Saturday 16th January 2016 at the International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland
It is a commonplace for adults to tell children that the world has changed since they were young and yet never has this been more true. The power of technology has altered our daily lives and the impact we have on our environment in dramatic ways. The history of the world has been marked by wars and waves of migration, but the global village in which we live today means that we are immediately aware of what takes place far from our homes and increasingly are affected directly by it. As parents, as educators, as global citizen's, it is our obligation to prepare our children for an ever rapidly changing future in which technological innovations, the vagaries of the global market, the effects of global warming, and endemic violence based on cultural and religious antagonisms pose ever increasing challenges to the stability of society.
To say that education must have an ethical component is equally commonplace and hearkens back to Antiquity. Aristotle wrote that “to each… there comes just so much happiness as he has of virtue and of practical wisdom and performs actions dependent thereon” (Politics, VII, i).
From its inception, The International School of Geneva has undertaken this Aristotelian approach as is evident in its policy on the promotion of the school’s values that include citizenship education based on “an understanding of fundamental human rights, the rights and duties of citizens, major issues confronting the contemporary world, and the need for action to preserve the planet for future generations.”
Historically, educators have taught children in order for them to assimilate a body of knowledge recognized by time and place as canonical. However, it is no longer possible to develop encyclopedic knowledge; the body of knowledge at humanity’s disposal extends far beyond the possibility of individual mastery. What is increasingly required is flexibility in virtuous habits of mind that allow one to engage in a trans-disciplinary application of knowledge to solve problems. Our children become the citizens of the future who will safeguard the principles and values of their societies. As educators, then, we must consider more than the act of imparting knowledge; we must consider the ethical and the political much as Aristotle maintained centuries ago.
The renowned speakers we are fortunate to have with us for this Education Conference offer us the possibility to reflect on some of those precise issues that confront the world today in even its most remote corners. They urge us to consider the moral and ethical implications of education in an increasingly complex and integrated world.
Dr Karen L. Taylor
Director of Education
Programme, speakers, practical info (PDF file, in English and French)