After nine years of teaching Cambridge IGCSE Global Perspectives, Ian Mills is clear about the benefits it has for students at Leipzig International School in Germany – especially those going on to further study.
Indeed, the programme has proved so successful that the school is now also offering it outside of the IGCSE programme.
‘For me, the beauty of Global Perspectives is being able to adapt the content and the teaching points so that students are able to practise their skills in ways relevant to their personal context.
‘The resources Cambridge International produces are very good and they are designed in such a way that you're able to adapt them to how you want to use them.
‘For a teacher who is possibly feeling a bit uncomfortable about a topic or a certain skill, they're super because you can just pick them up and run with them.
‘For the teacher who feels a little bit more adventurous, they're a super starting point to get a bit of inspiration and then adapt them for the level of the students that you have in class. Or you can use them as a great starting place for thinking ‘here's a really relevant example of what's happening just down the road’ and then can use that lesson idea and that structure but change the source, and change the access point of the content.
‘I try to create lessons that are relevant to the students in Germany and Leipzig first and foremost, to get our local perspective, and then try to expand beyond that.
‘It’s a challenge, but it is also quite refreshing at the same time, that you don't have a set text that you need to go through.’
Coaching students to succeed
‘I think partly you need to approach Global Perspectives almost like sports training. If you were teaching somebody to improve their serve in tennis, there are elements they need to break down and focus on, and practice and practice and practice. Global Perspectives is like that, but with research and thinking skills.
‘In a Global Perspectives lesson, the teacher doesn’t need to be the expert in the room. You can explore any subject together with your students, and I think they get more out of seeing that being modelled than they would if you just told them the answer straight away.
‘It puts them at an advantage when it comes to critical thinking, doing extended essays, going through the essay writing process, and being able to think about sources.
‘We've developed this programme now where we've got Global Perspectives as an exam choice, but even if they don't pick it then every student gets at least one period a week of Global Perspectives so they get access to the research, the evaluation, analysis, and communication skills.’
‘We are also now offering Cambridge Global Perspectives to our lower secondary students, so that every student in grades 6 to 10 can start to build key skills. I think the younger students are beginning to see the overlaps between the different subjects.’
Making change for the better
‘Over the time I’ve been teaching it has been interesting seeing the development of Global Perspectives team projects. Initially students tended to create a lesson, create a PowerPoint, or do a leaflet to try to inform people. Now because we ask students “How will you know if you’ve succeeded? How are you going to be able to show that you've achieved your aim?”, they have expanded their ideas.
‘We’ve got two current projects where students are hosting events and fundraising for projects that are happening in the local community, and through that supporting grassroots action that leads to national change, and then global change.
‘I think it's nice to see their confidence growing, and that they are finding new ways of being able to express themselves by getting outside their comfort zone a little bit.
‘It’s also really interesting talking to students after the course who say their favourite part was the individual essays. I can guarantee that whilst they were writing them they weren't their favourite part, but afterwards they see the value.’
Online safety and confidence in a changing world
‘We tend to see our grade 6 students as digital savvy but in some respects they are pretty naïve when it comes to technology. Yes, they might be able to access something quite quickly, but the questions about what you can trust are still very relevant because anybody can create this content on the internet.
‘It's about opening their eyes to being a little bit critical about things. There is some really helpful overlap with digital literacy, and helping to understanding the content which we can consume and distribute.
‘It's tough having a laptop in front of you and the internet is your oyster. There is so much material out there, you could go down the rabbit hole and get completely lost. The approaches we teach in Global Perspectives are essential in helping students avoid that.’
Ian Mills teaches at Leipzig International School in Germany. The school was founded in 1992 and expanded to include a kindergarten in 2014, and now has around 950 students. At secondary level, students follow the Cambridge Pathway up to Cambridge IGCSE.