Educating Entrepreneurs

How Uganda is educating their young people out of poverty

Having spent months having Skypes with and writing late night emails to these amazing people in Uganda, it feels so rewarding to finally see them in action!

This episode is about Educate!, an American organisation that helps tackle the 70% unemployment statistic in Uganda by teaching its young people how to start their own businesses. Its emphases are on gender equality, community support and collaboration. It seems like a fantastic initiative, not spoon-feeding help to a country in need, but rather teaching its people to help themselves.


Innovation in Armenia

Armenia: Where Art Meets Technology

Technology is at the forefront of 21st century innovation. But for countries like Armenia, which have only recently gained independence from the Soviet bloc and are struggling to maintain a stable political system, let alone education system, investing in the technological education of their young people is difficult.

This is where the American-funded TUMO organisation steps in. Run by the ever-energetic Marie Lou Papazian, five of these centres offer top-of-the-range technology to students, and run workshops on how to use it. These range from robotics to rock music, and they’re all for free.

It was a pleasure and an inspiration to work with Marie Lou and the enthusiastic, hard-working team at TUMO, as well as the documentary company we used to help make the film. Armenia has a lot to offer in terms of talent and passion, but its younger generation need to be given the resources to make the most of their fantastic brains.


Democratic Teaching

Democratic Teaching in the UK

This was by far my favourite film in the Rebel Education series – and as an added bonus I can claim credit for some of the camerawork! This film tells the story of one man from New Zealand who realised there was a better way to teach English. He brought his new system to the London Nautical School, an inner city comp with a high number of children from difficult backgrounds. And the effect he has had is unbelievable.

As you’ll see in this film, Chris Waugh’s system has changed the lives of many of the children in this school. He believes that the children should be entrusted with choosing their teacher – so each teacher presents them with a course themed around something that’s important to them. It allows the teachers add a personal touch to their classes, and it gives the pupils greater responsibility for their own learning. Chris also makes use of technology to allow the pupils to work towards ‘badges’ rather than assignments, which gives pupils greater flexibility in their learning and allows them to achieve more.

The results speak for themselves. GCSE grades have shot up; pupil satisfaction is at an all time high. But Chris never wants to stop fighting. There’s always going to be more work to do, more schools to change, more pupils to inspire.


Saving Mexico’s Children

The Power of Early Education

One of the films I worked on last summer is now available to view online. If you do have a spare half hour, I can highly recommend watching it. It’s about a passionate, energetic, brave woman who is single-handedly turning around education in Mexico; I am honoured to have worked with her.

The Mexican state education system fails its students miserably and is ravaged by corruption. But Elisa Guerra saw this and decided to set up her own school, using her own materials, to make sure her children received the education they deserved. She realised that bad primary education is worse than no education at all, so she encourages children as young as three to learn a different language, play a musical instrument, get involved in sport, appreciate art and culture. This stimulation encourages children to think, not just to learn.

In an ever-changing world, our education systems are struggling to keep up. But a few amazing people are working to change that. These films tell their stories.


New Year’s Resolutions

My current job at Windfall Films is a researcher in their Development department, working on their specialist factual films. This means that I look for and write up ideas for TV programmes about anything that’s interesting, from outer space to ancient remains. It’s great – it really tugs at my intellectual heartstrings, it’s supremely creative and means I’m always on the lookout for cool and interesting stories!

However, Development can also be a long, hard slog. Every idea is an ongoing project until it gets commissioned. Sometimes you can have an idea, write it up, wait a few weeks for feedback, write it up again, put it to one side for a bit as another priority appears, revisit it, re-pitch it, and so on. The Bake Off idea was in development for 10 years before it was commissioned!

So with all this continuing work, it’s important to keep concentrating and keep motivated. There’s always a better way to write something, always a new idea to find, always more research to be done. I know I’m guilty of making explanations a bit too wordy and academic, or getting so caught up in an idea that I wrap up the key content in too much context. Sometimes – and this is really silly – I get so excited that I start mixing up my sentence structure so it resembles Latin syntax more than English! Curse of the Classicist I suppose…

So I’ve thought of a few tips to help keep your work in development sharp and punchy:

  1. How would you tell the story verbally? I certainly find it easier to tell someone about something interesting than to write about it. If you’re struggling to find the right words, maybe go for a walk or sit in a café and dictate your verbal explanation into your phone. Then when you come back to the office you can listen back to it and it might help your write-up!
  2. Once you’ve finished a treatment, print it out and re-read it before you send it off to be checked. Are there any typos? Does it make sense? Have you explained the idea well enough?
  3. Plan out the film as though it were your project, as though you were producing the film. Visualise how the story will pan out in the finished programme – and then write the treatment.
  4. If someone else on your team has reviewed and re-written your work, study what changes they have made. How can you learn from what they have changed in your document? Is there a different way of formatting the information that they prefer? How have they rearranged your paragraphs to make it punchier? And most importantly, how can you apply that to your next treatment?

These are my New Year’s Resolutions for TV. Bring on 2017!

New Year’s Resolutions