was the result of a twinning relationship that started two years ago.

Initially, youngsters exchanged letters and photographs and spoke occasionally on the phone.

Nahim Mahmood, chairman of The Mohra Kanyal Development Association which spearheaded the twinning, has worked to bring modern forms of communications into the relationship.

'We came up with the idea that rather than girls sending letters, we should get computers into the school in Kashmir and they should be talking via e-mail and video conferencing.

'We raised the money and sent it out there and now they have ten computers.'

Mr Mahmood agrees the venture has given the school's pupils a sense that their culture and background is being appreciated within the education system.

'The girls at Bordesley Green gained an incredible insight into their culture,' he said.

'I think more schools should do it because it is a great opportunity to really blend in with other cultures.

'It is a way of integrating and finding out what is going on in other countries.

'I hope we serve as an example to others.'


Taira Fardose, from Kashmir, with Clare Considine, headteacher of Bordesley Green Girls School and Nasreen Bakhari, a Kashmiri headteacher, with pupils from both schools in the background
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 29, 2004
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