We may be on the verge of leaving the EU but it is clear that never has it been more relevant for young people to have a global outlook. On the 12th November, for the first time ever, six young people, four Heads of State and the President of the United Nations General Assembly gathered in Paris to explore youth perspectives on global cooperation, identify new ways to engage young people in decision-making and to deepen global cooperation and international dialogue. How fitting then, for Queen’s girls to be engaged in debate on global issues at the Model United Nations at Oxford a week later. Equally valuable, for classes to make use of the Virtual boardroom to learn with classes in Spain and France and even speak to alumni in China, further emphasising the ease with which technology enables us to connect across the world.
Just a few days ago I was with other Headteachers at the China Exchange in London in my capacity on the steering committee for the Institute of Education Confucius Classroom initiative. Whilst most discussion centred on our commitment to bring as many children as possible into contact with the opportunities to learn Mandarin, it should not be a surprise to learn that we also touched on the importance of language education in providing young people with global opportunities for the future. This week, the Year 9 have an opportunity through The Female Lead society, to link with a female leader from PwC for a webinar. It is significant that PwC list four employability skill areas they look for which make up their view of successful ‘whole leadership’: technical capabilities, business acumen, relationships and global acumen. About global acumen, PwC say that
“In a continually complex and changing world, you’ll need to operate and collaborate effectively, with a mind-set that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries”.
They are looking for people who think independently, can embrace change, look for opportunities and be innovative. All attitudes that we encourage in the girls through a varied curriculum and extra-curricular programme and a culture that embraces diversity. Diversity of culture and cultural experiences are embraced by the girls in trips abroad, video conference meetings, visits from exchange students learning with our neighbours at English in Chester and of course, through the 24 different nationalities that make up our school community.
A recent Ipsos MORI poll has highlighted a significant trend in the outlook and ambitions of young people in the UK. More than two thirds of 2000 young adults surveyed are described as having an “international outlook” and are seriously considering careers and lifestyles abroad. Coupled with further advances in technology, such as apps on mobile devices that can instantly translate any language, it is no wonder that the world is rapidly “getting smaller”. The rapid evolution of technology and its subsequent affordability is evident, as even amongst service workers in China, the use of smart phones is widespread.
Last summer, I found myself communicating easily with a cleaner and air-conditioning engineer in China. Reminiscent of the Hitch Hiker’s guide to the galaxy Babel fish, the result was extraordinarily refreshing, having spent frustrating weeks on previous holidays being unable to make myself understood. But just being able to communicate will not be the key to success for our young people in their future careers – they will need to have a good understanding of each other’s cultures if they are to truly make the best of their international opportunities. The nuances of humour, colloquialism and globally recognised etiquette needs to be learned. The work of Dutch social psychologist, Geert Hofstede, who published his findings in 2010, has led to many people examining cultural differences and how this might impact on the way we interact in our daily lives. Hofstede’s seminal work on dimensions of culture diversity is providing multinational companies with means to reduce the negative impact of cultural ignorance and insensitivity. Holfstede himself, has plenty to say on Brexit and points us to Panorama’s programme broadcasted in July this year. Theory is all very well, but there is no substitute for genuine interaction that enables our young people, during their formative lives, to develop a deep understanding of cultural differences first hand. At Queen’s we believe developing girls as aspirational global citizens is crucial to all of our futures.