Speaking earlier today at the AGSA conference in Brisbane, Dr Terrance Fitzsimmons of the University of Queensland Business School gave his audience a compelling insight into the journeys of CEOs. Based on his research into whether male and female CEOs differed in how they reached the top, his presentation highlighted stark gender differences in the pathways of CEOs into their current roles. I am only just beginning to unpack the wealth of information he revealed – I shall write about it later!
One thing he said, however, that absolutely caught my attention was that almost without question, every CEO of the several hundred interviewed said that as a child, they had travelled extensively, and that this travel had continued throughout their careers. Coincidence, mused Dr Fitzsimmons? Most likely not. International travel, he hypothesised, had helped these leaders see the world as a bigger place – a global platform – and had helped them to feel comfortable and at ease in numerous situations.
This chimed loudly and clearly with the principles underpinning Powerful Schools: How schools can be drivers of social and global mobility. Access to the international world is an absolutely vital component of social mobility, and schools – as socially mandated institutions – are the most obvious vehicles to be able to facilitate this mobility for all young people, and not just those whose families are positioned well enough to be able to make it happen.
Internationalising schools – as I had the privilege to explain in my talk to AGSA conference delegates yesterday – means placing ‘global’ at the heart of all school activity, so that it is inextricably interwoven with the vision, the ethos, the curriculum and the practices of the school, and so that it leads to deeper and deeper partnerships with other schools in other countries and cultures. Schools can be the drivers of these international partnerships, and of the opportunities for all young people which will emerge, and this could potentially have a fundamental and lifechanging effect on the young people for whose education and life chances they have responsibility.
Not every child can become a CEO; not every child will or should want to become a CEO. But schools exist in part for each child to have the opportunity to choose to become a CEO, and – so Dr Fitzsimmon’s research would seem to indicate – they will be far, far better placed to be able to make this choice if they have travelled and experienced the wider world.
Global awareness matters; international travel is essential. Schools need to lead the way in creating the opportunities for all young people to experience it.