What a world-class education really means

One of the other speakers I very much enjoyed listening to at the IAPS conference (see my blog on Sunday) was a teacher from Windlesham House School in West Sussex, a prep school teaching girls and boys up to the age of 13. He was speaking about the partnership that Windlesham has with The CRED Foundation, which enables the school to take trips abroad, to developing countries, on expeditions which are mutually transformative, and the pictures he showed and the stories he told were captivating.

Through CRED, groups of boys and girls from Windlesham have been out to help in projects in Africa and now India – visits which by all accounts have changed the lives of the participants quite profoundly. To see poverty up close, and to do something to help put it right – this was the opportunity that these young citizens had, and they grasped it with both hands. Whether it was by teaching, or by playing games, or simply by connecting and building relationships, the visitors were able not only to gain an insight into the issues facing the whole of humanity, but also to seek to do something about them.

This was a fabulous opportunity, and it made me reflect on the purpose of the education to which we devote our time in schools. Independent schools in the UK – all independent schools, not just prep schools – set their sights extremely high in all that they do, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the aims that we set ourselves to ensure that the education we offer to our students is absolutely excellent – world-class, in fact. A world-class education must be worthy of the name, and cannot be restricted to the development of the individual alone, although this is an important part of it; rather, it must allow for the growth of the individual into a social, socially-aware, socially-responsible, human being who understands and is sensitive to the needs of the wider, global community, and who is prepared to make a difference.

I feel this incredibly strongly in my role as an educator; hearing the stories of 12 year olds last week, and the change these experiences have wrought in their lives, inspired me yet further. We should all be seeking to change the world for the better. If you haven’t started yet, it is never too late to begin.

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