We seem to live in turbulent times, where traditional assumptions about our place in the world are being questioned and challenged. To my mind, it becomes more important than ever that our children are able to consider the perspectives of others, to put themselves (for a moment) in the shoes of those who come from different national, cultural and political backgrounds.
It has given me great pleasure to see how our 7 Year 12 students have engaged with over 300 others at the Round Square global conference in Ottawa. They have made friends with schools around the world. On the second day they heard thought-provoking presentations by speakers from the Inuit community in the north of Canada. Later, I listened to one group, which included students from Morocco, China, Colombia, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, Tanzania and UK, discussing the challenges faced by indigenous communities during periods of colonisation, both in Canada and in other parts of the world. It was uplifting to see the interest and respect shown to each other and fascinating to hear how different perspectives enriched the conversation. I’m sure the next table (which had students from USA, South Africa, India, Ghana, Germany, Chile, Indonesia and Armenia) had equally enlightening discourse. With 50 countries represented in Round Square, one imagines the learning opportunities to be limitless. I was later taken with the bravery of students speaking more publicly on these issues.
Indeed the concept of ‘having a voice’ seemed to underpin much of the discussion; of what happens when people cannot be heard, or when others just stop listening. The students I watched were being inspired and challenged in a way that may not happen often enough.
New friends made, opportunities to join international service projects, thoughts of individual student exchange to far away places and an enthusiasm to bring ideas back to their own schools. The outlook is global.
M H P Walton