I have commented in previous blogs that as Heads we are very privileged to be given the opportunity to travel to conferences and hear world class speakers discuss their views on education. Last week was no exception. I was invited to attend a conference in Amsterdam for Head teachers of IB World Schools. I was the only Head from a UK school and it was indeed humbling to hear of their experiences in a wide variety of schools from war torn Beirut, a school in Kenya, and schools in Estonia, Turkey, Russia to name just a few.

The IB Diploma Programme is extraordinary. It connects you with people all over the world. As a result of the conference, I have now been invited to an International School in Lausanne, to look at their use of iPads. We have already shared good practice on the use of iPads in the classroom and exchanged policies on effective ways of implementing them. I have made links with a school in Kenya to discuss the potential of linking a CAS project with work their school is doing in Kenya and I have been invited to Beirut to see how their school is working hard with their children to bring the different factions together. I was particularly moved to hear a Head from Panama talk about the community work they are undertaking through their CAS programme, an integral element of the Diploma that requires students to actively connect and contribute to their local community. That year the school had chosen to support a local street dwelling community with each student tasked with collecting seeds and finding animals to help the community establish a small holding from which the locals would learn to farm and provide food for their families.

Meeting such a globally diverse group of individuals served to remind me of the richness of the IB Diploma and how its international outlook underpins the core of its philosophy. It was a pleasure to hear my contemporaries discuss the varying issues facing their schools and it was hard not to be impressed by the fluency of their English, knowing that for many this was their third or even forth language. Through its international mindedness the IB encourages its students to look out and connect with the world around them, to start to understand that across the world our differences are often smaller than our similarities; that as humans we all share the common need for food, shelter, companionship and love.

At Nelson Mandela’s memorial service President Obama stated that Mandela embodied the South African philosophy of “uBuntu” – the idea that humanity is bound together and it is expressed by people caring for one another. Translated it means “I am because you are”. IB’s philosophy is the same – it encourages students to use their education to make the world a better place. We were constantly reminded of this at the conference and I was proud to be able to tell other Heads what our Sixth Form had achieved and I look forward to sharing this with them when they take up my invitation to visit BGS.

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