IB Graduation Speech 2003Ole Toft Hansen
On behalf of Nyborg Gymnasium and the International Baccalaureate Organization I congratulate all 35 of you on your forthcoming IB diplomas – and certificates. You do not know your results, yet – and those of you who have tried to obtain the full diploma will not know until the 6th of July whether you will obtain a diploma – or certificates. We all know that the waiting time must be hard for you (or as the Danish comedians De Nattergale would put it - using their wonderful mixture of English and the Jutland dialect,
’How really træls it must wære to be an IB nisse and go and wente in two weeks på one’s results’!
To make up for that we have for this graduation ceremony some documents ready for you that we will give you in a moment. One document testifies that you have attended an international education – The International Baccalaureate -, another document is a letter of congratulation to you from George Walker, the director general of the International Baccalaureate Organization. In his letter George Walker congratulates you on having carried through a demanding pre-university course, which the IB is, and on being part of a worldwide community of graduates that have received IB diplomas or certificates since 1968.
However, in his letter to you he dwells more on another aspect of the International Baccalaureate which he considers very important. That aspect has to do with the fact that the IB is an international education and the implications that has.
George Walker says, ’as you are now a citizen of the world, you can make a difference, not only by being a good student or doing your job well, but also by volunteering and participating in the causes that are close to your heart.’
George Walker continues by saying that ’today the word ”cosmopolitan” brings to mind a glossy magazine and an international lifestyle.’ The word cosmopolitan is of Greek origin and means ’world citizen’. The philosopher Diogenes, who lived in Greece more than 2,000 years ago, was the first to use the phrase ”citizen of the world”.Only by stepping outside our own familiar assumptions and becoming cosmopolitan, argued Diogenes, can we truly question and - thereby better understand - our own way of life. How right he was, then and now, George Walker says.
Teaching the IB at a gymnasium in Denmark the teachers and administrators tend to focus on two or three aspects of the IB. One is that the IB is taught in English, not in Danish. Another aspect is that the IB is governed by an international organization with headquarters in Switzerland and Great Britain, not by the Danish ministry of education – and that consequently the IB has another structure and content than the Danish national studentereksamen.
This narrow definition of the concept ’international’ in connection with education was also seen in Berlingske Weekend Avisen on the 15th of May when the only article on the front page was about the English language becoming the primary teaching language at Danish universities. E.g. at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College English will be the primary teaching language in all courses before 2010. Today they already teach 101 subjects in English. At the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby they have 13 different university degree courses in English. At Copenhagen Business School (Handelshøjskolen) one third of the degree courses within Economics and Social Sciences are taught in English. Within the Natural Sciences at The University of Aalborg 29 of the courses are taught in English. (These are just some of the examples mentioned in the article).
One obvious reason for this is that English is the international language which Danish students must learn to master in our globalized world today. Another reason is that the universities want Danish students to take part of their degrees at universities abroad and at the same time make it possible
for foreign students to attend Danish universities. A third reason is that the universities want to attract highly qualified scientists and teachers from abroad to raise the academic level in Denmark.
Of course, it is an advantage for IB students - in Denmark and abroad - that still more degree courses within further education are taught in English. And I am happy on your behalf that you have so many opportunities.
But, as I said before , I consider using English as the primary teaching language a rather narrow definition of international education.
What I would like to ask here – and try to answer very shortly – is: what broader definition could be given of international education? This is not an easy question to answer. The IBO in collaboration with different institutions throughout the world in fact 5 times a year publishes a journal called ’Journal of Research in International Education’. Symbolically enough the decision to publish such a journal of research in international education was made after the terrorist attack on the USA on September the 11th 2001. In the first editorial is said that ’the journal will set out to undertake a rigorous consideration of the educational implications of the fundamental relationship between human unity and human diversity that education for international understanding requires’.
Actually, in one article a researcher argues that the concept ’international’ should be replaced by ’intercultural’, because what is important today is not the concept of nation, but culture. He uses the term ’intercultural literacy’, because this term stresses that what matters is to learn, - quite similar to the process of learning to read and write. The aim is that through becoming interculturally literate, the individual learns what culture is: - learns both something of his or her native culture, something of a second culture and something of the concept of culture in the abstract. Without some level of intercultural literacy the individual remains essentially ignorant of his or her primary culture and characteristically ethnocentric. If, on the other hand, the process of ’intercultural literacy’ is successful it
will not only lead to personal growth, but the individual will come to possess advanced social skills and ability to form friendships, linguistic and cognitive flexibility, intercultural awareness and tolerance, empathy, multiple perspective-taking, -and open and broad-minded attitudes.!!
Indeed, in a time when terrorism, nationalism, chauvinism and religious fundamentalism flourish, teaching young people to become intercultural literates is of the utmost importance.
We have now at Nyborg Gymnasium had an intercultural experience with IB for the 2nd time, and it is my hope that teaching the IB in future we will feel inspired by this broader and more idealistic definition of ’international education’.
I would like to finish by quoting George Walker’s concluding words to you IB graduates:
’As you move on in life, I hope that you continue to challenge yourself and your assumptions. Someone once said, the purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
I wish you the best of luck in this lifelong endeavour.