Partnership to boost education leadership

Published Feb 18, 2019

A joint initiative between Viclink and Victoria University of Wellington is helping teachers from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to drive change in their education system. Saudi Arabia is focused on diversifying its economy away from oil and creating more high skilled jobs.   

Recognising that education is a key driver of economic and human development, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Education is sending hundreds of teachers around the world (to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) to engage in long-term, real-life experiences in other cultures. By exposing teachers to different ways of teaching and learning, the Ministry hopes to hone their teaching and English language skills, and create global-thinking citizens who can share their newfound knowledge with Saudi students when they return home. 

The international teaching programme—known as Khebrat, meaning ‘experience’—is part of a major initiative by the Ministry to transform the Saudi education system.

“The Kingdom recognises that in order to prepare their youth for a post-oil job market—one where they will need their own scientists, engineers, economists and lawyers—they need to nurture critical, independent thinkers,” says Jeff Howe, Viclink’s General Manager, International Development. “And that starts with teachers.” 

Jeff was instrumental in securing Viclink’s contract with the Ministry for 18 Saudi Arabian teachers to take part in a Wellington-based, nine-month programme aimed at building the teachers’ leadership capabilities. He says that being able to bring together different expertise from within Victoria University of Wellington was key to winning the contract.

“The English Language Institute is providing the English Proficiency Programme—18 weeks of intensive English language training—which will lead into a 10-week school immersion programme which is being organised and supported by the School of Education,” Jeff explains. 

The school immersion—which will take place in Term 2 of 2019—will see the Saudi Arabians working alongside Wellington-based primary and secondary school teachers, so they can study the New Zealand curriculum and observe classroom practice in action. 

However, Dr Carolyn Tait, Head of the School of Education, is quick to point out that the programme is not about transferring New Zealand practice, rather: “it’s more about promoting deep, critical thinking about their own teaching practice.” 

She says the teachers in this cohort (who arrived in Wellington in July) will get the full benefit from their learning as they have been able to bring their families with them, and enrol their children in local schools. 

“Being able to take time out from teaching to learn new skills in a new country—all while keeping their families with them—means the teachers will have a really rich, full experience while they are here. We’re expecting some great outcomes as a result.” 

With some significant cultural differences to navigate, the School of Education has already carried out an intensive orientation for the teachers, but Carolyn says the learning is reciprocal. 

“Not only are we improving our own inter-cultural skills, the experience is also giving us new eyes to look at our own curriculum, and ask new questions about our own practices.”

She says that Viclink have been “fantastic to work with” throughout the process of securing the contract. “They were just so responsive, and have a strong values base similar to our own,” says Carolyn. “They put the proposal together for us, worked out the financials and carried out any necessary liaison so that we could focus on contributing our academic and intellectual input.”

Jeff says it’s been an equally enjoyable experience for Viclink, with some really positive ramifications. 

“This partnership is a great example of how Viclink and different faculties within the University can work together to contribute to sustainable social and economic development at an international level,” he says. 

For more information, email Jeff Howe or call him on +64 22 563 5767.

Photo caption: food from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia National Day Celebration that the teachers held on Kelburn campus.