Earlier today I had the pleasure of addressing three classes of primary school children at my boys’ local school. Kilted (day wear) and complete with powerpoint presentation and projector my job was to deliver, in English, a lively and entertaining talk about Scotland to Polish children between the ages of 9 and 11.
The classroom, to my surprise, was kitted out with an interactive whiteboard hooked up to a pc, Internet and audio player, so all I needed was to switch my multi-media ppt. presentation onto a pen drive and get started. EU funding in recent years has gone far to bring Polish schools into the 21st Century where tech is concerned.
Giving a general talk about Scotland to primary kids is no straightforward matter – where do you start, what do you cover, in how much or how little detail, do you mention whisky (I didn’t, playing it safe, sensibly I think), and how do you ensure they don’t get bored and start fidgeting after 10 minutes? Each talk after all was to be 45 minutes!
This being new to me, I obviously over-prepared with too much material; so wasn’t’ able to get through everything I came with. Not to worry though as i think they liked what I was able to get across. Pictures were key, bringing home to me, and I hope the audience, the sheer beauty of Scotland’s landscape and it’s outrageously stunning capital Edinburgh. From the spectacular and mystical metal and art work of the Celtic settlers, through to the hills and glens, bagpipers and Scotland’s great tradition of invention and innovation, oh and we couldn’t forget Nessie, and my hometown of St. Andrews, I hope my talks peaked the interest of at least some of the kids, encouraging them to go on and discover more.
The process also made me reflect on why I was daft enough to leave that amazing country in the first place. But then I recalled how I was young, adventurous, and impatient, eager to see and experience something new, like many enterprising Scots down the ages.
Poland consistently comes out very well in various international rankings of academic skills and achievement of its school pupils. The pupils I addressed today were bright and engaged and appeared to follow my English without much difficulty, asking good questions too. Language learning, especially English, is taken seriously here, and is an essential ingredient in Polish children’s future prospects. Expectations of Polish children are high, with regular testing and lots of homework a feature of the school system. Tough as it may be on the kids and parents, in a globally competitive environment with the best jobs going to those with the hard skills needed in today’s knowledge-driven market place, it seems an inevitable direction for any forward-thinking and ambitious country.
After all Scotland achieved massive breakthroughs in areas such as engineering, medicine, science, banking and the new technologies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thanks to its first-rate classical education system and its leading universities!