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As one of the first teachers of Cambridge IGCSE Global Perspectives, Talha Gul Khan says that back in 2012 it was difficult to persuade students and parents at Lahore Grammar School (LGS) to take the subject up.
Today though Global Perspectives is an increasingly popular subject, with LGS also offering it at Cambridge Lower Secondary and Cambridge International A Level thanks to the clear benefits it offers to students.
‘I love how inclusive Global Perspectives is. There's not a lot of traditional teaching involved, it is more about being a mentor to the students. Usually one of the students presents their research in class, and then we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of that presentation. I don't come into the lesson with a preconceived notion that this is what we will discuss today.
‘There's a loose curriculum I have in mind but it's very dynamic. It evolves in the class and that is something that I like about Global Perspectives. It’s the best word I can find: dynamic.’
That flexibility means that parents sometimes need some help understanding the subject.
‘Initially it was a little difficult to begin offering the course because nobody knew about it . I remember when I started off we had a group of just seven to ten students, but then it started growing exponentially.
‘It's a challenge for some parents because they know that when you do a mathematics course you end up as an engineer or an accountant, but that’s not what Global Perspective is about. I always tell them there's not one tangible outcome - that students end up in a specific profession - but it helps in everything they do.
‘It polishes interpersonal skills; there's a lot of research; there's a lot of analysis; there's a lot of cross-cultural collaboration. These are all things which are maybe not as tangible as mathematics or physics or chemistry but they have an application everywhere.
‘The fact that universities look at applicants from a very holistic point of view, and like students who have interacted with people from different cultures, makes it very easy for us to promote Global Perspectives as a great choice.’
The school also has a great track record in supporting some impressive projects by Global Perspectives students.
‘We are both lucky and unlucky because in Pakistan many of the global issues we discuss are very relevant, so when students come up with solutions they can have a big impact.
‘Some areas of Pakistan do not have access to clean drinking water. One group of students discovered these water filtration straws. They were very easily available abroad and under $1 per per straw, but instead of just importing them they decided to reverse engineer the whole thing.
‘They tried replicating them and got them certified by a laboratory here in Pakistan. Then they started teaching people how to make those straws.’
In another project we had a severe dengue outbreak, a mosquito-borne disease. The students came up with a mosquito trap which was very simple to make just using soda bottles. It was very easy to do but it was something which was a little out of the box.
‘They went to rural areas and shared that skill, and then they went back after a couple of days and saw how that idea had propagated. Everybody was using them, which was phenomenal.’
The ingenuity and inquisitiveness of his students means that the subject continues to be a surprising one, even eight years on.
‘I'm inspired by my students every year. Every time they come up with something, it's more inspiring than the last batch.
‘I thought I'd teach Global Perspectives for a couple of years, then transfer the skills and move on. But it's so inspiring. I keep learning from my students all the time.’
Talha Gul Khan teaches at Lahore Grammar School in Pakistan. The school opened in 1979 and now operates more than a dozen campuses. LGS offers Cambridge IGCSE, O Level and International A Level courses.