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When Sakina Bharmal started teaching Cambridge Global Perspectives™ eight years ago, she could not have predicted the impact it would have on her students - or her.
From supporting the visually impaired to raising funds for people living with HIV, the course has made a real impact on the community around the Galaxy School - Wadi in Gujarat, India’s westernmost state.
Such a positive impact, in fact, that the subject is now compulsory for the school’s students at Cambridge IGCSE and is being extended to younger year groups too.
‘I used to teach geography, and I still do, but I started exploring Global Perspectives when it was a new course. As a school we wanted to bring in something which was not just limited to a textbook.
‘We wanted to train our students to be part of the thinking community which brings solutions to global problems and widen their perspective, not limited to India but across the globe, because we are trying to make them global citizens.’
Sakina believes Global Perspectives helps students develop the 21st century skills that will help them in the workplace. Galaxy chooses to teach the programmes alongside an emphasis on community service, bringing a softer benefit too: empathy.
‘In school we definitely focus on 21st century skills so collaboration and creativity are the two important things that the kids are really gaining.
‘I now have students coming back after they have gone to college and saying thank you for taking us through this journey, because they realise that the skills we taught them are helping them now.
‘One more important thing that I'm observing is that students are developing empathy. That is the key thing that is required today - I may not be part of a particular problem, but when I see things around me at least I am empathetic, and I am helping the communities which are less privileged.’
Sakina's students have covered hundreds of topics over the years, but she is particularly proud of two projects that started in the Global Perspectives classroom but took on lives of their own. The first started with a research project looking at HIV.
‘The students were researching HIV and AIDS, and the lives of people who are HIV positive around the globe.
‘They found some people who agreed to publish their work as a book, which was sold, and the money went to support students who are HIV positive or have parents who are HIV positive.’
VIDEO: DFC: Helping the Blind become more independent.
Another project was aimed at helping India’s estimated 12 million blind or partially-sighted citizens.
‘Students found that there is little infrastructure design thought for the visually impaired, so they wanted to find a way of helping people who are visually impaired to be more independent.’
They worked with a nearby school for blind children and identified using elevators as an everyday problem they could help with.
‘They thought of designing braille plates in elevators, because they found that in our city almost 80 per cent of apartments don't have them installed. So they learned how to do braille, they designed and made these plates, and they put them up in their elevators.’
Teaching a subject that can go in such unexpected directions might seem daunting, but Sakina says that support from Cambridge International has really helped.
"Of course when I started in 2012 it was difficult for me, but the Cambridge International website and the discussion forum on the School Support Hub helped me a lot. The forum team have been my constant support.
‘There are a lot of resources on the website and a dedicated online learning area for Global Perspectives. The worksheets for the special skills you need to develop and the examiner corrected sample papers have been very useful for me.’
‘I am an advocate for Global Perspectives wherever I go, and now we've started it from Grade 5 onwards.
‘All teachers are involved in the primary level and all of them are enjoying the programme, because they can connect it with all the other subjects. It has become the core of the curriculum.
‘Grade 8 are writing their first reports and Grade 5 are doing their first project, so they're all excited and enjoying the work.’
Sakina Bharmal teaches at The Galaxy School - Wadi, in Gujarat, India. The school follows the Cambridge Pathway at primary and secondary levels, including Cambridge Global Perspectives, and students take Cambridge IGCSE examinations.