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Making a difference in schools from the inside out

At the Pearson Marang Education Trust (PMET), our mission for the last 14 years has been to improve the quality of teaching, learning and school management in South Africa.
Making a difference in schools from the inside out

Our mandate has always been to contribute sustainably to the broader education community through direct provisioning of research-based professional development and support to teachers, school management teams (SMTs) and district officials in rural and township schools in selected districts across six provinces.

PMET’s school-based support journey began with 16 deep rural schools in four provinces in 2008. In 2015, this reach extended to six provinces where partnerships were established with 111 deep rural and township schools. Our success lies in our localised approach as we have immersed ourselves in the South African schooling environment and community.

PMET’s approach to development and support carefully blends personal and professional development, with robust emphasis distinction on emotional intelligence and its impact on individuals and organisations. School and teacher development focuses on creating opportunities to regularly engage teachers and SMT members in self and team reflection exercises. These allow them the freedom to set personal and professional goals which could facilitate shifts at individual and organisational levels, subsequently enhancing the delivery of quality education to learners in the classroom.

Home grown talent

The facilitators who provide direct support to schools are based in the communities that PMET schools serve. PMET facilitators began their careers as teachers and principals in the communities where they now serve as development consultants. The team thus has the advantage of a nuanced understanding of community dynamics, knowledge of the local language, culture and complexities of schools and districts. Facilitators spend four days a week in schools, so rather than parachuting in 'outsiders', these talented individuals were carefully selected in 2015.

Taking an inside-out approach

PMET is committed to life-long learning, promoting continuous professional development as an absolute. This applies to the educators in the schools we work with and even more so to our staff. We are therefore deeply invested in the development and support of the PMET team, where personal and professional development is prioritised.

If you want to effect change , you need to start from the inside out. At PMET this plays out in two ways. Firstly, we strongly believe in the interplay between personal and professional development. By understanding and influencing the personal, we can more effectively impact the professional. Change comes from within, and that begins with our hearts and minds as individuals. A second perspective is at the level of the organisation and its mandate to effect systemic change. Start within your organisation and build capacity, knowledge and expertise on the inside so that those you work with on the outside can reap the maximum benefit of your support and interventions.

PMET remains committed to developing the 'inside' through regular check-ins focusing on the personal and professional development of staff. Fridays are dedicated to reflective writing and conversations between colleagues across the country. The reflective reports which are shared on One Drive serve as a substitute for staff meetings. As our colleagues are scattered around the country in six districts, this is our 'staff meeting' as we do not have the luxury of traditional staff meetings. Support within the organisation is prioritised, so weekly calls between regional supervisors and facilitators are absolute, where the focus is on sharing. The agenda for these 'meetings' includes a check-in on personal well-being and reflections on the week in terms of highlights and challenges experienced. Colleagues are coached and mentored to address difficulties they face in the field.

Enhancing emotional intelligence and addressing emotional well-being remain at the forefront in conversations and Covid-19 has indeed acted as a catalyst to prioritise these. Weekly reflections however also flag professional development needs which shape quarterly skills development sessions which are held online. Such professional development has, for example, focused on understanding and embracing inclusive education in the South African context. PMET facilitators have had to reflect on their own biases around disability, learning barriers, emotional and psycho-social challenges experienced by learners. The team worked hard to address these pertinent issues around diversity and inclusion with openness, understanding and compassion. This is the kind of deep lesson that is needed for organisations seeking growth from within, especially when we claim to want to leave no learner behind.

In essence, PMET’s investment is first in the individuals who make up the organisation – its employees. Colleagues are supported and developed to ensure that, as far as is possible, they feel capacitated to act with confidence, competence, and compassion. Real change comes from within, so we are changing South African education from the inside out.

About Dr Nadeen Moolla

Dr Nadeen Moolla is research and development manager at Pearson Marang Education Trust.
Pearson
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