Pharo Schools Hallmark – Unveiling the Essence of Pharo Schools' Education Mission

By Irene Kiiru, Yohannes Keliku & Tim Kasperidus

In a recent three-day workshop held in Nairobi from February 24th to 26th, the education team of Pharo Foundation embarked on a profound journey of self-reflection. The purpose was to align their vision with the core identity of the Foundation. This introspective session brought together minds from diverse roles, including Heads of Education, School Principals and Scholarship Coordinators, all under the guidance of Tim, the Director of Education, and Yohannes, our Education Programme Lead.

This workshop was more than a meeting. Informed by ideas from Tom Sherrington’s book, ‘The Learning Rainforest: Great teachers in real classrooms’, and Andy Buck’s ‘Leadership Matters 3.0; How leaders at all levels can create great schools’, it was a journey of self-discovery, a quest to align our education mission and identify a distinctive characteristic that would embody Pharo Schools and our other education interventions.

Guided by our mission of providing locally relevant and globally competitive high-quality learning experiences that empower students to become lifelong learners and productive global citizens, the team aspired to define what an outstanding learning experience across Pharo Schools would look like. We now have clarity and alignment on the kind of Pharo School alumni that we want to nurture across all schools and countries. The ensuing days buzzed with energy, excitement and a profusion of ideas.

Celebrating success across borders

We began by reflecting on the current Pharo School network across the region. In Ethiopia, where we have Pharo School Assosa and Pharo School Homosha, a primary school, and a girls’ boarding school respectively, tales of triumph were told. Despite the schools being located in a remote area of Ethiopia, they have both been able to produce some of the top students in the country, with their learners winning numerous competitions and proceeding to top universities in Ethiopia and across the region. A phenomenon that was previously unheard of (within the region).

Our schools in Somaliland also had similar stories. Our kindergarten and primary school located in Hargeisa as well as the secondary school in Sheikh have a keen focus on the holistic development and growth of students, focusing not only on academic performance but also on extra-curricular activities such as sports, IT programming, and arts and crafts. Pharo Schools in Somaliland have also been able to achieve outstanding academic performance, with our students topping national exams, transitioning to global universities, and becoming leaders in their country.

Our newest additions, Pharo School Kigali and Pharo School Nairobi showcased remarkable achievements, setting the stage for promising futures. Our kindergarten in Kigali which started in September 2023, has been able to achieve great milestones with its 88 students by using play-based and active learning as a primary teaching methodology. Pharo School Nairobi, which was acquired by Pharo in November 2023 has also been able to record fantastic results in the last national exams with its top learner being eighth in the country and the fifth best girl.

A unifying thread across the Pharo school network is the unparalleled educational excellence for every learner.

The Pharo Schools Hallmark

Delving deeper into the concept of high-quality education, the team pondered the components that collectively contribute to positive educational outcomes. The Pharo Schools Hallmark, akin to a user manual or blueprint, encapsulates the Pharo Schools Quality Framework. This comprehensive quality framework focused on five key pillars: curriculum, teachers, pedagogy, school environment and leadership. Quality in education is a multifaceted and evolving concept that reflects the effectiveness, relevance and impact of the education experience provided to individuals. Considering the profile of a Pharo School Graduate allowed us to evaluate how each of these elements contributes to delivering a high-quality learning experience for our students.

A quality curriculum acts as the foundational framework, shaping the educational journey by delineating what students will learn, how they will learn and the intended educational outcomes. Equally crucial is the quality of teachers, pivotal in determining the students' overall experience. At Pharo Schools, our commitment extends to ensuring our teachers possess effective communication skills, inspire collaboration, demonstrate adaptability, and exhibit patience and empathy. To guarantee the provision of quality pedagogy, Pharo Schools should employ teaching and learning methodologies grounded in student-centred and inquiry-based approaches. These practices emphasise deep learning, fostering an active and engaging social process that keeps students motivated and involved.

The significance of a quality school environment cannot be overstated - it serves as an essential cornerstone in delivering a high-quality learning experience, shaping the educational journey and profoundly influencing students' learning outcomes. Achieving these standards is contingent on quality school leadership. School leaders play a pivotal role in student learning, curriculum quality and teacher instruction. Their commitment to making a difference for pupils, coupled with a passion for teaching and learning, is paramount.

Global Citizenship Education (GCED)

Aligned with Pharo Schools’ mission, the workshop also explored the value of Global Citizenship Education (GCED). Dr. Olivia Opere, an expert in education management, shed light on how transformative education contributes to quality education. GCED empowers learners to actively face global challenges, fostering proactive contributions to a more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and secure world.

The UN’s Global Education First Initiative notes, “It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count.  Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.”

Incorporating GCED into Pharo Schools' curriculum is imperative and yet achievable through simple yet impactful acts and practices. Encouraging students to assist their peers fosters collaboration and empathy, with their contributions celebrated to underline the values of teamwork and collaboration. Similarly, activities and events such as cultural days in our schools serve as a meaningful way to demonstrate respect for diversity and promote a global perspective.

Culmination and pride

On the third day of the event, participants had the chance to explore and engage with faculty and students at Pharo School Nairobi. This hands-on experience allowed for deeper insights into the implementation of educational strategies within the Pharo Schools network.

The workshop concluded with a half-day team-building visit to Nairobi National Park, followed by a debriefing and reflection meeting at Pharo Foundation’s Headquarters in Nairobi. This provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on the event's outcomes and discuss the next steps in implementing the Hallmark framework.

The workshop served as a platform for Pharo educators to define and align their identity with the mission-driven and impact-oriented ethos of Pharo Foundation. Pharo educators emerged with a clarified identity and a unified vision of who we are, and what sets us apart.

The unveiling of the Pharo Hallmark promises a legacy of immense pride and impactful education. This workshop marked just the beginning of an exciting journey toward excellence in education under the Pharo Foundation's guiding principles.