The work conducted at the International School of Budapest goes beyond the constraints of an Erasmus+ mobility project. It does not only seek to provide linguistic and methodological training to the teaching staff, but also to develop new syllabi by further harmonising the British and Hungarian curricula.
Due to the school’s first Erasmus+ project, they have transformed their educational programme, and now their students also receive a new, bilingual certificate. Project Coordinator Éva Vályi told us about how the joint work brought the American, Indian, Irish and Hungarian colleagues closer to each other.
Institution: International School of Budapest and Hungarian-English Bilingual Primary School
Title: A Bridge between Cultures
Coordinator: Éva Vályi
Please, help me understand the issue that was the starting point of your project: what common difficulties at your school arise from the fact that you need to harmonise two different curricula?
A great variety of children attend our international and bilingual classes; some don’t speak Hungarian at all, but have lived here for many year; some have only recently arrived in Hungary, and there are also Hungarian children who wish to learn both languages, cultures and curricula. Our students need to meet both the Hungarian and the British requirements, which means an excessive burden put on the children, as well as a necessity for teachers to harmonise the two different national curricula and to standardise assessment. Also, our school employs teachers of various nationalities and mother tongues, so it’s important that they should understand each other as much as possible in terms of language, culture and the teaching methodology applied, since they need to work together in the classes every day.
Why did you choose the Erasmus+ programme for help?
The Erasmus+ programme offers an opportunity of professional development which is also an experience for a lifetime. Formerly, I’d had a personal experience when I spent two weeks at a university in England as an individual applicant. To this day, it’s been one of my most fundamental human and professional experiences, since I’d always wanted to be a university student there, so it was a young girl's dream come true. I wanted to share it with my colleagues, as well, because as a teacher I, too, feel the mental, emotional and nervous exhaustion that sometimes takes over us, and how much such a fresh experience can help.
Who came up with the idea of the project and how was it actually planned?
The idea came from Eszter Kass art teacher, who was looking for new inspiration after a decade of committed teaching and creative work. She called the colleagues together to brainstorm and find out something new. Ten of us came together and held a truly innovative discussion. The joint work brought us closer together than the years spent in the staff room. It was real team work, which is perhaps more difficult for us Hungarians, as it hadn’t been part of our education, but our American colleagues really enjoyed these situations. We soon found out who was driven towards what professional vision by their internal motivations, and each of us chose the most appropriate training courses. Then we met every week to address and elaborate a particular topic, and that was how the application material was compiled.
What foreign courses did the teaching staff attend?
Seven colleagues were given the opportunity to travel to the UK and Ireland for language and methodology courses. Among other things, they learnt creative language teaching techniques, addressed motivation as the key to successful teaching, and discussed how arts can be integrated in various school subjects. When they returned home, they all shared their experiences with others, so we were given a lecture on the psychological changes which staying in a foreign country can cause, got an insight into the British educational system and we also learnt about the eTwinning programme.
What do you think is your greatest achievement?
The project brought a great change into the school’s life, as our colleague Tim Graf, who was examining the issue of assessment and quality improvement, prepared a questionnaire, which pointed out that students also wanted to learn sciences in a foreign language. In response to this need, we will introduce this new opportunity at the school. Knowing the British curricula and methodology, students will really benefit a lot from it.
What’s also important is that we teachers have learnt to do something for ourselves. Professionally and personally, for the adventure or to learn... During the preparation, we experienced the beauty and joy of thinking together and project work done for a common goal, and since then, all of us have tried to benefit from it at their own levels and in their own respective fields. The teachers returned from the courses with a broader perspective, and they all communicated it to the teaching staff.
How did they share their experiences with their colleagues?
We shouldn’t forget that young teachers who have travelled widely can learn just as much from their older colleagues as vice versa. So, besides the presentations and workshops which the participants held about their foreign experiences, the management also allowed each member of the staff to present a game or a method they used in their classes. Thus, the idea that it's worth looking for new ways and learning from each other has become a common cause. The colleagues could draw inspiration from the methodological ideas they'd learnt, and many of them went on to use certain elements of the workshops: some have started to play communicative games commonly used in British education (e.g. jigsaw, mingling) to move their students around, some have started to use Prezi, whereas others have realised the importance of experiential education and building rapport. Also, due to the project, Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is becoming more and more common in classes.
You have achieved various goals in a very complex project. What did you need for this success?
We are used to dynamic working days. We could only work on the project beyond our normal working hours, but with due conscientiousness and team work, we could carry it through. As a coordinator, I wasn’t left alone with the loads of administrative work; I could always rely on my colleagues, so looking back now it all seems so simple. It’s a great feeling that from a bicultural school we have become a truly intercultural community, and I’m certain that this project will continue.
Project values: During project implementation, a spectacularly well-organised team worked at the school. The coordinator ensured the high quality of project management through constant monitoring. It’s an example to be followed that before, during and after the project, the participants used a self-reflection questionnaire that served both self-assessment and quality assurance purposes.
Last modified: 06-12-2017