Jen Munro, Founder of ISSOS International Summer Schools, explains why she believes all children (and all teachers!) should be given the opportunity to experience International Summer School Education.
I spend my life going to business functions and events where when people find out what I do they always ask “what are the benefits of going to a summer school?” This is a very easy question to answer and the answer always surprises the unsuspecting asker, they didn’t for a second believe their could be so many benefits. There is however a bigger and far more important question to be asked; “What are the benefits of an INTERNATIONAL program/summer school or education?”
Only recently, as I watch the news and hear pre conceived ideas about countries and people that we deal with every day that this benefit, this idea of young people coming together with people from all over the world really hit home and I realised just how important, how vital, international education and international programs that bring young people together from all over the world and put them under one roof really are.
When I talk to people and tell them the incredible stories that we have of young people understanding that we are all connected, that we have students who have never met anyone from Lebanon until they come to the summer school and suddenly what happens in Lebanon or France or India is now relevant to them. The other day as I told impassioned stories, the lawyer standing next to me turned and said “your changing the world, this is how we achieve world peace”. Now far be it for me to claim that we are doing either of those things, but if by what we do, we can have an impact on young people, on their thinking, their opinions and create an environment where they are safe, then in our way, we are making a difference.
Benefits of Summer Schools
The benefits of young people attending a summer program are far reaching; there are academic benefits, social benefits, increased self confidence, friendships developed, minds stretched, potentials increased and dreams made, but it is the international element that I feel needs to be focused on, because it is the one aspect that creates a greater social understanding, changes mind sets, counteracts propaganda and that could have a significant effect on how this world changes in years to come.
I have always said that educators have one of the greatest responsibilities in the world, we have the incredible opportunity to shape the thinking of a generation, to teach them how to think, to encourage them to change the world for the better and so what better place to do this than in a international environment.
How International Programs can change peoples thinking
The tolerance and changing of mind sets, that we, as educators desperately need to nurture has been exemplified year after year at ISSOS. In year two of ISSOS I taught the Youth Leadership Program, at the end of the three weeks I asked the class what they had learn during their time at ISSOS. An American students answer brought a tear to my eye, she said “3 weeks ago I had never met anyone from an Arab Nation, in fact I had only met a few people from outside the USA. I came to ISSOS with preconceived ideas and judgments about those from an Arab nation, these ideas were born from the media and uneducated chat, but now he (she pointed to the 16 year old boy, Omar from Saudi Arabia) is one of my best friends and I understand about his country and his religion and I love him and he makes me laugh. I will go home and make sure my friends know that the propaganda they see on the news or uneducated people taking badly about people from Arab nations or any other country where we judge before really understanding or knowing, is just not right or true and I have a friend from Saudi Arabia and Scotland and India and Germany and Finland and they are people, they have a family and I am proud they are all my friends”. I sat with tears in my eyes and thought ‘if I do nothing else in my life and if this is why ISSOS exists for this one story, then that is enough”.
This is one story, but one of 100’s we now have of kids who understand more about different religions, kids who sit up at night and debate and challenge each others point of view and make each other think differently just by knowing each other they widen their world view.
I implore every parent, teacher, educationalist and young person to experience some form of international education, program or setting – it will change your life, your thinking and you too might join us on our mission to change the world.