Global education starts here

29th June 2012 at 01:00

Imagine a school where everyone cares - about themselves, each other and the planet. That's the idea of One Planet Schools, where teachers and children would appreciate how people and nature can live in harmony on a thriving green planet. It's an aspiration defined by the environmental charity WWF UK and subscribed to by the Scottish government (page 12). What's remarkable is the extent to which so many schools are already moving towards that vision.

In this week's TESS we see global citizens reaching out to each other from Venezuela to Stirling (page 22), from Rutherglen to South Africa (pages 10-13), from Argyll and Bute to Malawi (page 32), and from Angus to the poorest countries in the world (page 23). And we discover a community in Edinburgh stirred into action by an irrepressible former biology teacher, to share her passion for nature and restore wildlife habitats destroyed by urbanisation (page 16).

Many of these "life-changing" stories include approaches that Pete Higgins, professor of outdoor and environmental education at the University of Edinburgh, would welcome when he talks about creating an all-encompassing vision, where outdoor education promotes a better understanding of how the planet works, and education on sustainability and global citizenship develops a greater sense of responsibility to the planet (News Focus, pages 10-13).

Caring is at the root of them all. Whether it's South American musicians in the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, who have emerged from the back streets of Caracus, coming to share their passion for music with children from the Raploch estate in Stirling - or Stonelaw High pupils in South Lanarkshire raising thousands of pounds through Fair Trade to fund the education of Aids orphans in KwaZulu Natal, the message is the same. It's people across the world sharing and feeding into each other's cultures.

This is global education at its best and it's a heartening picture that creates a genuine sense of optimism against the backcloth of financial crises in Europe and the sustainable development conference in Rio de Janeiro (page 23).

How sad it is, then, to find members of the Muslim community in Glasgow moving in the opposite direction, wanting to pull their children out of local schools because they are concerned about "unsocial behaviour" (page 5). Previous attempts at establishing Muslim schools in Scotland failed. The Iqra Academy in Glasgow was criticised by inspectors and ultimately closed for preventing its pupils from mixing with the surrounding community, in a city that prides itself on its inclusive, multicultural schools.

If we are to close the gap between rhetoric and practice, we would do well to remember, as Glasgow MSP Hanzala Malik puts it, "When children leave school they are all going to have to live in the same world."

Gillian Macdonald, Editor of the year (business and professional).

gillian.macdonald@tess.co.uk.

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