‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’ – Nelson Mandela
The world is witnessing so much divisiveness and intolerance today. Why is it that as geographical boundaries are dissolving due to technological advances, so many walls are being erected in our minds around colour, race and religion?
To me, the answer lies in educating the future generations – which is why I am a firm advocate of the IB pedagogy whose mission statement encapsulates its spirit –
‘The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect’.
Grade 5 recently completed a unit on equal opportunities – based on the central idea that ‘Access to equal opportunities can shape communities and make a difference in the world’. The students inquired into types of inequalities (form), their causes and impact (causation) and their actions towards reducing it (responsibility).
The unit was an engaging one – and very relevant, given the current scenario of intolerance around the world. As an educator my main responsibility is to build open minded and global citizens of the world, who will then go on to make the world a better place.
The provocation into this unit was through a gallery of images – depicting some of the different types of inequalities in society. Students observed these and then expressed their thoughts using the thinking routine ‘I see, I think, I wonder’. Sharing some glimpses of students’ interesting thought processes below:
Students then read the following poem to help them understand the term ‘inequality’. Students then expressed their understanding of inequality through the ‘Colour, Symbol, Image’ routine
(The use of visible thinking routines such as the ones listed above loosely gives a direction to student thinking and at the same increases student motivation and creativity).
The way a unit of inquiry is usually approached is by exploring each line of inquiry sequentially – however we decided to have a holistic approach this time – we categorised the inequalities (social, economic and political inequalities) and then discussed it in the framework of all the 3 LOIs. We started with social inequalities – gender and racial discrimination, and discussed the features of these inequalities, where it is observed (local and global contexts), the causes and impacts of gender and racial discrimination and then the measures to reduce it.
Students first understood terms like stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice and discussed where they have seen or experienced this in their family, community, and the world (local to global perspective). Then they watched some videos to understand how this discrimination manifests and what it looks like.
The use of real life case studies during this unit was very impactful – especially in understanding the causes and the impact of gender and racial discrimination – Kamla Harris being elected as vice president, Poorna Malavath – the youngest woman (from a disadvantaged background) to scale Mt Everest, the impact of COVID 19 on women and the effectiveness of women leaders during the pandemic .
There was indignation expressed over the unfairness of the treatment meted out by the police officers to George Floyd, discussions around how the COVID pandemic has increased stress levels among working women much more than men. Newspaper articles were analysed to prove the effectiveness of women leaders during the pandemic – four common threads that emerged : trust, decisiveness, technology, love. People at organizations of all types and sizes — from companies to schools to community groups — can benefit from incorporating truth, decisiveness, tech and love into their thoughts and actions.
Very interesting discussions took place around these cases – through the lines of inquiry and lens of the key concepts which give student inquiries a framework through guiding questions and thus allow meaningful and in-depth learning to happen.
All of the above engagements also helped in reinforcing the central idea – how access to equal opportunities can shape communities and make the world a better place. Students actually appreciated how Poorna Malavath’s perseverance in the face of discrimination helped not only in her own upliftment, but in the progress of her entire community – which was previously marginalised. How Kamla Harris being elected Vice President would inspire millions of girls and people of colour to dream big…
To better understand and thus challenge stereotypes – students read the following books –
They were then able to challenge gender and race stereotypes by creating online avatars.
Their evolving understanding of the unit came across beautifully through the poems they wrote.
It was so heartening to see the students’ thought processes evolve, the strong emotions they felt while discussing unfairness, discrimination and the resolve they expressed to change things for the better when their time came – thus displaying the true essence of being internationally minded citizens of the world .