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‘IB is showing the way’

JF Rischard’s High Noon inspired the IB community theme. He explains how 20 global problems are being tackled – and how teachers can contribute.

In High Noon, I was trying to explain globalization in terms of the forces behind it, why 20 of our most urgent problems were not being solved. My diagnosis was that clashing territorial perspectives and the short-term horizons of politicians in issues like global warming, maritime pollution and avian flu left little likelihood that 200 nation states would get together and solve our problems.

It’s still the case that we have less than 20 years to solve these problems; with global warming it might even be 10 years. I hoped a panel of experts would come up with solutions and then rate every nation state according to its effectiveness at meeting them. Imagine league tables every year, naming virtuous countries and criminal ones. It would empower voters, forcing politicians to be more long-term in their thinking.

There hasn’t been a real discussion of these solutions, or of the methodology of global problem-solving. There is no real venue for those discussions to take place in.

However, two factors make me optimistic.

  1. First, things like the Al Gore movie (An Inconvenient Truth), Live8 and the Leonardo Di Caprio film (The 11th Hour) have contributed to making global issues big news.
  2. And secondly, the school system has helped out – mainly the international school community, with public schools in the USA and the IB system showing the way.

We need heads of state to deliver a new methodology for global problem-solving, and a new generation with a new mindset to click with that methodology.

Young people need to feel first of all global citizens, second national citizens and third local citizens. Among my generation, it is the other way round. Change will be difficult, but schools are already thinking about curriculum changes.

I tell young people there are different roles you can play in changing the world. In your own home, switch off lights, recycle and so forth. But the biggest role is to be a future voter who knows what’s going on, or an activist or lobbyist. Something like [preventing] global warming requires a massive, systemic change that can only be brought about by millions of voters.

Teachers themselves must be well-attuned to the world. Everyone should read a quality newspaper and follow global issues. Often, the finer points of a debate are the most important – carbon taxes versus emission controls, for example.

There are also four key ways teachers can bring about positive change through the curriculum:

  1. Help young people understand the future; alert them to the major issues that will arise and the amount of cross-border co-operation dealing with them will entail.
  2. Encourage a new mindset, promoting global citizenship; equip students to understand existing laws and inter-dependencies across the planet, teach world history rather than Anglo-Saxon or Euro-centric history, and teach the things that give a sense of [a global] family. This includes working with foreign schools, challenging students to develop political positions and engaging in problem-solving exercises.
  3. Bring a vital multi-disciplinary perspective to issues such as global warming, so it is not just a matter of science, but also economics, social studies and geography.
  4. Nurture creativity; get students to work in teams and use new media and new methods.