International education as we know it, has resulted from the movement of people, minds, or ideas across political and cultural frontiers, often in times of conflict. It has been facilitated by the phenomenon of globalization, which increasingly erases the constraints of geography on economic, social and cultural aspects of our world.
The significant growth in international education and international schools, post-World War II had in part its origins in the forward planning which took place taking from 1941, when the so-called London International Assembly provided a forum for displaced representatives of ‘like-minded’ nations to discuss common problems informally.
In 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established with its headquarters in Paris. Archibald MacLeish contributed the following to the introduction of its charter -“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”. UNESCO’s first education seminar, in 1947, was on the theme of: “Education for International Understanding”.
In 1948, UNESCO published a radical pamphlet, written by Marie-Therese Maurette, the then Director of the International School of Geneva, promoting the need for “International- mindedness”. This publication posited the idea that this was a concept which needed to be ‘taught rather than caught’. Among her proposals, which were then being implemented in her own school, were more prominence in World Geography, a new ‘World History’ course, insistence on students learning a second language and participation in some form of community service.
The role of International Education has been evolving during time. At first it was thought to give service to the sons and daughters of diplomats. Afterward to think more globally and try to have a more peaceful world. Today in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, international education is the key to give students the necessary skills to cope with the international community. The International Schools Association was created in 1951. From the beginning it promoted the concept of internationalism and international mindedness.
The values that we promote to have real citizens of the world are: peace, freedom, equality, tolerance and the celebration of the diversity and similarity. For students the diversity enriches the conversation and their understanding. ISA believes children and young people should face the challenges arising from the acceptance of these values and is supportive of all organizations which share its conviction about internationalism, international mindedness and international education in its various forms and wherever it may be found.
The other skills that we think that the international education give are: communication, cultural awareness, self-awareness, courage, problem solving and global citizenship.
In ISA member schools Global Citizenship is encouraged at all levels of education, embedded in the programme and in more overt projects and programmes. The Youth Leadership Encounter held annually by a host school also allows students from our global network to engage in discussion about global issues. Many ISA member schools are also involved in the Model United Nations Movement.
ISA currently has a programme for member schools which focuses on World Peace and Environmental Sustainability.
So to conclude international education is crucial in order to have a better world, with cultural understanding and knowing that there are different ways of thinking, different cultures, different religions. Often we are not in agreement with everything but we have to accept them and knowing that they exist will reduce the conflict and we will have a more peaceful world.
Edgardo H. Manzitti – ISA Secretary General