Over half term, I went to the Heads’ IB World Conference
in the Hague in the Netherlands. It was
an exciting few days, providing as it did an opportunity to meet other teachers
and Head Masters from all around the world.
I found myself sitting next to colleagues from Jordan, Venezuela,
Norway, Australia and the United Arab Emirates; and listening to speakers from
Finland, USA, Saudi Arabia and Austria.
I can say quite categorically that those of you who are taking the IB
here are taking a truly global qualification.
For me, what came out of the conference most strongly was
something relatively obvious, though perhaps worth articulating; namely that
your generation is the first generation of truly global children. Your parents grew up at a time when the
internet was not widely known about; when 24 hour news did not exist; when
texting and emailing, let alone a vast range of social media, was not
available. You have far more information
about the world at your fingertips than your parents ever did. Your world is very much about global
interconnectivity. And as such, the
following collection of figures and oncoming issues will probably not surprise
you, but again they are worth articulating:
Bear in mind that there are about 7 billion people in the
world. Here are five thoughts:
1) 2 billion people in the world live on less than £1.50 a
day. Indeed 2% of the world’s population
possess over 90% of its wealth.
2) 1 billion people do not have reliable access to drinking
water. Of these, 100 million people in
Northern India are short of water due to the melting of the Tibetan plateau,
itself a victim of human activity which has helped to speed up global
3) By 2100, when, God willing, very many of you will still
be alive, average global temperatures will have risen by around 3.5 degrees
centigrade, and this is assuming current government pledges to aid the
environment are kept. There are
apparently shipping companies which have been planning to use the North Pole as
a speedy thoroughfare for east-west transportation for the last 10 years; melting
of the entire icecap is thus fairly imminent.
4) A question, to take us back to the 1 billion people who
are short of water: how much water do you think it takes to make a single cup
of café latte? The answer is about 250
cups, the vast majority of which is used to keep the cows fed and watered to
make the milk. It is also worth
considering, at this point, that we are eating more meat than ever before in
5) Changing tack slightly, a quote from the Dalai Lama: “in
the 20th Century, 200 million people died from warfare – clearly
there is something wrong with our systems of education”. Why did he say that? It is because it is only through education,
ie what you learn when you are growing up, that we can start to resolve matters
peacefully, to understand each other no matter what our backgrounds, to communicate and negotiate effectively.
World poverty and inequality; global warming; and social,
national and global unrest, partly as a result of those other two issues, are
all undoubtedly going to have a major impact upon your lives. And the point of all this lies in my first
few words – you are the first truly global generation of children, and you will
have a different slant on life to when my generation were children. We, as educators, are tasked with preparing you
for this ever changing and challenging world; and as basic issues of humanity
are at the heart of all these challenges, we are well placed to do that in both
a traditional and forward thinking way.
However, you, too, have a voice, and rightly so. Some of my favourite advances of last year
came directly through pupil initiative: the new pupil run magazine, MDLII,
edited and written by boys, as a voice for boys; the new BBC standard film and
editing equipment, bought by the school as a result of boys coming to ask about
improving media opportunities; a new boy run Economics club; a new equestrian
option, initiated by boy prompting. Our
whole charity set up is a great example of this too, galvanised by boy
committee and a real showcase for boy leadership. Boys, you should see this school as a “can
do” place, a place where you can suggest, be heard and then act in the way that
our core values suggest. If you have a
passion you wish us to know about, let’s hear it; and let’s see if we can all
do our own little bit to make your future world a better place.