Apart from meeting my wife Lucy, nothing better has happened to me in my adult life than joining Aflatoun in 2008. It has been like finding a second family, or joining the most wonderful club with members from all around the world. It is hard for me to reflect on my time at Aflatoun and separate out the professional from the personal, the two are so intertwined. Professionally Aflatoun has allowed me to devote ten years and more to people I regard as the unsung (and underpaid!) heroes of society: The teachers. Both my wife and I come from strong teaching backgrounds, with both sets of parents and many relatives having spent all their working lives in schools and classrooms. So being part of Aflatoun and working with teachers has felt both natural and true to my origins. My working adult life feels like an extension of my childhood.
In 2008 we concluded that how we teach would always be at least as important as what we teach and we started investing as much time and effort in training teachers as we did in curriculum development. We realized that the success of the program depended on the relationship between teachers and learners. We also grasped that we needed to reward and motivate teachers and that we would never be able to do this financially. What we might be able to do however, would be help them rediscover the joy of teaching and help them become better teachers in general. Through our global network of Master Trainers, we set out to help teachers engage with active-teaching and learning and encouraged them to apply these skills in all their classes, whether that be CSFE or any key subject in the national curriculum. Aflatoun’s willingness to help teachers in ways that transcended the organization’s own programmatic goals is one of the things I admire most.
Looking back, every workshop, every relationship with a partner organization and every new friendship forged with colleagues around the world has been precious. Like everyone in the Secretariat, I have learned so much from our partners and the teachers they work with. If I had to focus on one step of this journey, I would point to the burgeoning relationships we have forged with Ministries of Education and with teacher-training institutes around the world. Being accepted as a partner by a Ministry of Education is the ultimate accolade and is always humbling and inspiring. If I had one wish for the future, it would be to see Aflatoun’s Global Master Trainers spending as much time helping out with pre-service training as they have been doing with in-service.
The curricula that Aflatoun devises alongside its partners are another great source of pride and inspiration to me personally and professionally. The concept of Child Social and Financial Education seems to get more relevant every year. Its unique strength lies in its ability to balance what are often seen as disparate themes; financial education with its focus on saving, budgeting and enterprises, and social education promoting a rights-based approach and social justice. The genius of blending social with financial education is that each makes the other stronger. Child Social and Financial Education gives children survival skills in the 21st century. It equips them to participate in an increasingly complex financial world. It’s emphasis on the equality of all people as rights-holders regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity provides a vision of unity and cohesion to counter the negative and forceful voices that always seek to divide people and marginalize them.
It feels like a blessing to have been part of this adventure alongside so many thousands of like-minded individuals.