Experiential Learning beyond Flags, Food and Festivals: Searching for Meaningful Intercultural Learning

Speaker: Gabriel Ernesto Abad Fernandez
Institution: United World College of South East Asia, East Campus, Singapore

The UWC schools and colleges have a mandate to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. It is in their DNA to look for avenues for intercultural learning via experiential education. However, much has changed since Kurt Hahn founded Atlantic College, the first United World College, in 1962. What was radical and transformational then is not necessarily so now, and the educational panorama has changed significantly. Is it enough to have an extremely diverse student body in terms of nationalities represented (one of their key distinctive features), or are there any other ingredients needed for a successful recipe?

Some international schools struggle with defining what makes an education international, and much has been written about this (Hayden & Thompson’s International Education: Principles and Practice being a classic reference). As the world becomes more and more globalised, it is becoming increasingly clear that the issue is not just to provide an “international education” but rather an “intercultural education”. In the 21st century, in the context of a globalised world, an intercultural education should (must?) offer an educational experience that prepares students to a world where national and cultural homogeneity continues to disappear. The ability to not only tolerate others and their views, or even to work with others, but rather to understand them and their worldviews is a skill that can be developed in an educational model that really puts internationalism at the centre.

This session will explore how UWCSEA continues its iterative process of redefining what a meaningful intercultural learning curriculum is, including the work done in our boarding houses moving away from a “home-away-from-home” model (where boarding provides a safe base to allow the students to attend school) to an experiential education model where the resident community is another learning space alongside the classroom.


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