Overseas trips with purpose

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Jane Davidson's Guy Fawkes Day trip to Spain for talks with Catalan education ministers will attract the usual accusations of junketing. Such trips usually generate windy communiques that do little to reduce the electorate's cynicism. Nevertheless, the vision of a greater international dimension to teacher development and pupil learning that Ms Davidson shares with her Westminster ministerial colleagues (page 5 and Go Global supplement) has TES Cymru's enthusiastic support.

Schools cannot end 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 greater empathy with the ordinary people affected - with teachers and children with hopes, fears, interests and aspirations 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 key questions about the nature of humanity. They need to have their questions answered and any fears addressed. They are entitled to have a rounder picture of the world and the people we share it with than news bulletins will ever provide.

Some will ask how schools are supposed to meet yet another demand. But what is the purpose of education if not to address issues on which our futures depend? And as The TES knows from our Afghan campaign in 2002 and the school linking and global teacher work we have supported in Africa, exchanges with other countries make a vital contribution to communication skills.

Most of what children say or write in school is addressed to someone who already knows what they want to convey and the context in which it is said.

Addressing a stranger forces us to reflect on our own experiences and theirs in a way that is fundamental to mutual understanding.

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