On Thursday 29 October, Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute, addressed the International Baccalaureate Joint World Heads & Africa, Europe and Middle-East Regional Conference. The IBAEM Conference convenes more than 1400 Heads of schools, teachers and participants from governments and other organizations at the World Forum in The Hague to share experiences and views on the subject of international education.
An alumnus of the International Baccalaureate program, Dr. Williams reflected on the strength of the academic foundation that the IB provides, noting that it played a critical role in preparing him for his career in academia, the UN and think tanks.
In his remarks, Dr. Williams focused on the important role that education can play in conflict prevention. He observed that education, when properly conceived, can help to prevent conflict by fostering understanding between different social groups and imparting the knowledge necessary to resolve social tensions. He cautioned that in the wrong hands, education can contribute to conflict, for example, when curricula are used as instruments of oppression and discrimination.
Dr. Williams then elaborated on how to realize the potential of education to prevent conflict.
Firstly, schools must be safe places for children. Schools must not be targeted by warring parties during conflict, and greater investments should be made in emergency education. Secondly, the content and process of education should promote peace by teaching students negotiation, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Finally, while access to education remains an important concern, we must look beyond this initial goal. Dr. Williams remarked that the new sustainable development goal on education is praiseworthy in this regard, as it focuses not only on access, but also on inclusive and equitable education that provides relevant skills for employment and sustainable livelihoods. Importantly, it seeks to promote a culture of peace and global citizenship.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Williams reflected on what he believes should comprise a modern education. He asserted that education should seek to instill in students acosmopolitan ethic, and foster intellectual curiosity and a duty of service, especially to those less fortunate. Dr. Williams commended the IBO for doing just this, and providing what he described as a “truly progressive international education.”