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Global way to promote knowledge

Charles Clarke's vision of a greater international dimension to teacher development and pupil learning (page 5) has The TES's enthusiastic support.

Schools may not bring an instant end to the killing in Iraq, starvation in Darfur or the Aids epidemics and international debts crippling many developing countries. But they can work towards a better understanding of such tragedies and towards greater empathy with the people affected - with teachers and children whose hopes, fears, and aspirations are just like our own.

Like all of us, children see appalling images from around the world brought daily to their TV screens: images that raise disturbing questions about rights and wrongs and the nature of humanity; vivid pictures which powerfully influence our understanding of what the world is like and the part we play in it.

Children need to have their questions answered and to have their fears or sense of hopelessness addressed. And they are entitled to have a fuller, rounder picture of the world and the people we share it with than news bulletins provide. We all need that if there is ever to be greater peace, shared prosperity and justice in the world.

Some will ask where schools are supposed to get the time, energy and resources to meet yet another demand. It is a fair point. But what is the purpose of education if it not to address knowledge and attitudes affecting all our futures? And as The TES knows from our Afghan Campaign in 2002 and the school linking and global teacher work we have supported in Africa, such contact with other schools and countries can make a vital contribution to basic communication skills.

Most of what children say or write in school is addressed to someone who already knows what it is they want to convey and the context in which it is expressed. Addressing a stranger forces us both to reflect on our own experiences and theirs in a way that is fundamental to real communication and understanding.

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