by Jane Larsson, Executive Director, Council of International Schools
Following the historic day of decision by the people of the United Kingdom, no doubt we are all in deep reflection about the meaning of Brexit and the implications for their country, Europe and our world.
Setting politics aside, I believe this decision reflects the ongoing tension between identity and globalization. A tension that our mission and vision are intended to address – connecting ideas, cultures and educators from every corner of the world.
Each one of us comes to work each day with the ultimate goal of preparing young people to navigate the dilemmas that arise from the clash between these two forces. This is a time to consider the purpose of our work and the impact we can make through education to better prepare the communities we serve, and the students we are educating for their roles in our world, no matter where they paths may take them. We realize this now more than ever.
As I closely followed a week of intense debate about the UK decision, I decided to look at Brexit in another way. Let’s examine its impact as a demand for governmental change…through peaceful means. The stunning fragmentation of the British government reflects the will of the British people, divided as they are. The good news is that there was no widespread violence or call for war.
How carefully does a governing body consider conflicts of identity and culture, when attempting to govern a diverse community? Can common values be found to achieve unity? Will those who govern be able to recognize and address the different needs of the people living in their land, both those who were born there and those who have newly arrived?
Many Brits who chose to leave the EU, stated “I want the country back the way it was.” So what does that mean exactly? Expel all immigrants? How do we teach our children about the world and prepare them for their places in it if we tell the people of the world they are not welcome in our country? Some may believe they can control exposure to difference physically, but they won’t be able to control exposure virtually. Putting the immigration issue aside, another objection of those who voted to leave is a loss of control on decision-making to the EU. The vote was a rejection of rules and laws formed for a broader set of people, ideally established in order to protect the greater good, to find synergistic solutions.
In international education, we’ve always stated that “we’re educating the future leaders of the world.” Global citizenship is a hallmark of our schools, our ultimate purpose to create sustainable societies. We hope and plan that the students who leave our schools will possess the knowledge, skills and understandings that will allow them to participate in diverse communities. Perhaps we need to place more emphasis on the need for people with such skills to enter into public service, to actively govern our increasingly complex world.
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