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Q&A with Aaliyah Kara

Scholarship student Aaliyah completed her English Education MA in 2021. She shares her motivations for decolonising English curricula, and her tips for getting the most out of a Master's degree.

Aaliyah Kara, MA scholarship student at UCL Institute of Education

Hello, Aaliyah!

How did you choose an MA in English Education?

After working some years teaching English in various institutions to students at different levels, I was interested in how the subject manifested in various curricula to uphold or subvert existing cultural hegemonies. This consideration was particularly important in spaces where English was not a first language for my students.

After practically grappling with this concept, I chose the English Education MA to deepen my theoretical understandings and pitch my own suggestions for interventions in English curricula inspired by indigenous knowledge systems.

What did you enjoy most about this MA programme?

I enjoyed the IOE’s personalised approach to research as it allowed me to relate theory to real, practical experiences in the classroom. This prompted deep reflection on my previous roles, usually very cathartic, and offered new possibilities to redefine any future roles.

This was aided by the immense support and mentorship I received during every assignment, which greatly improved my writing and allowed me to find and nurture my academic voice. 

You successfully applied for the IOE-Clarke scholarship...

The scholarship has given me financial access to a programme that I could only have had access to in my dreams. It has allowed me to solely concentrate on my studies and maximise the benefit I could derive from the programme. It also offered an additional tier of moral support, especially needed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Do you have any tips and recommendations for future scholarship applicants?

I believe it is important to not only keep up with prescribed readings but to read around your course and recognise your niche research interests. You should also grab every opportunity for mentorship and participate fully in the planning stages of assignments and the dissertation.

The course is tailored to develop you and your standpoints, so bring it all into your learning and don’t be afraid to present it. Though many people will go through the same course, you have plenty of opportunities to make it your own. 

As an international student from South Africa, how do you think the system of learning at UCL differs from that in your home country?

It was interesting to pursue a Master's in the UK after completing my undergraduate degree in South Africa. I was thrilled to exchange many of the decolonial insights I had gained in the Global South with a university in the UK that is more recently approaching such discourse.

In this regard, the ideological difference between universities at home and universities here was revelatory. That said, it has shown me that transformation shouldn’t be relegated to our own comfortable bubbles and that being an international student is a means to exchange on a global level.

During my undergraduate degree, I was mostly in classes with local students, while being in London at the IOE meant that I was exposed to students from various parts of the world. This expanded my engagement with the course content and offered networks that weren’t available to me previously. It was bittersweet to realise the lengths that tertiary education could reach with adequate funding that isn’t always the case at home.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your time at the IOE?

Though most of my experience with the course was through remote learning [due to the coronavirus pandemic], I was impressed by the efforts of those who taught the course. Our seminars were usually very collaborative and engaging and we were introduced to a variety of multimodal approaches to learning.

This has served me well in my own remote teaching and tutoring, where I have employed the same methods I was exposed to on the course.

Overall, I have enjoyed the IOE's dedication to the specific field of education and the wide range of support staff that has developed my continued commitment to the field.