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Fun and games

Steven Hastings introduces Britain's first International Education Week

If November gloom threatens to settle over school, why not try the ancient African board game of Oware in a competition at London Zoo. Or hear first hand from a Russian cosmonaut. Or listen to French storytelling, unpick the secrets of Japanese haiku, or catch a masterclass in Austrian singing.

These are some of the activities on offer next week during International Education Week , a new Department for Education and Skills initiative.

"We need to make sure that education raises the level of international awareness," explains Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills.

The drive to make British schools more outward-looking has seen the growth of individual school links with partners not just in Europe, but across all continents; teacher and pupil exchanges; and ICT developments allowing video conferencing and email friendships and joint curriculum work. The week aims to bring all this together and take it a step further by encouraging schools to look again at ways of using the international dimension to enhance education. The emphasis is on making internationalism more mainstream.

"We want internationalism to be integrated into all areas of the curriculum, not seen as just an add-on," explains Ann Harper of the DfESDepartment for Work and Pensions Joint International Unit.

Amid all the fun and games, there's a serious message. In an increasingly global marketplace, those students without an understanding of how the world works and a sense of other cultures and countries are likely to get left behind. The DfES hopes that the week - based on a US model launched in 2000 and now co-ordinating thousands of events across America - will mean that schools and teachers need never again be daunted by the thought of bringing internationalism into the classroom.

Events focus attention on resources available to schools and on schemes that encourage school linking or offer funding for projects and exchanges.

There will be previews of the Global Gateway website, a major resource being developed by the DfES and the British Council. Scheduled to be fully operational by early next year, this will draw together information on all available, relevant websites, provide a powerful search engine, offer advice and news about international issues, plus a new "dating" service finding overseas partners for schools.

International Education Week website: www.teachernet.gov.ukiew

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