#11 How can we promote geographical understanding, cultural awareness and global citizenship?
In a fast changing, interconnected world education really matters; there is no place for international schools to be insular; we must find ways to be more outward looking and collaborative. For an international school to become truly world class, it must embrace and promote education in its broadest sense, for the most cosmopolitan of audiences. It is not enough just to concentrate on an exam orientated curriculum that produces successful academic metrics – rather the school must play a wider role in the evolution of education systems globally. Is it actually possible for an international school to do this? For example, can we promote better geographical understanding, cultural awareness and global citizenship for both students and educators around the world?
International schools are in a unique position to spread knowledge about where they operate, as part of a concerted effort to create a better understanding of different cultures and traditions. As a geographer on a mission to develop a new shape of education for the 21st century, I am fascinated by the opportunity this brings.
When I was thinking about taking my current job in Muscat, my family and friends quizzed me. Isn’t it always unbearably hot in Oman? Does it ever rain? What is a wadi? Isn’t Oman just like Dubai? Is it anything like the UK? Several years later I know I can help with some insights to help others understand more about Oman and indeed the Middle East, and also the role my school plays in this process.
Mark Evans, Executive Director, Outward Bound Oman, invited British School Muscat to be involved in an exciting project that he was leading called ‘Discovering Oman’. The project is a collaboration between geography teachers and students from international schools in Oman, UK teachers, the Royal Geographical Society, Outward Bound Oman, the Geographical Association and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the unique Omani geography to those who haven’t had the privilege to visit the country yet, such as prospective expatriate families and potential tourists.
The project offers 20 free open-access web based lesson plans for 9 to 18 year olds, allowing them to compare the geography of the UK and Oman across a number of themes. This means students in our wider community and other international schools in the UK and elsewhere can learn about Oman – and our Omani friends can also use the resources to learn more about their own country. It will mean that questions like the ones my family asked me may be more easily answered, as more and more people start to learn about Oman’s unique geography.
Students from BSM were fortunate to be an integral part of the project. They were involved at the planning stage when they discussed their opinions about what makes a successful geography lesson. They played their part with trials of lesson structures and carried out evaluations, which fed into the redrafting and development of the final plans and resources. Additionally, four young geographers from BSM were invited to participate as part of the Discovering Oman team, collecting data on micro-climates and habitats, with their findings supplementing the final research report.
The Discovering Oman lessons were launched online to the global education community in January 2019, and are now being used successfully in schools in Oman, in the UK and all over the world. BSM has played an integral role in contributing to the promotion of Oman on the international stage and many of us are proud of this achievement. You can see the lesson plans for yourself, on the Outward Bound Oman website.
This project, most importantly, acts as a testament to the merits of extending our learning beyond the classroom and our own schools. Preparing students to be ‘best for the world’ is teaching them to make the right connections between what they’ve learnt in their lessons with what is going on both on their doorstep and in the world around them. The Discovering Oman project has more than proved its value and is a model that should be introduced elsewhere, wherever it can. We plan to use it as a stepping stone to even more.