As the new coronavirus has disrupted life as we know it in the last few months, the world has never felt smaller. This pandemic has revealed how quickly transfer can happen between individuals, throughout urban and rural communities, and beyond national borders. Wesley International Academy is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school with a vision to develop students who are global citizens. Fear and caution have escalated in recent weeks, and we’ve watched international borders close and ideological isolationism rise. Still, our interconnected world reveals that a global education is just as – if not more – important now than ever before.
First, we will continue to be connected to our global community. Moving backward in time is impossible. While our globalized world may be taking a pause, international business, travel, and connection will resume. In fact, this crisis has illuminated the need for greater connection, collaboration, and communication. Together we will be able to get in front of global threats and work together for creative solutions. Wesley’s IB curriculum encourages students to ask questions, dive into topics of global significance, think critically, and take risks. These skills are invaluable as students prepare for a future that acknowledges our interconnectedness and addresses new challenges that will emerge for our global community.
Global education also equips students to tell deeper, more accurate stories about the world around them. At Wesley, our students study Chinese Mandarin language from kindergarten through 8th grade. Like all Wesley teachers, our Chinese teachers have adapted and shown up for digital learning in this unusual school year. Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her famous TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” says, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” At a time in history where a single story of China as the origin of the virus dominates the media, our students are interacting each week with Chinese teachers who help them understand the breadth and depth of the culture and people of China.
Finally, we are preparing young students to be leaders on the world stage. A global education equips them to listen and learn, to adapt and grow, and to speak and lead. Since kindergarten, Wesley students have been learning about other cultures, engaging in project-based learning, and honing language skills. These practices allow them to explore and create, as well as develop empathy and understanding. The pandemic will not last forever, but it will leave a mark on our students who experienced this global emergency in their formative years. They will not assume that what affects our neighbors in another country cannot and will not impact them. Instead, their generation will look for leaders who can engage on a global scale and navigate the unique challenges and opportunities this connectedness will bring.
Many have tossed around the phrase “new normal” to describe parents working from home while children attend online class meetings and ask for more snacks. But the truth is that this reality is a temporary one. When new norms emerge as the pandemic subsides and some of our rhythms reengage, we must acknowledge this new awareness of our global connectedness. Students engaged in a global education will be uniquely prepared to step into that future as leaders, creative thinkers, and problem-solves. Global education most certainly still matters.