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G5 Students Experience Four Governance Structures in a Week!

How are decisions made? What decisions do you get to make? How are decisions made in your classroom?

These were some of the questions that Grade 5 students grappled with the week as they commenced their new How We Organise Ourselves Unit of Inquiry into Governance. This was followed by a fully immersive, week-long provocation, where students experienced four governmental systems; Monarchy, Anarchy, Dictatorship and Democracy, with opportunities to reflect on their experiences at the end of each day. 

On Monday morning, students were presented with a delicious slice of Galette de Roi, not knowing that inside one piece lay a small ceramic trinket capable of elevating one to regal status. From their divinely granted thrones, our new leaders held absolute power over all decisions made within their infant kingdoms. Some decided to be fair and gracious rulers, listening to the wishes of their citizens, while others grabbed power with an iron fist, granting riches to some and doling out punishments to others. By the end of the day, our Monarchs had experienced the highs and lows of regal power, as those around them sought to influence their decision making. In attempting to keep everyone happy, our Monarchs soon realised that the loyalty of their citizens could be fickle as some that seemed closest to them were, in fact, guilty of plotting their downfall. By Tuesday morning, our Monarchies had crumbled as abdications and poisoning claimed their first victims.

Students arrived at school on Tuesday morning to darkened classrooms and no leadership. Anarchy had replaced our hapless sovereigns as student citizens soon realised that no-one was going to give them direction or make decisions. Cries of ‘freedom’ echoed along the halls of Grade 5 as students rushed to enjoy their new-found liberty. Some citizens, still clinging to the memories of their schedule, found their way to specialist classes, while others navigated their unstructured time as chaos began to encroach. In some classes, electricity was not working as those normally responsible had not paid the bills, meaning students could not seek refuge in their normally air-conditioned classrooms. ‘You can have too much of a good thing’ seemed an apt slogan of the day as what had initially seemed like a golden-ticket of emancipation soon began to sour as boredom, confusion and disorder set in. Into this unhappy mix, our crafty teachers sought to regain control by gifting the masses with distractions, while surreptitiously having them sign a document that unwittingly rescinded all their rights to the opportunistic Supreme Leaders. 

‘Find your place Comrade’ was the barked order that greeted students as they took their places in silence at uniformly organised desks early on Wednesday morning. Our four leaders strutted with narcissistic pride, forcing their citizens to worship them as all-powerful deities while reassuring them that all decisions would be made for the good of them and the nation. Punishments were dispensed haphazardly and for the most minor of indiscretions, yet work was not hindered and, from the ashes of anarchy, a new industrial learning arose. Provided that they did not question their Supreme Leaders, student citizens could rely on order being restored with ‘education’ resuming. However, below the surface rumbled waves of dissent as citizens soon realised the reality of their servile existence and theft of their identities. Following a shortly fought uprising, a new democratic dawn rose for the citizens of Grade 5.

With their freshly found voice and power as citizens of a newly born, egalitarian state, students set about re-establishing classroom practices, this time relying on the democratic process of voting to ensure a true representation of the people. Recognising that their combined voices could also be used to wield power, students set about identifying issues they felt passionately about before designing colourful placards and taking to the corridors of UNIS Hanoi to let their voices ring loud across campus. Members of the UNIS community gathered to watch this spontaneous protest on issues ranging from Climate Change, children’s rights and Gender Equality to animal welfare and Black Lives Matter with some even joining the chorus. 

As each new system rose and fell throughout the week, students engaged in reflective conversations, empathising with real World examples, questioning the pros and cons of each governmental structure and considering implications for their own class, family and community. As night fell on Thursday evening, it did so with a new promise of classroom governments establishing themselves across 5th Grade. Our hope now is that students will use their experiences and newly acquired knowledge to design fairer, more efficient classroom systems where all voices are heard and where all are free to take responsibility for making decisions that will affect their learning every day.