Globally competent thinking

Every time I visit Hong Kong, I leave feeling impressed and humbled by the city and the region. Geographically, it must be one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, and the feats of human engineering which have situated almost unfeasibly high buildings on hillsides, created high octane container terminals and developed a speedy network of road and rail, bridges and tunnels, are, quite simply, stunningly ingenious. Above all, though, I always feel welcomed and in safe human hands when I am there; I am committed to and enjoy contributing to the vision of DSHK (Dalton School Hong) and I believe in the people who are taking this forward.

As a guest and visitor, it is not for me to comment on the events of the past few months, and the heightened tensions of the past week in particular, but I do know from seeing and speaking with many Hong Kong residents how this is an incredibly hard time for them. It is tearing families and communities apart, and creating levels of anxiety and concern that have no comparisons in the region within living memory. Faced with this, what can we, as educators, do?

Hong Kong in snapshot; ancient hills, colonial past and modern living

Well, this is not an easy question to answer. Who are we, with our own personal slivers of understanding of the world, to decree what those around us should learn, and how they should grow? On what grounds do we set ourselves up as experts in ‘what children need to know’? The truth is that as individuals, we really don’t have that legitimacy. The more well-read we are, the more we have educated ourselves about education, and the more we have considered, carefully and thoughtfully, what we believe and why, the more likely it is that we will approach what might turn out to be as right or good an answer as it is possible or practical to achieve … but there are an awful lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ implied in this assumption. Working with other educators is another step towards finding the answer we seek – provided that they represent diverse perspectives and are prepared to challenge our unconscious biases (and we theirs). And, of course, the more we can open our minds to the differences that mark our personal, collective, social and cultural views of the world, the more successful we are likely to be in at least finding a justifiably reasonable direction of travel in our quest.

Is it a sign of my own personal bias that I keep returning to this notion of ‘global competence’ as one of the core keys to help us support children and young people in their education and personal development? Undoubtedly! But I would also argue that it is a well-grounded pragmatic philosophical direction which clearly resonates strongly with parents, educators and young people themselves, so I will continue to promote it, passionately, as my contribution to the debate (recognising that it is just that – a contribution), and to the search for how to educate our young people in testing times.

Dr Helen Wright is the author of Powerful Schools: how schools can be drivers of social and global mobility. Her new book, The Globally Competent School: a manual, will be published on Amazon very shortly. Watch this space …

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