Faith Abiodun, new Executive Director of UWC International, will share his vision for the Movement, followed by an onstage conversation with a student panel, including questions from the audience. The conversation will be wide-ranging, from the origins of the Movement to the change we must embrace to ensure we stay relevant and active in an evolving global community.
Chloe: Good morning. And a very warm welcome to our audience here in the ABT on Dover Campus and our online audience tuning in from around the world. My name is Chloe and I'm delighted to be your host for this morning, focused on the UWC movement and our commitment to change. Joining me in discussion today are my fellow students, Debbie and Isaye, and of course, our guest of honour, Faith Abiodun, whom we're very excited to welcome as the new Executive Director of UWC International.
It's an honour and a pleasure to have him join us this morning.
Faith Abiodun, besides being the new executive director is also an education and social enterprise leader, international affairs analyst, writer and speaker. In a career spanning nearly a decade at the African Leadership Academy, Faith has served as an executive leading the recruitment of thousands of young leaders from all over the world for ALA's programmes. He's also head of the Communications, Marketing, Programme, Recruitment and Partnerships departments helping to build leadership academies, global brands, as well as developing strategic partnerships with governments, corporates, foundations, NGOs and schools.
Going back further still, Faith started his career as a reporter in Nigeria with The Guardian and continues to provide socio political commentary for global news outlets such as the BBC and South African Broadcasting Corporation. In 2009 Faith founded the Speech Academy, a leading elocution and public speaking institution in Nigeria. And in 2016 he founded Future Africa, a public sector leadership organisation developing the continent's future public sector leaders with a growing network spread across more than 30 African countries.
So let's give Faith a very warm welcome.
Faith Abiodun: Very good morning to everyone and thank you so much for inviting me and thank you for the very, very generous introduction. On behalf of the UWC International Board and on behalf of the incredible staff of the UWC International Office and thousands and thousands of volunteers across the world who wake up every single day deciding to do good in the world.
Well, happy 50th birthday to UWCSEA. I hope you've enjoyed your celebration so far and I hope you are strapped in for the next 50 years because they're going to be exceptionally exciting. I've been invited to speak about the commitment to change. I'd like to start with three very simple, almost painfully trite propositions and questions. Firstly, the world is changing but in one direction? Secondly, the world of education is changing. But to what end? And thirdly, the world of UWC is changing. But how quickly and for whose benefit?
On Wednesday, 15th December 1971, when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew joyously opened the Singapore International School in association with United World College, events in other parts of the world were taking shape slightly differently. That same day, Pakistan's Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto walked out in tears from the United Nations Security Council. He accused the UN of legalising aggression by failing to pass a resolution for a ceasefire in the India-Pakistan war.
On this same continent, an institution was being created with a charge, the young ones to help to work together before cynicism and all the complexities of life set in. To enable a peaceful world, a sustainable world. And simultaneously on this same continent, world leaders were failing to prevent a war that carries until this day. 74 years and six months later. Today, we're witnessing a different kind of war with a slightly similar kind of war and while the UN has been able to pass a resolution to demand an end to illegal occupation and use of force in Ukraine, it has sadly been unable to prevent or end the war.
So the more things change the more they remain the same. What's the big difference? In Europe there is not one United World College. There are seven so once again we turn to the young ones to help to do what the adults have failed to do. The world is changing, but in what direction? The world of education itself is changing.
The experiment that became the International Baccalaureate was formalised in 1968 with an approach to develop intellectual, personal and social skills in students skills that can be applied in the world outside the classroom. Now this began as a radical pilot at 12 schools in 1968, formally established as the International Baccalaureate diploma in 1975 and today 1.95 million children across the world in 5,400 schools, 159 countries take an international baccalaureate course every day. Education has evolved. At the time it was a very radical concept because focus on learning was in rote memorisation. You were supposed to have encyclopaedic brains taking as much information as you can and give back as much as you can. But today we're thinking about the intermarriage of the ethics of science and the beauty of mathematics and philosophy.
Who would have imagined in 1968 that theory of knowledge, creativity, action service would become words in the lingo of education. The world of education is changing who would have imagined in 1971 when this college opened from the ripe old age of four years old, students would be dyed in the wool of service commitment to intercultural education and understanding.
Who would have imagined that the first expedition of a group of crazy idealistic educationists coming out of Wales to Singapore would evolve into what is now the largest international school in the world? May I say a very, very impressive one at that. The world of education is changing and that brings us to the world of UWC. We are changing as well.
I think about what my experience has been and what I have observed in my travels and conversations around UWC colleges and seen students, teachers, volunteers, board members, thousands and thousands of people getting up every single day because they believe that this thing matters and they believe that we must keep this going for as many generations as possible. The world of education is changing.
The world of UWC is changing. When Waterford Kamhlaba opened in Swaziland, 1950s, it was established as the antithesis to what was the apartheid regime in South Africa, the idea that black and white friends can go to school together. And Michael Stern went out there and said, I will do exactly that. So a radical approach was the right approach.
History has proven him right. And today that college, a United World College, brings together students from all over the world to learn together, to live together, and to remind that community we must never retreat to what once was. When another United World College opened in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina was a challenge to what was and remains an unthinkable proposition that humans with the same blood flowing through the veins shouldn't see eye to eye. And literally on a bridge that school exists as a reminder to that community. We are all one human race. The UWC movement has always been about change. In 2021 that same movement appointed a gentleman from the Global South to become its new executive director. We've always changed. Before we get too caught up with change, we should think about what we'll never change because we can get caught in the rat race of change.
We can get very, very obsessed with imagining what the future looks like. But as we dream about that future, what has got us this far that are we determined to never lose? What must we never, ever retreat from?
Three things: UWC has always been about daring adventure. We've gone to places where we're not welcome. Where we're not expected to be present but where we were desperately needed. Long may that continue. May we be brave enough, bold enough to go to places where we're not welcome. Not expected, but desperately needed. And the world needs us desperately.
UWC has always been about strategic innovation. We have tried things in our colleges that weren't expected of us. The very idea of the International Baccalaureate stemming from the curriculum that was pioneered at UWC Atlantic, what have become right now different models of education within UWC movement itself, the fact that we've got students from various age groups learning the values of service, personal example commitment to international understanding these were not the norm and we've innovated time and time again to become who we are today.
And long may that continue. We've always been about passionate leadership. The UWC movement has never shied away from speaking to the rest of the world about what has to be about who we are, what we believe in. We must never step away from that. We must always be seen as a leadership movement. We must be a movement that believes that the end goal of what we do is not education.
Education might be the vehicle but we exist to make the world a better place. This college exists to educate a generation of people who believe that they can take responsibility for the world and they desire to take responsibility for the world and must not shy away from that.
Very often we worry about overburdening young people with the idea of responsibility. Well, that's what Kurt Hahn asked us to do: let young people know that they are needed in the world and to everyone who's a UWC student today, I'd like to remind you that you are needed we're not forcing you, we're not preaching at you, we're reminding you that you are needed.
You are needed and so as we march on the future, I want us to imagine what it's like to always work in the relentless pursuit of understanding to want to see each other eye to eye, to want to learn each of those stories, to want to share space with each other, to want to really imagine the thought patterns that help us become who we are becoming. That commitment to slowing the world down and seeing each other as human beings first and foremost, has been at the centre of a UWC education. And must always be at the centre of a UWC education. It's why they went all the way to a place to position students in a way where there will be no distractions and they would simply be by themselves because that's how you get to know people.
You don't do that without spending time together. So the relentless pursuit of understanding, international understanding, and intercultural understanding must always be at the centre of what we do. Secondly, the primacy of service must always be at the centre of our education. Service as a proxy for helping young people build compassion and build an understanding of the world. Service as a proxy for enriching our communities.
We must always be committed to the ideas of service. Thirdly, we must be committed to the idea of acting more than we postulate. Let us not get caught up in using words. Let's get caught up in putting our actions to work. Who are we? What do we do? What do we stand for? Not in the statements we put out but in the work that we do, because that is what makes the world a better place.
For us, we must embrace the unending commitment to peace in the world. Our education must always be for a cause. What is the point of mathematics and physics if it doesn't make the world a better place? What is the point of philosophy and languages if it doesn't make the world a better place? I've always believed that the purpose of an education is to introduce people to themselves first and foremost, and then to introduce them to society.
And in the constant learning about self and society, people will be encouraged to identify the gaps in society where they are most needed. And when you identify those spaces, go there and make a difference. That's what our education must always be about. We introduce people to themselves first and foremost, and then to others and the rest of society.
And we help them identify gaps in society because we are not perfect. And in that imperfection, you are needed to make a difference. Embrace the call, embrace the challenge, go out and make a difference. That's what we're all about. But some things will change. Some things must change. In the world of education, we've not always been great at placing wellbeing at the centre of our learning.
That is changing and must continue to change. And we do not seek to educate students as robots and we do not overload them with concepts and ideas and practices such that they lose the capacity to reflect because reflection is the highest level of learning when you get the chance to be by yourself with your thoughts and you understand in the inter-marriage of all the things you've learned there must be a space for you at the centre for you to realise and rediscover yourself and how you are changing.
And I fear for the day when our students lose the capacity to reflect. May that day never come. May we all be responsible enough to carve out space for reflection and to ensure that wellbeing is always at the centre of our education. Our world is changing because we're becoming more inclusive of each other. We're becoming more cognizant of the fact that difference exists and we don't "other" people who don't look like us, we embrace them, we seek to know them. We want them to be a part of us. We want them to feel welcome. We're getting better at that. We're becoming more inclusive. May we seek to be even more inclusive. Not just in identifying people from different races and backgrounds and genders and sexual orientations, but in every possible way.
This beautiful collage of humanity must be celebrated, and may we seek to always be inclusive. May we seek to always pursue the continual alignment of our curricular approaches to present day challenges. We're getting better at that; we have to do even more to understand the present and emerging needs of the world and find ways in which our education leads us to make a difference in those areas. Long gone are the days, as Musimbi described yesterday when you get your education, it means you have a job. You're going to retire at some point, happily ever after. Not exactly. The world has changed. You don't just get a job. At times, you’ll just create a job. At times you have to change industries. At times, you have to transform lives radically.
At times, you have to lead people in directions in which they did not imagine they would have to go. There are new kinds of challenges in the world. Our education must be awakened to those kinds of challenges. Historically, education is the slowest changing industry because the lifecycle of a curriculum span tends to be far longer than the cycle of change in the world. Industries change far quicker than education changes.
And so how do we make our education a responsive kind of education? We've talked a lot about teaching students to understand what the world might look like, and then future proofing them for the world. We have no idea how the future proof because none of us knows the future. I don't want to get caught up in conversations about technology and assessments of the future and what all of that looks like. We can all postulate. We don't know for sure, but we can help to co-create by teaching to our values.
I'm going to close by saying that our movement has always been about leadership and leadership is a concept that has been long defined, long spoken about. But I don't want us to be overwhelmed by the idea of leadership. I want us to think about the responsibility that underpins that. If we are called to be leaders, it's because there is a vacuum in the world that has to be filled. Will we be brave enough to believe that we can help to fill those vacuums?
When I spoke in December, virtually, I said that the greatest purpose of a UWC education is to embed in our students a sense of possibility and a sense of agency. It means you see the world and you believe this can be better. The world can become a better place. Things can change. More importantly, you say, I can help to make the world a better place.
That's the marriage of possibility and agency. Things can be better, and I can help to make them better. And if all of our students leave our colleges and schools with that mindset, I believe we would have done our very best for them, and for the world. Thank you very much.
Chloe: Thank you. Thank you very much, Faith for those inspiring words and that call to action and definitely something we can all learn from. I think if we can open the discussion with actually a reference to something you mentioned earlier in your speech about the importance of reflecting both on ourselves and the spaces we carve out. So our initial question would be to what extent do you believe that the UWC values are still relevant and require reflecting on today in our changing world dynamic?
Faith Abiodun: The UWC values are timeless. I've been asked a few times what my favourites are of the UWC values and which ones I feel are most applicable to my life.
The one I tend to go to most often is my personal example. One of my favourite leaders in the world used to speak about the fact that those who have damaged our world have at times acted as individuals. And by doing what they've done and pursuing the ideas they pursued, they've influenced many people negatively. Personal action has damaged the world, and the person equally believed that personal action can fix the world.
If you invest in individuals you help them develop different values. You help them pursue different kinds of actions. Those same individuals can make a difference in the world.
Not many of us lived in the time of Kurt Hahn or met him personally. But we quote him consistently today. I believe it was personal action that led Kurt Hahn to do what he did in Germany and then move to the UK. And travel the world and inspire others. And that single light ignited a few others, many others and thousands of others.
And hundreds of thousands of us have been influenced by Kurt Hahn. So I really believe that personal action as one of our values is powerful. I think about myself, what difference can I make in concert with others? But first of all, what value do I bring to the world? That is timeless as long as humanity exists? Each individual must see themselves and their actions as influential on the rest of humanity.
You think about intercultural understanding, international understanding. Do we need that even more today than ever before? Because we might look at this collage and think, Yeah, we know each other, we can see multiple nationalities, or do we really understand each other? Have we spent enough time to understand what it's like to be who you are, to know where you've come from?
What influences your thought patterns and how I might work better with you to make the world a better place? I don't know your story nearly enough, or your story nearly enough. I want to. That's why we've all come to this place together to know each other, because each of us will influence the world in some way. But what if we found ways to understand each other and influence each other and collectively make the world a better place?
Those values are timeless, so it's up to us to find in each of those values where we find the most personal resonance. What makes the most sense to me, and how can I run with that? All of these values make sense. But at each point in your life, where do you find the clearest resonance and what pushes you on?
What propels you on? Let's not get caught up in how many they are and whether you talk of every single one of them. If it's only one of them that speaks to you at this moment, it's done its job. That's how I see our values.
Tebby: Yeah, that's very interesting and very insightful and maybe adding onto that Chole, looking at today's global world where everything is changing, the world is becoming more globalised and there's more interdependence. I think UWC values of international mindedness is more prevalent than ever in trying to bring communities, cultures and nations together.
Faith Abiodun: Yes. Yeah, I totally agree with that. Which one of the values speaks the most to you?
Tebby: Maybe cross-cultural interactions, especially like the Tampines boarding house, where you have people from various backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. So you have to try and be more accepting, be more understanding, and yeah, try to live peacefully together.
Faith Abiodun: Lovely this is Tebby by the way. In case you didn't know.
Issei: Yeah, no, I completely agree with you that individuals need to understand each other so much better to really achieve this common goal, I believe. And I have a question for you, so in order to understand each other better, I think that we need to not just understand each other in UWC schools and communities, but outside of these communities as well.
Yeah. And how do you think you can spread the UWC movement outside of schools, outside of people in UWC communities?
Faith Abiodun: Fantastic question. If the purpose of education is only for us, it's not enough. Not enough. And that's what I think has delighted me the most about our commitment to service especially at this campus or this college and both campuses. We don't exist selfishly. And so Musimbi said yesterday that movements evangelise. The whole concept of that is when you believe something, you are so determined that it will not stay with you and you will do whatever it takes to ensure that as many people as possible across the world come to understand that and then hopefully appreciate it and hopefully imbibe it as a way of life.
What can we teach the world about what we do and why we believe what we do? The idea that you can say to young people you are needed, that should not be tied to the borders of UWC schools and colleges. That call to action that reminder that you should not simply exist for yourself should not be a pristine concept.
We're holding a bottle. We say, this is UWC and no one else must know about UWC. No, let's speak to young people everywhere in the world. You are needed. Because those words just uttering them gives me goosebumps. I imagine what that will do for everyone else across the world.
You are needed. Very simple concept. Three words. Go out and tell every one of your peers. The world needs you, right? Simple. Our professors. I call them professors because I was reading Anthony Skelton's book over the last few days, and I saw the number of PhDs who have been teachers here at UWCSEA and I thought to myself, Are you kidding?
In the 1970s, I saw the brochure, the first brochure from UWC Adriatic and almost everyone was a Ph.D. and I thought, what? My professors, our teachers, our tutors, the people who have committed themselves to learning and understanding, come in to influence students here and across the world, how can we put them to more service beyond the borders of UWCs?
How do we share their knowledge? It's a question that I have because that's part of where the leadership component for me comes from. If we are so good at doing what we are doing, why aren't we eager to share those things with the rest of the world? Because there are lots of teachers who will pick a few things from how we do education over here, and I love for that to be the case.
Our commitment to service. I didn't grow up thinking about service as what I did in school. There was school and then there was service and service was maybe a 10th at the very most of what you do in school. They weren't inter-married. Taking tours around these two campuses I see students coaching tennis, the younger generation in school serving. I saw students supporting those who are learning how to climb in school service.
The young man who took me on a tour of the gardens explained to me the difference between dill and papaya service in school. How do we share that with the rest of the world? How do we capture what we are so good at? Document, tell the stories of who we are, how we do what we're doing, and what we are achieving.
Storytelling is so key. We've talked about UWC being the world's best kept secret. Absolute rubbish. There's no reason for this to be a secret. So open the doors we can't box this thing in. It's too precious for us to keep it to ourselves. It's a challenge to every single one of us. Go out there and tell every single person that you find about what is going on here?
It's way too precious for us to keep this to ourselves. Students, parents, teachers, volunteers, every single one of us. You are needed, it's that simple.
Tebby: Yeah, that's very insightful.
OK, speaking of that, we actually had a very interesting question. Is it perhaps possible in the near future, having you as our new chief executive director leader of UWC International, to maybe think about changing the education system or the model. Why do we need to pull students out of their communities where we've grown up, been attached to and everything, and then have to fly from as far as Botswana which is like the bottom of the world and then come to Singapore. Is it possible to try and, I don't know, dissipate the information, the knowledge to wherever these students are and then not try to take them from their communities?
Faith Abiodun: Chloe, how long have you known Tebby?
Chloe: Since this morning. I would say.
Faith Abiodun: Issei, how long have you known Teddy?
Issei: This year?
Faith Abiodun: This year. Are you grateful she's here?
Chloe: Of course.
Faith Abiodun: You're grateful she's here?
Faith Abiodun: So am I. We wouldn't have had this question from Botswana if you were still in Botswana.
Issei: You know.
Faith Abiodun: There are many ways in which you can change the world. I want a UWC influence in every street, every corner of the world, every city, every nation. I want us to be everywhere. I want us to be present, taking over spaces, influencing the world with what we believe but I also want us to come together wherever we find ourselves.
I think there are many ways in which you can think about this. On the one hand, yes, we can leave you and your country just where you were and bring your basic values to you there as a homogeneous society. Hopefully, possibly. But we wouldn't have this beautiful tapestry that we have. If I had never left Nigeria. I would never have been influenced by the people whom I came in contact with in the United States.
When I first came in contact with UWC alumni, I'd never gone to South Africa where I got the chance to work with many of UWC alumni. I'll never have been appointed to work at UWC International. So I've moved to London, where I got a chance to work with many UWC alumni and staff and volunteers, and I certainly wouldn't be here having this chat with you.
So I have greatly benefited in my life from having the chance to travel, see the world, meet people, challenge my biases, have the chance to experience cultures in practice as they are not a short clip of what it might look like on that side of the world. Not a book, but a step on the soil. Eat the food, shake the hands, it's very different.
We experience that. I hope you are having a good time in Singapore. You know, so there are many ways we can do this. But for now, I'm pleased. I'm delighted that we have the chance to bring people together from different parts of the world to push back against the ideas that we can exist in our own spaces and be independent of each other.
None of us was born to be an island. None of us was born to live life on our own just over there, wishing them well over there, coming together as much as we can. So I hope we can always create spaces for people like you from Botswana to sit next to people like Issei, from Japan, wow. This is beautiful.
Let's keep this going, all right? As much as we can.
Chloe: I think actually we might want to. On that note, move on to some questions from the audience and the wider community. So if there are any questions, feel free to raise your hands and we'll come around with the mic.
Milena: Hello, I'm Milena. I'm a national committee student from Germany and I'm Grade 12 and I would like to know your thoughts on the egalitarianism of UWC, because you say we should open the doors and there are only 18 UWCs in the world. And each year, so many people are rejected with their application and cannot go to a UWC.
Shouldn't there be more UWCs in the world? Shouldn't there be like 100 UWCs in the world like in every corner. Because similar to what Tebby said, maybe we yeah, we can bring the values to Botswana. But like, even if you say, yeah, we should bring the people together, should we bring them together to more places and enable this education for more students.
Faith Abiodun: It depends what you think about as a UWC. Is UWC the physical infrastructure or is it the ideas, the vision, the values, the concepts, the people. Do you scale the hardware or do you scale the software? We will never build enough schools to influence the world in 100 years. Or the people who come in contact with UWC values who buy into it and who find multiple expressions for this in the world that we can scale. Yes, we should if we can build more physical schools. We should if we can work with existing schools to transform into official UWCs. But I support Mia (Amala). What they're doing is UWC: to take the very same concepts of what we are doing and look at refugees and say, you are no different than we are and you deserve as good a life as we have.
And so they want to help you complete your education, not just in a substandard way. But in as good a way as we can offer you right now. That is UWC. UWC does not have to be a physical building everywhere the short courses that happen all over the world, that's UWC, people are taking these ideas as concepts that find in every possible pocket in the world and transmitting our values into those spaces.
That's UWC. I want every single person who comes in contact with us to take our values and set the mission free. We tie the mission up in boxes too often, it's got to look like this and like that and like that and like that. And if it doesn't fit into this, it is not part of us.
But we can't afford to become a cult, we can't afford to become an exclusive club.
Don't wait for official endorsement from UWC, so to transmit us into the world go out there and be UWC will catch up with you. Right? So my challenge to everyone is stick to what you've been given and go evangelise it wherever you find yourself in Tajikistan. And I hope somebody somewhere is listening to me. Yeah, there's Zebo!
Take what you've experienced and wherever on earth you find yourself be UWC for that place, it's the United World College or the United 18 World Colleges right. So I think if we get the chance and if we can raise the money for it. Yes, build the schools as physical symbols of our values. If you don't have the chance and the financial resources to plant that infrastructure at the very least, take the software for what we've got.
It lives in every single one of us and goes to transmit it in all the spaces that you can possibly influence and be a UWC wherever you find yourself. That's how I see our mission.
Amanda: So, hello, my name is Amanda. I'm a national committee student from Chile. Listening to your words was really touching because it reminded me why I'm here. But at the same time, it makes me think when you say make change and just not get caught up in words and talking and showing that we're doing things instead of doing them.
How do we stop our service programmes for being only performative? How do we make sure that every time we're doing service in school or outside of school, we're doing it to make change instead of only showing that we have a service? How do we stop students from doing services just because they want them for uni recommendation letters? How would you make sure that every student from UWC, not only NC students know those values and perform them with the intention of making the world a better place more than just performing that, we're doing that, and I think that's really important because the intention actually shows the effects on the world and for me is really important in coming from service in Chile and coming into here. I think my perception of it has changed a lot. And my question is basically how do we stop from being for our actions only being performative and for making change instead of just talking about it.
Faith Abiodun: You might want to keep the microphone actually for a few seconds. I'm just wondering what service projects you've been a part of?
Amanda: OK, back home I'm working on a work building of Parliament, a parliament to implement a mechanism to make young people in Chile really involved in politics. Basically people in Chile, young people, had pushed the writing of a new constitution. And when the new constitution came to be a thing, we were excluded from the process.
So how do we make a mechanism to actually involve young people in decision making? Yeah.
Faith Abiodun: Hold on for a second, if you really don't mind, the key question for me is why are you doing what you're doing?
Amanda: I'm doing it because as a young person from Chile I'm really moved by the problems in my country. I want young people to be involved because young people have the power to change things and they have a new perspective. And it's really important that we include it not only in a performative way but also in the decision making.
Faith Abiodun: Do you think you're making a difference?
Amanda: I'm trying to.
Faith Abiodun: You are not performing right? I don't think you're performing.
Amanda: Well let's hope so.
Faith Abiodun: Because what you've done is to identify a gap and even though you are not fully convinced that you know, every single thing you need to make a difference, you're trying you're putting yourself to work. That's all that matters. If you change one person's life, if you inspire one person, you've made a difference. And maybe that's all that matters.
And we look at people and we think they're performing, but if someone benefit from what they're doing, does it make a difference? Does it have value? It's not performance. If it changes someone's life right? So if our young people here, without fully understanding the full value of what they've created, if by simply taking action they make one person's life better, that's not a performance.
It's a performance when you're on stage simply acting, demonstrating, but not changing someone's life, not making society better, not improving the quality of air that we breathe by gardening, that's not performance. So for everyone who commits themselves to take action, even if they have a why behind their action, sometimes you need that action before you begin to see the purpose. Sometimes the action comes first.
And the teachers, those who have designed the programmes, they've got a bit of foresight and they say right now you haven't got the full capacity to understand your own why. But I'll help you in beginning to take action after the second time and the third time and the fourth time you've spent some time with people, you see the changes in their eyes.
It's a very good chance you begin to formulate your own why and that why can catch up to the what at some point. So let's get them to act. Even if they don't know why they're doing what they're doing, they must never stop doing. And it may take five years or ten years or 20 years at some point they'll come back and say, I was part of this thing and I made a difference in someone's life.
By all means, let them have it.
Amanda: Thank you.
Sinead Collins: Good morning. This is a question coming in online, which is for the students and wondering if part of the original UWC mission was for students to return to communities that they came from. But the knowledge and experience they've gained from being in UWC and in our increasingly globalised world, how can you continue to be part of your global community while also serving the communities you're from?
Faith Abiodun: Are you feeling up to that one?
Faith Abiodun: This is Issei by the way, he's from Japan.
Issei: Yeah. So it's a very hard question. And it's not something that,I mean, personally I was born in Singapore, but I identify as Japanese and something that I'm always striving to do is to understand myself better and my own culture better. And UWC helps me to do that. And that's because of our diversity.
And through things like cultural dress up day, we can I guess we can spread knowledge about our own culture to others and also take in other people's culture. And through that, you can understand your own culture better and who you are better. And I think through things like that, I can really understand myself so much better. And maybe in the future go back to Japan and compare, I guess in a way, compare myself to what the average Japanese person might feel.
And I guess in a way and I think through I think until then I won't really fully understand what UWC is able to provide for me, like to see the difference between someone who looks like UWC educated and someone who's not but yeah, I think that's a yes. I hope that answers your question, but that's how I feel.
Tebby: Maybe adding on to what Issei said, this might sound a bit contradictory, looking at the fact that I spoke about like globalisation at Tampines before, but then honestly, at the age of 16 and 17, you put yourself in our shoes like you're just 16 and then you have to like leave home, leave your parents with your siblings or sisters it's so difficult because you have to travel alone from home, come to a different country, very far away from home.
You become homesick, sometimes you feel alone, you feel lonely. So yeah, it's a bit challenging. So maybe I don't know. UWC could start maybe from around 20 or something. Yeah, because seriously, even after I got that mission to come here, I was still thinking of maybe just rejecting the offer letter because I didn't want to leave home.
Yeah, I was like, I've never travelled from the north part of my country to the south part alone. How am I going to like, board a flight to like as far as, like, Singapore alone? That's impossible! But anyway it is a good opportunity. We really cherish it. Yeah, we really love it.
But yeah, it's another perspective to consider it.
Faith Abiodun: Yeah, you're doing it, aren't you? You're doing it. Yeah, it's challenging. That's, that's for sure. But ultimately, some of the things that shape us are the things that stretch us the most initially, right? So embrace the stretch. And the question really I think is challenging as well to develop a local vision as much as into a global vision.
Right? So wherever you find yourself, it's about having that positive influence in that space. And I can imagine you've got some big dreams for Botswana. I can. I can imagine it's coming out of your thinking. I've got so much in this space, and if I had the chance to go back and influence things back in Botswana, I think I would do a whole lot for that country.
I might be projecting into you of wishing something good for you that hopefully you might run with it at some point?
Tebby: Yeah, yeah.
Faith Abiodun: OK, I'll be looking out for you.
Visanji: My name is Visanji, I'm a chemistry teacher at East. I'm also a UWC alum from Pearson College. And a lot of the questions that have been asked here and a lot of the things you've said have personally resonated with me, particularly this last question. I get asked that a lot. How do I go back to my community and make sure that I'm changing things there as well?
As changing things everywhere else? And it's a lot of responsibility, too, to carry around. But my question is related to one of the things you mentioned in your talk was about how education has changed a lot, and yet is the industry that takes the longest to change is the one that's changing the slowest and having friends from all around other UWCs and knowing a little bit about all the UWC schools, I see that besides sharing mission and values, there's one other thing that we all share, and that's the I.B. And when we talk about how education has changed so much education has evolved.
Sometimes I reflect on the IB. When I took the IB ten years ago and now teaching the IB, I quite often reflect on how much the IB has been able to change, how much is it aligned with our mission and our values. And I know it's a very slow process, but also when we keep referring back to the idea and keep referring to our mission, is it time for us to steer away from it?
Is it time for us to take action and to lead that change in education instead of passively waiting for the IB to catch up with our mission and values? I'm wondering what your reflections are about that.
Faith Abiodun: I wonder how much the IB is anti-UWC values if at all, because the question comes up quite regularly. I don't think the desire is wrong for us to want more of ourselves. I don't think there are any restrictions on us doing more in our colleges. Then the key question becomes the tradeoff of time space and in some cases worries about how to make it safe for students to make the transition from UWC into college and life.
The IB ticks some boxes for us globally recognised. It's in many cases safe as an exit ticket. But I don't think the IB is the definition of a UWC education, it's a container for some things that we value and we value the multidisciplinary components of an IB education. Right we can chop and change some pieces of what we've got.
Do we have to take six subjects, for instance?
Can we substitute one for the other? If you are multilingual, because of where you've come from in the world, do you still have to learn two new languages or one new language? There's some questions we can explore about how to achieve some workarounds. Most importantly, what is a UWC education all about? If the IB allows us to achieve 60, 70, 80% of the things that we really believe we want our education to be all about, what's the extra 20% or 3O% or 10%?
And how can we fill those? I'm not in a hurry to divorce from the IB because when we do, what's the alternative? Have we designed that alternative? The IB itself evolved out of what was the A-levels plus x. X began to be defined at UWCs and a few other schools across the world who are thinking innovatively about what they wanted to achieve beyond the rote learning and memorisation the A-level espoused.
But it did not start with someone designing an IB. It started with someone exploring what needed to be done beyond the borders of the A-levels. Let's feel free to explore. Let's innovate. Somewhere down the line we'll be faced with a choice of making a divorce or sticking to what we have or adapting what we have. I don't think we're there yet.
Personally, I'm fine with us exploring being creative, asking very good questions about what we want to achieve. It's not about the container though, right? What does a UWC education look like? What's the picture? And then in that picture, how much of it is filled by what the IB offers? I think that there are 5400 schools in the world that teach the IB in some form or the other.
What will it take to transform 5400 schools in the world and all the teachers who teach the IB? How do we retrain every single one of them? Innovation becomes a little bit slower the bigger you grow. So I'm not as upset at the pace of change in the IB because I understand that growth often slows down innovation but for us, as UWCs, what do we want in our education?
Have we fully thought it through? We can agitate against the IB, but let's rather define what our education must be all about. And when we arrive at that we look at the IB again and say is it helping us achieve our objectives? Is it trodden alongside us? Is revolving rapidly enough for us to achieve what we want to achieve.
And if it's not, what are the options that are in front of us? It's a very honest look at it. But if we leave the IB today and then what? That's what I think of it.
Sinead Collins: So I think we're likely over time, but we're going to keep going. I think we have more questions. I have one from online and then a couple more in the room. This one is actually for the students from one of your fellow students and specifically Chloe first, I think. As students, how can we connect the work we do in classrooms to the wider UWC mission?
How do we avoid treating every academic subject in isolation, but rather look at the bigger picture of what we learn?
Chloe: Oh, big question.
I think one thing I would love for the community to start with is maybe taking a different approach to the way in which we acquire and construct knowledge. I personally think a lot and a lot of my friends as well, something we would love to see is more mutual knowledge transfer between teachers and students and avoiding sort of one way exchange of knowledge from the teacher to the student with no sort of reciprocal exchange.
I think a lot of the time it's easy for the one way exchange involves reinforcing certain values upon students and maybe not leaving alternative pathways open for students to think for themselves. And I think when teachers and students can be involved in co constructing knowledge in a sort of very organic and harmonious process, there's a lot more opportunity for more natural and more authentic learning to take place, not learning that is enforced and pushed by one side of the situation.
But knowledge that can be transferred continually, that continually evolves and takes different forms in a manner that fits the changing global order. Yeah.
Faith Abiodun: Who is going to go for it?
Tebby: OK, that's actually a very interesting and big question.
I think one of my subjects is ESS. Oh, sorry, that's environmental systems and societies - ESS.. So basically we are more like this is one of the subjects that really, really aligns with the UWC mission because we are always taught about sustainability, how we can make use of our resources wisely without damaging the environment, the caring capacity and everything.
And yeah, if you take ESS then you will live by the UW mission 24/7.
Student 1: Thank you Mr. Faith.. A few days ago you visited our boarding house, how do you feel about that? That's not a question. My question is actuallyI know a lot of people from other international schools in Singapore.
A lot of people want to transfer to UWC, but I think they have a kind of like a wrong impression of what the UWC is about. They think UWC is a very academically strong school, like a lot of good and they are well educated kids and teachers here. I just personally feel that this impression might be a bit problematic because that's not what UWC is about.
So I kind of wanna know what do you think of that? Like, do we need to change that impression and is there anything we can do about it? Because I think that kind of puts a wrong image in people's brain about how UWC really is, like some people saying UWC is too commercial.
So it's just a bit controversial.
Faith Abiodun: Yeah, right. This is a different kind of problem than the one I face regularly. So this is a huge advert for UWCSEA that if people think you're academically excellent, you're doing very well. Let's be honest, you know so well done on building that first version of the impression. But I guess we are talking about is there some broad based view of what we should be and what we are and maybe people don't see enough of that, right?
And you want people to see that there's a lot more to achieve through a UWC education than just academic excellence. Is that correct? Yeah. OK, how do you form the impressions that you form about things, how do you know what you know? How do you believe what you believe? What do we know about any country in the world, any form of music, any form of food? It's by the stories that are being told about those things.
If you experience those things before, it's when you've consumed them or you've learned about them. People form impressions about us based on what we show of ourselves. And so if we show them the academic side of ourselves only, that's all they're ever going to know about us. If we show them the service side of ourselves, only that's all they're going to know about us.
If we show the intercultural side of ourselves only that's all they're ever going to know about us. Each of us must be storytellers. Each of us must be bearers of good news. Each of us must learn how to transmit the complexity and the diversity of who we are and what we do. Into the rest of the world. And so my challenge for you as an individual is to tell different stories about this place.
You can say, We're so proud of our academic heritage. More importantly, our education exists for a purpose. Here are the other ways in which we put our education to work. Did you know that A, B, C, D, and E. So it's a challenge for us to expand the scope of our stories. Now, the challenge you have is such a good one that other schools and colleges in the UWC movement are dying to tell that story about academic excellence.
So it's a yin and yang. Right. Let's stay on this story on a whole lot of other stories as well. And collectively we will become who we want to be. Yeah, I'm so glad we have student questions. This is amazing.
Zebo: Oh, hello. Hello. I'm Zebo, I'm from Tajikistan.
Faith Abiodun: Yes, I know. You remember.
Zebo: My voice is not better today. So my question is about the world and UWC. Yes. So UWC is a beautiful place. The world is also a very good place. UWC has problems, and UWC has problems in different sectors, starting from national committees where they have sometimes a diversity of interpretations in terms of who is the best student or going to lack of transparency or lack of implementation coming to schools.
And here we have problems like racial between scholars and peers and stuff like that. In going to the world we also have problems like poverty, going to climate change. And my question is how do you decide which problems to tackle in UWC leadership and which problems should come first? And then how do you recommend us going to the world decide whether I want to focus on gender equity or climate change?
Because now I see myself tackling different issues, but I'm not sure how to start and where to start.
Faith Abiodun: Ladies and gentlemen, Zebo. You are an exceptional advert for UWC.
Zebo: I know.
Faith Abiodun: Year asked some beautiful questions. You have got so much drive and of all the things we could be, what will we be? Right. A lot of things we could do. What will we do?
It's like analysis-paralysis people talk about. You think about the same thing over and over and over and over again, and eventually you actually do nothing. At some point it doesn't matter which one you do. Just do it and do it very well, right? You will never exhaust the problems in the world. I'm beginning to think none of us is capable of solving every single thing at the pace we want to solve and the depth we want to address them.
I'm learning that myself. One of the first pieces of advice I received from a very wise member of the UWC International Board was to resist the temptation to tackle all problems at once. OK, in my previous role, I used to work in the office until 11pm and one in the morning. The security guys would come by the door and say, Oh, it's Faith, alright.
All right, and one of my friends said to me, he said, Faith, let me tell you what's going to happen. You're going to die. And when you do, all of us will come to the auditorium tomorrow at ten in the morning, and we're all going to invite your advisers to come and say some nice words about you.
And they will. And they'll give out flowers. And then by 12 noon will go back to class and life will continue. So please go home and sleep. And then I thought, hmm, so depressing. This subtle advice they were giving was this: do as much as it can today, tomorrow miracles will happen. Don't get obsessed with tackling all the problems at once.
None of us is that powerful. Right? But the question is, whatever you choose to do, do it the best that you can and hand over to someone else. We already know the relay race in life. You run your leg, run as good a leg as you can, and hand the baton to the next person. So in UWC, how do we prioritise what challenges to solve?
Sometimes it's the most time sensitive challenges we choose to address. Sometimes. Sometimes it's the ones that have the most influence on all the challenges, sometimes instead a domino effect in place. If you address this one, it begins to solve a few others. OK, sometimes it's the one that is spoken about the most because maybe it's a reflection of how people feel the most at that time.
There is no one way to decide what we address. Hopefully we're doing the most strategic and important things. But I assure you that as you research your way of doing things and I've seen your research, if you can scrutinise the ways in which we do things, there's no single day you won't find a deficiency in what we do.
No way, we're not perfect. I don't even think we seek to be perfect. We seek to be useful. OK, so there is no one way of deciding what we choose to do. I just hope that whatever we do we do it in the best possible way and make the world a better place. That's what I hope.
Thank you all so much for staying and listening to me talk.
Elaine Chang: Hi, my name is Elaine Chang. I'm a mother of three. Two of my children come to UWC both are in middle school, my daughters. My other job is the CFO in the corporate world. And so it's really wonderful being here on a Saturday morning reflecting and in my LinkedIn profile, I actually have a sentence that says Elaine strongly believes in harnessing individual actions as a catalyst for global change.
So now I'm going to quote you on the back of that.
So it's really wonderful, too. I come from a rote learning environment and I'm really pleased that, you know, I see that my children are in this UWC community. But because I'm a CFO, I always believe that what gets measured gets done and that coming back to the point earlier is that, you know, through the storytelling, you know, how can we use numbers to scale, how do we use measure to scale the impact of our stories?
Let me give you an example. When I also do some volunteer work, I'm on the board of the U.N. World Food Programme, as well as WWF. And we often from a corporate world encourage people to think about how do you actually communicate the impact that we have through measures and results that drives accountability, but more importantly, it drives that story telling of the impact.
It galvanises the team and the community. So my question is with UWC how do we measure the impact of the wonderful programme that we're all discussing and very excited about beyond test scores, college acceptance, so how do we actually measure these stories and the impact that our students carry on into the world?
Faith Abiodun: I would love to spend more time with you. I have ideas I envision the day when students who are coming out of UWC who have imagined what career path they might want to pursue and they thought about where they might want to start, will look at the UWC network and see the number of people who have come out of a UWC and have gone to the kinds of schools that they have envisioned and have pursued internships in the path they want to pursue and have taken first and second and third jobs on the path that I want to pursue. And have created either ventures or joined companies or raised X amount of dollars, you know, employed X number of people so they can see three, four, five, siz, seven steps ahead of them what the path might look like.
We're not yet telling those kinds of stories today, in-house. We're not yet collecting those kinds of data of how we've seen it in practice and other places that are giving me inspirations for how we might begin to collect data differently and then begin to map that data and then tell a story using that data? I think that we will be able to communicate our impact to the world with a lot more clarity if we can measure some things.
There are lots of things we can't measure. Those things are equally important or the things that we can measure have to be measured. Data has grown on many of us in the last decade and a half, over two decades. Recently, it's really grown on us because we've seen some people who have made the most of data and I'd love to see us get there.
We're not very far away from it. It's actually high on my priority list. Those who spend the most time with me know how much I've actually spoken about this, that we can map multiple rings of ourselves and allow our alumni and students to see what a pattern might look like. For context, in my previous organisation, when we're celebrating ten years, we wanted to tell the story of what we'd achieved in ten years.
And because we'd been collecting data every single day, we thought about our education as end to end. We had an idea of every single internship that every single of our students had done because we facilitated those internships. We knew every single college they'd gone to, knew what majors they studied because we helped to make that possible. We knew every single full time job they had, the first and second and third jobs because we kept in touch. We requested information about those who had funded ventures. We knew how many employees they had, we knew how much they had in capital. So with all that information, what will we do if it was a huge question? So we began to map it. The overwhelming stat showed that 50% of our alumni had gone to work in health care and education. We thought, What does that mean for us?
OK, here's what it means for us. You've got 200 X people who are working in education all under the age of 30. What are their aspirations? Possibly you ask some, you extrapolate some. Now you think to yourselves in five or ten or 15 years, what will they need and who's in our network right now who's well positioned to provide those needs?
Some had mentors but from the outer ring. Some had funding but from the outer ring, some needed connections to future jobs from the outer ring, some access to platforms - outer ring. Who in our network today can provide those things. And that became the introduction into what became ten sectors that came out of that education. The education was not then defined purely for learning, it was defined for impact.
And that's how we thought about the education that we did. What's the journey that our students will walk over the next 10-20 years and how are we going to build that network today to influence what's happened here and support the journey out. I want us to begin to do that. We're not very far away from it because I'm going to speak about this a lot, and I want to see us use our data to influence our journey and to tell our stories.
And I believe we're going to get and hopefully you can help me think about it a little bit better as well. So thanks for standing up for that.
Moana: Hello, my name is Moana, I'm from Austria and I'm a national student from the East Campus in Grade 12. And first of all, I would like to say thank you so much for spending your time with us right now and answering questions, even though we are already over time. I have a question and I have an answer, and my answer would be to a question that was asked earlier about how we as a student can make an impact in our local community, but also stay connected to the global community.
And it is a question that I asked myself a lot over the last year because I'm graduating this year and I don't know where I will be in the world in the future. And if I even want to be in my country because to be honest, when I started to ask the question, I'm from Austria and I didn't have the feeling like Austria needs me necessarily to make an impact there.
But after thinking about it more, I think the answer is already in the question itself, because we are in that global context right now and what we can bring back in every country we are going to, no matter if the country needs us or not, is that global idea. Because no one in my country has any global connection if they were abroad by themselves and the mindset is very localised, very comfortable.
So it would be for me to go back to my country and to inspire other people to go out, look where they can have an impact. Plus the global connection would be the connections we make here with our friends. Like, Yeah, I met Zebo today. She's amazing. And I think what brought me that global connection is getting to know the people around me and to understand their culture and to see how I can go into their culture and also help them
where I can. Because you can't go into a culture you don't understand but you can learn about the culture. And if you don't have to feel like you have an impact in the place in the country you're from, you can still go and connect with the people from other countries. And help out where they really need your help.
So that's what I'm doing in a moment. And then my question would be for UWC itself and I can only speak from the perspective of an East student, I feel like the feeling I got for the whole talk today and also yesterday is that the heart of UWC is kindness, the support for each other and to share.
I mean, we share our culture and our experiences but we also share opportunities with each other. We help each other, and that's what we want to carry out in the world. But I just speak from, UWCSEA East, I don't get the feeling like it's integrated in our daily life there, it's something that 10% of our campus would do, but 90% would be very competitive and so my question would be, if we are all leaders in one school, how can we make sure that we lead while growing together?
And while supporting each other and supporting the resources we have, rather than being leaders by kicking eachother down and stealing each other's opportunities because we want to grow for ourselves?
Faith Abiodun: I'll ask these guys. So the question is how do we lead without kicking each other down? What do you think?
Tebby: Hmm. That's a very interesting question. And it's also necessary to, like, think critically before I can open my mouth. OK, so UWC especially SEA East is very competitive, especially like the more academic competition. And then in terms of leadership. Yeah, I think the most.
Faith Abiodun: Why is it that competitive? Why do you experience that?
Tebby: That goes back to the issue of the IB programme. Honestly speaking, from the perspective of a student, I feel the IB programme is very difficult, it's challenging is a very rigorous programme which requires us to mentally apply ourselves 100% to the extent that sometimes when I have to go like for service on Monday, which is rock climbing and then from six to eight and I have like lessons the next day, I'm so tired, I feel like, oh my God, I'll be so tired then the next morning I even fail to get up and then I have lessons like piled up for me
and then I have to like you know. Yeah. And then I have to make sure that I'm prepared for lessons and everything. So, yeah. So that is why we are like, is it possible to maybe find an alternative to replace the IB programme and at the same time, yeah. Make it maybe the UWC programme, like the new grade 9-10 programme or something.
Faith Abiodun: So so you, you replaced the IB or you're equating the IB with rigour. So, you're saying you would like a programme that is less stressful, not that you don't want the I.B. because you've replaced the IB there with rigour, that's what I'm hearing.
Faith Abiodun: It's not the IB that's the problem. It's the rigour that you're talking about.
Tebby: Yeah. And then to an extent, I feel that it clashes with our motive or our mission of having that vigour, that sense of strength to be active and participate actively in our community, and give big and everything. Yeah.
Faith Abiodun: Does TOK help you think about the world in a better way. I'm just asking. Just for conversation though, because I've been in a TOK class and I felt very alive in that class and I began to experience a mind expansion in that class. And I thought about the world as a place where I thought I could make a difference.
And I wondered if maybe you felt the same way in any of your TOK classes.
Tebby: Oh, yeah, TOK is really interesting. I mean, when I first started UWC, I honestly didn't like it because I couldn't even understand what was going on and everything but then as time went on, I was like, Oh, that's a very interesting, insightful and very enlightening programme.
Faith Abiodun: So TOK makes sense.?
Tebby: Yeah, yeah, it does.
Faith Abiodun: And CAS how about CAS?
Tebby: Yeah, it is really interesting. That is where we get to explore all the new things and everything. Yeah. And then in the new UWC programme, we could still have TOK, that'll be very important. Could still have CAS. Yeah. But then maybe I don't know, change the number of subjects like you're saying you could work around the programme and then try to make it more conducive and less stressful for the students.
Faith Abiodun: What languages are you learning?
Tebby: I'm doing French and English.
Faith Abiodun: Do you think you're maybe beginning to understand a bit of what French culture might look like? Like intercultural understanding, you know, maybe through French?
Tebby: French, if I'm being honest and I'll try to be really honest. I'm given like 50 to 75 words about French culture which I have to just cram and know for the exam. There's nothing more about the context of French culture or learning about French culture. No, and then this was I have to make sure I know word by word to get good marks, that's it.
Faith Abiodun: OK. I understand you know the reason I'm asking you these questions, it's not to force you to think the way I want you to think. It's to expand the conversation, which is authentically UWC. OK, the most important thing here is that we are thoughtful about the choices we make about the ways in which we think about what we want to achieve.
But you're very conscious of what this might lead you to. Now, you will not be the first or the last person to talk about an IB curriculum as rigorous, challenging. It is known, the IB knows that. Sometimes rigour is a proxy for discipline. Sometimes rigour can push you over the wall. We're looking for the mix of healthy rigour.
OK, young people in life must seek a measure of difficulty. I believe there's a measure of difficulty that pushes you past comfort, but doesn't push you to harm, because comfort is dangerous. If we have pushed you past comfort, maybe we've done OK. If we've pushed you to harm, we've not done OK. We're looking for that middle ground. That's what I hope we can keep working towards if we're not there yet.
Let's keep thinking about it and hearing your voices, OK? If we all fall into this box of the IB is dangerous, the IB is bad, the IB is not good, while you're going through it, you won't even get anything out of it because you're so obsessed and you're so focused on how difficult it is, and you don't even take anything worthwhile from it.
So my hope is that while you're going through this, ask yourself, what is this a proxy for this challenge I'm facing right now? What does this develop in me? If I come through this as thousands and thousands and thousands of people have, how much of a better person do I become? One day the IB might change. Between now and then what will you take from it? If not the content I hope it's the discipline, right? That's my sincere hope for you that you go through this and say to yourself, one day, I will transmit to the world the capacity to handle difficult challenges and experiences and come out on the other side as a better person and hopefully I'll have some content as well from the curriculum that I learned.
That's my sincere desire for you.