My BBC Online daily e-mail informed me this morning that, according to a British Council survey, ‘UK children aged 11 to 16 have the lowest international awareness among their age group in 10 countries’.
The article reported that 4,170 children with Internet access were asked about language learning and international affairs and the results were scored on an index from 7 to 0 –
- Nigeria 5.15
- India 4.86
- Brazil 4.53
- Saudi Arabia 3.74
- Spain 3.29
- Germany 3.24
- China 2.97
- Czech Republic 2.51
- USA 2.22
- UK 2.19
When questioned, children in the UK were least likely to want to try and understand world affairs, and saw themselves as citizens of their country rather than the world. Young people in Brazil were among the most likely to agree with the statement “it is a good idea for schools in my country to have links or partnerships with schools in other countries” but the least likely to be in schools that had such links.
The article finishes with the comments of Martin Davidson, British Council chief executive
“Our school children cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world. For the UK to compete in a global economy, it is vital that we encourage our young people to have an interest in and engagement with the world around them.”
Intercultural Understanding is a key strand of the KS2 Framework for MFL (although we’re supposed to use PLL (Primary Language Learning) to get away from the negative connotations that ‘foreign’ can have) As far as I’m concerned, opening the ‘window on the world’ is a vital part of learning languages. At Whitehouse Common, we’re taking this seriously and I’ve written raising international awareness and understanding into the SIP for PLL as a specific target.
Last year we made a start on this with an eTwinning project called Somos lo que Celebramos. Working with Colegio Público César Hurtado Delicado in Valverde de Leganés, near Badajoz in Spain, we compared and contrasted festivals and celebrations in the two countries. The project not only broadened the pupils’ knowledge of Spanish festivals and culture but also made them look at their own celebrations through new eyes. We won a Runners-up Prize in the National eTwinning Awards for the project too – I was very pleased – my head wanted to know why we hadn’t won!
(If you want to find out more about this, have a look at the presentation I prepared for The Isle of Wight Conference where I spoke about the project, and eTwinning in general – you’ll find it in my Box of Goodies. )
This year we’re on a roll and are pushing the boat out into deep waters! We achieved the Intermediate International Schools Award for last year’s efforts and this year, we’re hoping to achieve the Full Award (fingers crossed!)
We’re taking part in the Voices of the World project , have two Ted-E-Bears in North America and are about to become involved in a new Teddy based project with Silvia Tolisano. Our eTwinning project for this year is called Somos lo que comemos and hopefully will involve five countries comparing and contrasting food and healthy lifestyles in our countries (details being finalised at the mo!). Then there’s Hands around the World – 480 handprints to parcel up (and cut out!!) to be sent around the world to other classes as we compare ‘Holidays around the world’ and, later on in the year, a postcard exchange. I’m working on email links with South America and, following on from the success of this
year’s European Day of Languages, I’ll be starting planning for next year after Easter!
I’ll tell you more about these projects over the next few weeks but just wanted to respond to the article with some examples of how we might address this – hopefully in a few years’ time, children in the UK will be more globally aware and see themselves as ‘global citizens’, as they are encouraged to reflect on their own experiences as they appreciate those of others.