Democratic Education Network: Building A Bridge Between University, Schools and Communities

As part of Democratic Education Network (DEN) this academic year we visited City and Islington College in London (CIC). This project is part of DEN’s community-based work involving students from both the University of Westminster and the Further Education College. We hope to develop a meaningful collaboration between our students and staff by aiming to support each other both academically and through extracurricular activities.

This is another new and innovative aspect of the DEN’s outreach programme by encouraging students and staff to look out to different communities in London. HopeTown is a similar project where I got the opportunity to visit the Sudanese community, and working with them to learn and support refugees and asylum seekers.

Similar to all DEN’s programmes, students play a vital role. Through this outreach project, we can develop our skills and knowledge and in my case, I hope to teach when I graduate. We also hope that CIC students could join some of our projects such as International Women’s Day or our annual conference in May.

A group of us have been collaborating with Plumstead Manor School, a secondary school in South London. Having studied in the UK education system all my life, I was looking forward to interacting with current students and comparing our experiences at college and how the reforms in education policies have impacted them and their opinions on it. So, four students from DEN including myself visited the college. We were briefed about the course, they all study the first year BTEC. All the students were given a task of reading a book on artificial intelligence and review it. They briefly told us what the book is about, the strength and the weakness of it.

I was super interested to listen to what student’s views were about the university and if we could bridge a gap. The students were quite keen on engaging with us. There were about 20 students who seem to be from different cultural backgrounds, looking around the college, it seems to be a very diverse space, just like our University.

We discussed their research focusing on presenting their work at the DEN conference in May. We offered to help them to develop their ideas, write their reports and later on their proposal for the conference. They began to explain to us the meaning of artificial intelligence and the following elements of science and technology. They expressed the implementation of artificial intelligence in computer science, neuron science, human psychology, mathematics, engineering, etc. We heard how our courses shared similarities such as globalisation and how it continues to keep changing how our world is working and the role artificial intelligence is playing.

This was followed by our second visit 3 weeks later when we discussed their progress. They summarised their findings in a specific way and their teachers have also been doing some work with them to narrow down their question and develop it. It was extremely interesting to hear and see their development.

After the second meeting, we have arranged the third meeting that will take place in March the 21st  at the University of Westminster. They will be presenting their work to us using PowerPoint. We look forward to supporting them with their presentation to develop it and get it ready for the May conference on the 10th and the 11th of May 2019.

Yasmin Ahmed

Year 2, BA International Relations and Development




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