From education to employment

Pen pal project links City of Oxford College learners with students in South Africa

The lost art of letter writing, combined with an innovative focus on developing personal attributes, is helping Activate Learning students to succeed in GCSE English while making friends in South Africa.

Bricklaying, carpentry, and motor vehicle maintenance students from City of Oxford College’s Technology campus have been writing to plumbing and carpentry students at Northern Cape Urban TVET College in Kimberley, South Africa, as part of an International Skills Partnerships programme funded by the British Council.

Students from both colleges have been encouraged to write about issues that are important to them, with xenophobia, gang violence and homelessness all being discussed. Oxford students were keen to present a more modern, relatable image of the city away from the university stereotypes, while some of the South African learners wrote about local traffic issues that had contributed to a recent spate of accidents.

There has still been plenty of opportunity, though, to chat about family, friends and hobbies. Students from both countries have also been using social media to develop their awareness and understanding of each other’s lives.

Dr Alice Eardley, Activate Learning’s Innovation Lead for English and UK Operations Lead for the project personally delivered written responses from City of Oxford College’s GCSE English students during a trip to South Africa this summer.

Dr Eardley is working on the pen pal project with South African colleagues to support both the Oxford and Kimberley students develop the personal attributes they will need to progress into employment.

Activate Learning ensures that all our students enter competitive job markets with not only recognised academic qualifications, but also the attributes they need to succeed in the workplace. Developed in consultation with our learners and business partners, the five core attributes that form the foundations of employability are: professional, enterprising, confident, self-aware and resilient.

Dr Eardley said: “Across the world, competitive job markets mean that it’s more and more important for students to develop their ‘soft skills’, or attributes. It has been really exciting to see how students from the UK and South Africa learn from each other in terms of the behaviours and attitudes they bring to their studies and future employment.”

Cian Gaul, a Level 1 Brickwork student at the Technology campus in Blackbird Leys said: “It was interesting to receive a letter from a person in South Africa and to hear a bit about their way of life and what they do.”

Oliver Traynor, also studying Brickwork at City of Oxford College added: “I liked sending them letters and having a conversation with them.”

Teachers from the Northern Cape Urban TVET College will be visiting Activate Learning in England later this month. Students from both countries who participated in the project will be awarded a certificate recognising their attribute development in the new year.

Related Articles