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 warming.
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 history.
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.