International Education

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:01 am on 24th April 2008.

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Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party 10:01 am, 24th April 2008

I assure Jack McConnell that we are aware of the concerns that he has raised already with my colleagues and that work is continuing on trying to come to a suitable arrangement.

On the Labour Party amendment that has been lodged by Ken Macintosh, I say to him that we are not completely clear that Scotland has received the Barnett consequentials to which he refers in his amendment. He will know that the curriculum in Scotland is not prescribed, as it is down south. It is the responsibility of each and every local authority and school to consider how study opportunities such as a visit to Auschwitz concentration camp—to which the Labour amendment refers—might contribute to meeting the agreed national outcomes. A number of schools have visited Auschwitz; last year, I was invited to join one such trip, but was unfortunately asked too late in the day and had other commitments. However, I have committed to going on any further trip to Auschwitz with school pupils that might be arranged.

No one can doubt the importance of China in today's world and I am pleased to say that Learning and Teaching Scotland recently signed an agreement with Hanban, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, which includes the setting up of eight Confucius classrooms or hubs, serving 14 local authorities. Those will enable Scottish pupils to gain a greater appreciation of Chinese heritage, language and culture, thereby enhancing their capacity to become international citizens.

Yester primary school in East Lothian has links with Kuvansin koulu primary school in central Finland. The pupils discuss health, eating, leisure and climate change through a blog and through discussions with their Finnish friends. In one particular case, a Yester pupil who has additional support needs was motivated to write long comments to the Finnish class, something that he would not have attempted before.

Grantown grammar school in the Highlands has started joint curriculum projects with Xinying middle school in Kunming, China. They have chosen to concentrate on music, art and English as those are subjects in which both schools have an interest, and it means that they do not rely too heavily on written communication.

Fintry primary school in Stirling has established a school link with the Gambia, and uses cross-curricular learning to enrich learning and teaching. When asked the difference between us and the African children, a primary 7 pupil responded that African children were

"rich in happiness but poor in money, whereas we are rich in money but poor in happiness."

I am sure that members are aware of many other inspiring examples of links and international education in schools in their constituencies. However, it is essential that that happens in all our schools; all young people deserve those opportunities, not just some of them. As Jack McConnell indicated, Scotland has prominent links with Malawi, and many Scottish schools—more than were expected—have taken up the challenge to link with schools in Malawi.

The world in which our young people are growing up is very different from the world when we were at school. It is essential that young people have opportunities to develop an international perspective in their education and to develop the cultural insight, confidence and linguistic skills that will help them to understand and respect other peoples, and to seize opportunities in a rapidly changing world.

We strongly believe that the curriculum for excellence is the ideal vehicle to enable teachers to use international education to enrich young people's learning. Pupils are inspired and interested in the issues: they are regarded as enjoyable, different, stimulating and cool. If they are engaged, they will be more likely to prosper and become the effective contributors, responsible citizens, confident individuals and successful learners that we want them to be.

We need that if we are to achieve a smarter Scotland. However, more important, young people deserve it for themselves in order to improve their self-esteem, life chances and opportunities in this globalised world.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the importance of preparing young people for life in today's increasingly globalised society; agrees that all our young people should have an international education with opportunities to develop a knowledge and understanding of the world and Scotland's place in it; congratulates the many schools across Scotland that have made and continue to make links with schools across the world, and agrees that the Curriculum for Excellence is the ideal vehicle to deliver international education in schools and equip young people with an understanding of, and the skills for, the modern world.