Internationalism and Service

Having spent nearly a decade as a head teacher overseas, and been an inspector of schools in a dozen countries, it is no surprise that I see the value of young people gaining an international and multi-cultural perspective for the future.  I am therefore pleased to see international connectivity at AKS and look forward to seeing further growth in this area of the school’s character.

Some might define internationalism in a school by the variety of passports held.  At my previous school we had about 50 different nationalities, but for me internationalism is something beyond that, it is an ability, indeed a desire, to understand, accept and celebrate the differences that exist between us.  Multi-national students at many international schools may have much in common with each other but have little experience or empathy with their host culture or even others of their own nationals from different socio-economic backgrounds.  There can be a danger of being educated in what might be called a ‘multi-national or expat bubble’.

Last month, our students were hosts to a large group of visitors from Germany and the Czech Republic.  This was part of an ongoing science education programme, although the science learned was probably a secondary factor.  The real magic of the week was the way our students got to know and value each other.  There have recently been school trips to Australia and South Africa; we are currently planning for Sri Lanka, Morocco, New York, Germany, France, Iceland and Australia again – there will be others too.  However, not all international links require long distance travel or indeed visitors from afar. Internationalism is a frame of mind, not a passport or visa count.

AKS students are currently working with Amnesty International and will be holding a Write for Rights campaign in March.  Our AKS Action group also supports Free the Children and have decided to focus on hunger, working closely with Village Aid, a school in Tanzania, as well as Blackpool Council soup kitchens.  There are many other examples of connecting with our community to achieve what some call service learning.

We live in a world that is getting smaller.  Increasingly our students interact with others from very different backgrounds and very different places.  As they move onto further education and into the world of work, this trend will only increase. AKS will be developing further opportunities for our students to learn with and from the wider local, national and global community.  This in turn will support our mission to develop young people with open minds and a natural empathy for others.  Kurt Hahn was an educationalist whose ideas contributed to the foundation of many global organisations (Round Square, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Outward Bound, United World Colleges) aimed at challenging young people and developing social and environmental responsibility.  He spoke of freeing the minds of young people from the chains of cultural isolation and privilege.

Interestingly, themes of internationalism and social responsibility came through from many of our students in a recent questionnaire asking what they felt was important in their own education.  They have a clearer view of their own future than some of us might imagine.

By Mike Walton, Headmaster, AKS (Arnold KEQMS)