When call-centre workers in Bangalore or Dubai are studying EastEnders so they can handle your phone enquiries about water bills or health insurance, it is time to recognise that we live in a global community. Education is catching up with business in recognising how the explosion in internet use, email and cheap air travel has dramatically increased international contact and the global reach of organisations. Barely a day goes by without a school writing to The TES to tell us about a link, an exchange or project with a school in the mountains of Nepal, the townships of South Africa, or some other distant part of the world.
Once inspired by the personal ties of returning VSO volunteers or popular charity campaigns such as Comic Relief, the international dimension has edged its way into the mainstream. Since 1997, the Government has raised funding for development education from pound;300,000 to pound;6 million a year and channelled support via regional consortia of development education centres and local education authorities. Curriculum changes, especially the introduction of citizenship, have ensured that children have to have an understanding of the world and their role in it.
Overseas professional development visits are showing that not only pupils but teachers, too, can gain valuable insight by sharing expertise with peers abroad.
Schools themselves are affected by the global problems that bring asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants to our shores and increase ethnic and religious diversity in our classrooms. The challenge now is to encourage whole-school policies on the international dimension, promote effective ways to enhance learning through international collaboration and make education relevant to the ever changing world in which we live.