This week we advertised internally for an International Programs Coordinator in recognition of the importance of developing students who are competent existing in different countries and cultures. Having the skills and dispositions to be a globally competent citizen is going to be essential if our young people are going to be relevant in the world that they will inhabit once they leave the warm bubble of a Saints education. So, despite what people may have believed during the last ten days of Intercol competition, our students’ greatest challenge is not PAC: in an increasingly interconnected world their greatest challenge will be comfort and confidence in interacting with people from all over the planet.
So, in that context, a priority for St Peter’s College must be to develop globally competent citizens. Veronica Boix-Mansilla from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education argues that there are four pillars that are essential to our students becoming globally competent people. The first is to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment; the second, to recognise perspectives; the third, to communicate ideas with diverse audiences; and the fourth, to take action by getting involved in activities that improve conditions.
One of the important differences I’ve noticed in coming back to Saints after all of these years has been the increase in diversity; it’s a far more interesting place than the School I attended in the 80s. And I believe that this can only be a good thing for a number of reasons that I have outlined in previous articles. Diversity notwithstanding, the question as to whether we are meeting the requirements that Boix-Mansilla has identified for true global competency is worthy of discussion, because there is a significant difference between playing lip service to the notion of diversity and being a truly inclusive School. Here the second and third pillars of Boix-Mansilla’s model come into play. In my opinion, an inclusive School is one that not only recognises but understands difference through an ability to take perspective and walk in someone else’s shoes. So, a question we must ask ourselves as a community, even if it might be uncomfortable or difficult to answer, is how well we do in this area? How well do we investigate and understand the diversity of ethnic backgrounds in the School? How well do we recognise the uniqueness and beauty of each of the cultures that are represented here at Saints by fostering opportunities for our students to communicate with diverse audiences?
In her TED talk entitled The Danger of a Single Story, Nigerian born writer Chimamanda Adichie talks about another challenge that a community that is as diverse as ours can face. She talks about the danger that can arise by privileging a single or particular narrative for a group of people over any other possible story for them. The danger that arises through looking through a particular lens she argues, is that we fail to see or hear the individual because of the narrow story that we attribute to them as a result of their background, race, or ethnicity. While we undoubtedly have made some significant strides forward in this area, I think there is still work to do in creating meaningful opportunities for respectful, questioning, and challenging dialogue to occur.
The challenge for the incoming International Programs Coordinator then, will be to enhance existing programs as well as to bring a strategic vision as to how we can enable these important conversations and understandings. The challenge for the rest of us, is to be open to each other’s stories and to listen carefully for the truths that define each of us as individuals.
Pro Deo et Patria.
Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School