Global education and peace
In increasingly uncertain times, one of the appeals and potential benefits of international education is the way it brings children and young people from different cultures together.
When terrorist attacks took place in Paris at the end of 2015, two experts in international education wrote publically about the opportunities for peace which can develop when young people from different cultures learn together.
John Walmsley, principal of UWC Atlantic College in Wales wrote in The Telegraph, “Moments like this make us even steelier in our determination that what we’re doing here is the right thing. I believe international education - bringing together young people from totally diverse areas of the world with different beliefs, attitudes, experiences - can be a long term solution to some of the problems the world faces.”
UWC Atlantic College is made up of 350 students from 90 countries, with students from the UK learning alongside others from around the world, including conflict areas such as Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Ukraine and Armenia. There, Walmsley explained, “Palestinians share dorm rooms with Israelis, Jews work on projects with Muslims.”
He outlined how the mixed student community of UWC Atlantic College fostered unique opportunities to explore current affairs from several perspectives. They held a student-organised Refugee Week conference in the autumn, he said, where, “Students from the UK could talk through the real life issues with peers from those conflict regions.” Even the freedom to have these discussions, students were reminded, is something precious that not every country enjoys.
“Regardless of an individual student’s background, be it poverty or privilege, these shared experiences often have a monumental effect on young people. The stories of others become personal, as does the mission to use their education to work towards a more peaceful world in their adult lives,” wrote Walmsley.
"Our approach gives a glimmer of hope for a more united future..."
Kevin Ruth, Director of the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) expressed very similar sentiments in the association’s blog in the days after the Paris attacks. “At times like these,” he wrote, “we must go beyond our curricula, beyond our politicking, beyond our first world complaints, and seek to create positive impact in our world as deeply and intentionally as we can.”
ECIS is a network that promotes the ideals of international education and Ruth has a strong belief in the potential for international schools to work together and to do good in the world. “International education is absolutely central in combatting the cumulative effect of destabilisation, displacement, and the degradation of humanity,” he wrote.
When the nightly news can present us with a world which seems fractured and polarised, it is encouraging to think that the growing numbers of international schools may hold a key to global understanding in the future. As John Walmsley said, “Our young people aren’t students forever, they are future politicians, teachers, economists, many of whom go back to their home countries to put what they’ve learned into practice…we’re ever more convinced that our approach gives a glimmer of hope for a more united future.”
See our feature on Green School, Bali for another approach to fostering positive international relations through schooling.