Confidence, independence and global friendships: my Pamoja experience
I started studying my Diploma Programme with Pamoja two years ago. At that time, I was not a confident student; I used to hesitate to ask my teachers or classmates anything in case they thought my questions were stupid. Now, after two years of studying online with my scholarship, I’m more open with my teachers and my communication skills have improved. I’m much happier to ask questions both in and out of class, and because of that I learn a lot more.
As well as helping me gain the confidence to ask questions, learning with Pamoja has drastically improved my time management skills. I fully understand my abilities now; I know my strengths and weaknesses in each subject. One surprising thing I learnt along the way is that maths is my best subject! Through learning independently, I realised I don’t particularly need a teacher – once a mathematical concept is introduced I can figure the rest out on my own.
Online learning is particularly well suited to International Baccalaureate group 3 subjects like ITGS. When studying these subjects face-to-face in a ‘regular’ classroom environment, the resources given to you are very limited. Unlike this, Pamoja allows us the flexibility to choose our own resources. The topics are not limited by what you have in your textbook; you’re given the headings and can explore the themes in anyway that you choose to. In a face-to-face class teaching one particular topic, I might know nothing about it, whilst the person next to me may know everything. This would make the lesson a waste of time for them. With Pamoja, if you’re good at a topic you can spend less time on it, choosing to spend that time going deeper into areas that you need more work on; it’s an exceptionally efficient way to use study time.
This flexibility and independence does take some adjusting to, but as you can imagine I am well adapted to it now! I know how much time to give to each subject, how to study it, and what part of the course is best for me. For example, for ITGS the discussions are really helpful, but in languages like English and Mandarin the course content itself is of more use. Discussions are for sharing your learning with classmates, and in ITGS this is where you get a lot of content.
The highlight of my experience with Pamoja was definitely group work in ITGS. I was always assigned students that weren’t from my country – in India, Germany, Singapore etc. At first it was relatively difficult to communicate with them, but because we had the same group members each week I got to know them so much better. We made a Skype group, followed by a Whatsapp group, and have become very close. Even though I’ve never met them, we are now great friends and regularly share resources, discuss other subjects and exams. The biggest advantage of this multi-cultural set up is perspective. By living in countries all over the world, each of my classmates has a different perspective and often a different way of learning. Although time zones could occasionally be tricky – the deadlines were at 3am for us here – if anything it just meant I’d finish my work early. Occasionally online conferences were at awkward times, but they’d all be recorded so we could go back and look at them when it suited us. The fact that all lessons and conferences are recorded is something you don’t get in a face-to-face class, and is a real edge.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my Pamoja scholarship. I am now a confident, independent person with the ability to manage my time effectively, and I’m looking forward to taking these skills into the next stage of my life.
Aayisha – student at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis
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My Pamoja Scholarship helped me get into university
My name is Raghav, and I’m coming to the end of a two-year scholarship with Pamoja. I study the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB DP) at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis; a few of my classes are face-to-face, and the rest are online using the Pamoja platform.
Before I was offered the chance to apply, I hadn’t ever heard of anyone getting an IB scholarship. It’s very unique – Pamoja offered an incredible opportunity for me and my classmates and the benefits have been numerous. Most recently, I completed my university applications and the experience of learning online gave me a huge advantage; both in terms of skill set and the format itself. It was the one thing that I wrote about for every application because it made me stand out. It definitely helped me to get in to most of the universities I applied for and it’s also been a fantastic experience all round.
Before Pamoja, I was always taught traditionally. When I started my scholarship, I was suddenly learning everything I needed to know in a really flexible online environment. However, when I first began, the transition to learning online was pretty hard. I had no physical textbooks as all resources are online, which was very different to what I had previously known. Luckily the Pamoja platform is really simple, well-structured and easy to navigate. I think anyone can use it and so it didn’t take too long to adjust. On top of that it’s given me many skills that will benefit me at university.
The first and foremost skill I have acquired during my two-year scholarship is the ability to learn independently. I think that’s really important; I used to need to be pushed by a teacher before learning to do it all on my own. Thanks to a supportive environment and regular weekly assignment deadlines, I’ve learnt to work hard. I wasn’t used to it, but that is part of studying the IB as much as anything else and to succeed at university students need to be able to put in the work. I’ve also learnt to manage my time which is an invaluable life skill. When you study online you’ve got to get the work done – there’s a deadline – but you can do it however/whenever you want. This flexibility is unique to Pamoja and it makes you great at independent learning; a skill that universities look for.
You also get exposed to many different cultures when studying with Pamoja. By studying with and learning from people all around the world, you become internationally minded and that’s something you don’t get in a regular classroom. In more traditional classrooms you only interact with students who live where you live, but with Pamoja you interact with people globally. Online lessons always stand out for me because everyone joins in and engages with each other. I remember one conference I had for Spanish class with students from England, Italy – so many other places! It was really fun meeting new people and I’ve made friends with a couple of students in different countries after getting to know them really well during the scholarship.
I would definitely recommend Pamoja to students thinking about doing the IB DP, but only if they’re willing to put in their own work, because it’s expected of you. You get a lot of support, but still need to be self-driven.
Universities really search for students who can take them forward and are different. If there’s one thing that separates me from other students, it’s online learning and my scholarship. Most people associate online learning with higher education more than school, so it’s a big plus if a university gets a student who is already adapted to that way of studying. It’s a plus that no face-to-face teaching can really give. At university, you have lectures and then you go home and learn it; we already did that with Pamoja.
Raghav – student at GEMS Wellington Academy, Silicon Oasis