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Gateway to the future

The main linking website has received 21 million hits, reflecting a growing interest in the international dimension in schools. Martin Bentham reports Interest in the global dimension to education has risen sharply in the year since the Department for Education and Skills launched its new international strategy, offering children the chance of a broader educational experience.

Setting up links with schools, local authorities and governments overseas, the basis of curriculum collaboration and sharing of teacher expertise is a long, slow process. But 41 countries have already signed up as strategic international partners on the Global Gateway website, run for the DfES by the British Council, which is fostering greater global co-operation between schools and colleges. Among the signatories are India, Poland, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and Japan, as well as Tuvalu, Fiji, Oman, Guyana and Armenia - all offering British teachers and pupils the chance to learn more about their cultures.

The Global Gateway site has had 21 million hits since its launch in February 2004 and 5,047 schools have registered to find a partner. The site contains advice and materials, including lesson plans for children of all ages, to help teachers build global awareness into the curriculum. Its partner-finding mechanism has also been given a keyword-search facility to make it easier for schools to find overseas partners interested in collaborating on particular themes, such as climate change, or to choose partners from a particular location.

The website also contains a new application facility for schools wishing to apply for the British Council's International School Award online. This is a three-year accreditation for schools that have demonstrated success in involving pupils of all ages in extensive international curriculum links across a range of subjects. In the year since the international strategy was launched, 184 schools have completed the full award - a 45 per cent increase on 2004 - and a further 59 schools have been awarded the new foundation level and 77 the new intermediate level.

However, the Government's target of persuading 7,000 schools to gain the award within three years, and all to do so by 2010, remains dauntingly far off.

Last month, the DfES published the first of its six-monthly action plans for developing its international strategy. It sets out three broad objectives: to teach pupils to live and work in a global society; to engage international partners to achieve mutual goals; and to maximise overseas trade in and inward investment into the UK education system.

Olga Stanojlovic, a spokeswoman for the British Council, says children's education is being transformed by the new global dimension to education.

"Internationalism has become something which is mainstream, not a bolt-on extra as it used to be. People now recognise that to prepare young people for the 21st century we have to teach them to be global citizens," she says.

Some of this progress will be celebrated in this year's International Education Week (November 28-December 2). Events include exchange visits and performances at the Royal College of Music, a visit to Britain by teachers from Iraq, hosted by six teaching unions, a half-day seminar in Durham for schools in the North East on developing links with Africa, and a visit by pupils of Clacton County high school to LaGuardia high school of performing arts, in New York. International School Award:

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