THE HCET has played an active role in establishing the Thinking Schools movement in South Africa, and its school, the Umthombo Wolwazi Combined Farm School, has become one of eight schools in the country where this initiative is being piloted.
Developed by the Cognitive Education Centre at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, the Thinking Schools movement has had a major impact on schools in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and is spreading rapidly throughout the world.
In February 2011, the Trust and the International Association for Cognitive Education in Southern Africa (IACESA) co-hosted a conference on Thinking Schools. Held in Cape Town, the four-day conference was attended by more than 400 delegates from schools all over South Africa.
The conference was very inspiring. Participants were privileged to hear presentations by international experts such as Dr David Hyerle, developer of the Thinking Maps model; Prof Bob Burden, director of the Cognitive Education Centre at Exeter; and James Anderson, founder of the Habits of Mind Teachers Network. Local speakers included Prof Brian O’Connell, vice-chancellor and rector of the University of the Western Cape; Dr Mamphela Ramphele, business leader and education expert; Prof Anita Worrall, president of IACESA; and Dr Louis Benjamin, originator of the Basic Concepts Programme.
HCET representatives made several presentations on innovative teaching methods employed at the Trust’s educational institutions.
At the close of the conference, participants decided to launch the Thinking Schools journey in South Africa. This has resulted in the formation of Thinking Schools South Africa (TSSA), an affiliate of Thinking Schools International (TSI), with Dr Benjamin as co-ordinator.
A common vision
Following discussions with our staff, we have decided to become a Thinking School. Briefly stated, a Thinking School is one which regards itself as an inclusive educational community whose members – administrators, teachers and learners – share a common understanding and vision of learning and teaching, and work together to make this vision a reality.
It involves both staff and students learning how to think in critical and creative ways, and using these skills to develop a meaningful curriculum and associated activities. As a result, learners think more effectively, learn more, achieve more, and gain more enjoyment and satisfaction out of learning.
The journey towards becoming a Thinking School will be a challenging one, and will take a lot of dedication and hard work. Among other things, it will require us to re-examine all our ideas of why and how we teach. However, given the educational challenges faced by the Trust and many other educational institutions in South Africa, we believe this is our best way forward.
Becoming a Thinking School will give us an opportunity to take our teaching and learning to higher level, and to work closely with local as well as international experts in the process.