Kevin Glass
Kevin Glass

Late last month, the Atlanta International School partnered with the Association for the Advancement of International Education on their 50th conference, held for the first time in Atlanta.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Interconnected and Inclusive,” matched perfectly with our city. What better place is there to have dialogue about inclusivity than the birthplace of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in the United States?

The event was also timely, as international education has never been more essential. Today’s students face challenges that unequivocally require a global perspective and multicultural proficiencies; our world has never been so interconnected in terms of economies, health issues, war and climate, to name just a few.

International education, particularly within a rigorous International Baccalaureate frameworks, can greatly assist in producing future leaders to navigate today’s interdependent world.

A student that graduates from an international school will likely speak more than one language; have exposure to a multitude of different cultures, and therefore, ample opportunities to build empathy; have a solid understanding of global issues; and finally, will have the ability to collaborate with a team to solve problems. These skills are highly desired not only in the world of business, but also in producing engaged citizens who can affect positive change.

The good news is that international education is growing, and the awareness of its benefits is permeating the educational environment at all levels. The number of International Baccalaureate programs offered worldwide increased by 46 percent over the last five years.

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is part of that increase; it has 13 IB schools, more than any other school district in Georgia, and plans to more than double that number by 2020. The Atlanta International School gave birth to CASIE, an organization that provides IB training to thousands of public-school educators each year. It’s been wonderful to partner with CASIE in working with APS and other public schools across the state as they adopt the IB as a curricular framework.

Our community at AIS represents over 90 nationalities; this is far more than most international schools and is a reflection of Atlanta’s journey as a global city of excellence. The benefit to this diversity is the world becomes a smaller place when your best friend’s family has been impacted by something that happened thousands of miles away from the school, or when your teacher can tell you first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work and live in a country that has been ravaged by Ebola. This proximity to global events is equally as valuable as the IB curriculum that AIS, and many other progressive public and international schools, provides.

At AIS, we’ve made the United Nationals Global Goals a major focus, helping us create an even deeper sense of international-mindedness within our community. Ratified by 123 countries at the United Nations in September 2015, these 17 goals form an ambitious 15 year to-do list for the global community and our students.

According to the International Baccalaureate Organization, the aim of all IB programs is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.

This is more important now than at any point in human history.  The Global Goals are strategically important for international organizations like AIS, AAIE and CASIE, creating a structure within which we will develop the next generation of global citizens.

Kevin Glass is headmaster of the Atlanta International School