A British education differs from other systems of education in some key aspects. A key aim is to develop a deep understanding of the subject matter, rather than relying on a large amount of rote learning of facts. Although tests and assessments do take place regularly, there is no “monthly test” as such and, indeed, teaching excessively to the test, rather than highlighting learning for the sake of learning, is frowned upon.
In Mathematics, for example, known as “Numeracy” in Primary, emphasis is placed on mental and oral maths, often via starter activities in Numeracy lessons in Primary, as well as written maths exercises. English, or “Literacy” lessons are aimed at fostering strong key skills, including broad reading and writing, speaking and listening and drama abilities, as well as learning vocabulary, spelling words, and grammar rules.
Homework will be light in early Primary (Foundation and Key Stage One), when it is expected that children will do a small session of daily reading with a parent or carer/ guardian. The homework load will increase as children get older; it tends to be heavy for Years 2 and above around the time of the Arabic midyear and end-year exams for local pupils who take Arabic, Religion and Egyptian Social Studies. It is expected that children will be responsible in doing their homework and will be able to complete it quite independently, especially from Key Stage 2 onwards.
Key assessments are marked to date using National Curriculum Levels, which are criterion-based – linked to what a child can or cannot yet do in a particular subject at a given time, according to evidence in written work, observed practical work and assessments.
Differentiation is a key part of teaching and learning. This means that teachers plan to meet the needs of various learners, of differing abilities and levels of motivation. At times, that will mean different groups of pupils perhaps doing different work, according to their abilities. Often it takes the form of additional, more challenging work, given to pupils after they have finished their main task in class. Teachers reserve the right to decide the optimal seating arrangement in different lessons.
Learning and teaching is holistic, and aimed at the “whole child”. Some lessons and activities may be centred around speaking and thinking/reasoning tasks (such as a class debate session, for example), or have a different creative outcome, such as a role play, organised and planned in groups, or posters designed and produced in pairs, to illustrate a particular learning objective or topic. Traditional exercises and worksheets are also used, but not at the exclusion of other, creative teaching methods.
Teachers plan to meet various learning styles (kinaesthetic, auditory and visual), and use technology, often via the class Smart Board, to deliver high-impact, multi-sensory and memorable lessons to our young learners. Some learning may take place in out-of-class contexts, such as an animal hunt in the school grounds, or measuring work, estimating and measuring the length and width of the school playground, or linked to a school visit or curriculum-related trip.
Books are bought by school and by parents and will often be used for class work and homework, but the English National Curriculum is based on a series of objectives rather than just books, and a variety of suitable resources will be used to support learning and teaching not just books alone.
Excellent attendance and punctuality is expected of pupils. Any pupil with a series of unauthorised and undocumented absences may be asked to leave the school. Poor attendance is extremely closely linked statistically with academic failure, and we believe at The British School in Cairo that every lesson and every day really counts.