Unlike other weeks, I will not talk about politics or media, I will talk about an education beacon in Kurdistan that has not received much attention by neither parents nor authorities, simply because it does not teach in English, Kurdish or Turkish. It teaches in French.
Amidst a normal Kurdish neighbourhood of the capital Erbil, stands the school of Danielle Mitterrand. Unlike most other “famous and international” schools in the capital, they seem to be adopting a more practical and genuine approach to education. An approach that has at the centre of it the personality and development of the child, not the satisfaction of parents who usually compare their children’s marks and knowledge of English in their social gatherings.
As a returning Kurd, I placed my daughter in one of those “famous and international” schools that taught in English and did all the things that makes parents “proud” of their children.
But it was clear that we were forcing the school on her and although she seemed to excel in her studies but she did not seem to understand them, she memorized everything.
With my limited knowledge of education systems around the world and as a trainer of media in the Middle East, I could see that something was wrong.
In this day and age of information, education has changed from teaching children everything to developing their skills and training them on gathering information, processing them and applying them to practice.
In the absence of clear regulations and guidelines for educational standards and for levels of schools, many parents seem to opt for the English language or Turkish language schools of Kurdistan. But this does not necessarily mean that the child is developing well or learning much even English.
When I used to take my child in the mornings to the “famous and international” school, I often spotted English spelling mistakes by the teachers who were not native English speakers and were tasked with teaching children.
What I found interesting that many of the teachers lacked qualifications to teach and they were there because they spoke or studied English in Europe in the past.
The teachers of the French school have been through the rigorous French teacher training programme of five years that makes it very difficult to slip the net.
This is probably the reason for not allowing the parents to have direct contact with teachers in the “famous and international” school.
The other key element that I noticed in the French school is the provision of a real normal environment for the personal and cultural development of the child.
Last week, the French school had its end-of-year concert, everything that was on stage was made by the students of the school and not imported from abroad or made by adults to make things look good for the parents.
The play and the show was a lot more simpler than that of the “famous and international” school, but the key difference was that this one was genuine.
In the other school, my child did not speak Kurdish because “it was not posh”. In the French school, she is a proud communicative Kurd!
The presence of the French School in Erbil presents a great opportunity for many parents to develop their children in a healthy way.
After all, learning a language is one thing, and the child’s education and development in the right direction is another. To learn a new language, especially English is easy. But to unlearn bad habits and ways of learning picked up from bad schooling is almost impossible.