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VIEWS & OPINION


Time for tolerance Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, chair of the Learn2Think Foundation


The UN’s International Day for Tolerance is marked on 16th November, and it’s more important than ever that we instil empathy and tolerance in today’s children. Tolerance isn’t necessary if we are in agreement but when we’re not. Tolerance is about the way in which we express


our differences and try to come to an understanding of different peoples, practices and perspectives. It requires empathy, as well as an understanding that you should afford everyone the same rights you require for yourself. It means you must question what you’re told, question why you fear difference and always ask if there is a broader perspective and deeper meaning to what you understand. Tolerance Day was first marked by the UN


International Year for Tolerance in 1995, in the wake of the racial and cultural conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and the Caucasus, which led to the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. As they said then, in “the interests of conflict prevention, promotion of human rights,” we need to “ encourage the values of tolerance and peace


among all the people of the world.” In today’s politically polarised climate, with anti-immigrant rhetoric being ramped up, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to ensure that our children can navigate the complexity of the modern world. Politically we seem to be entering a time where


the importance of a global order and international co-operation, born out of a desire to not repeat mistakes that led to the second world war, is coming to an end. Right wing politicians focus on accelerating immigration fears instead of how to solve problems together. We face an uncertain future where the mores we took for granted are no longer agreed upon by all. Whether it’s the right wing success in Brazil, the Democrat/Republican battle in the US, the UK’s Brexit, politics seems dominated by the need to denigrate others. It seems as if winning at all costs is what matters. Many of the things that recent generations


took for granted will have changed for the children in education today. The shift to online from offline commerce is decimating high streets


and community centres, the advent of AI and machine learning is going to fundamentally change the way in which people work and in turn that means it will change the way in which children need to learn. If we want to see a more stable political and


societal discourse we have to encourage our children to engage with complexity. Demagogues succeed because they provide simplified easy answers to difficult problems – they make people feel better. If we’re to manage the challenges we face in the coming decades, from resource scarcity, extreme temperatures, global trade wars and, indeed, migration, we’re going to have to raise a generation of people who understand that these challenges are interconnected and that solutions are unlikely to be simple. Free materials for use in marking Tolerance Day


are available online at www.toleranceday.org. But don’t forget they can be used at any time over the year, and there are lesson plans, assemblies, games and more, as well as books written specifically to address approaching different ideas, understanding fear and being tolerant.


Why language skills are more important


than ever Comment by SABINE SCHNORR, senior director Europe at Rosetta Stone


Our ability to communicate with others has a big impact on our capacity to forge productive relationships, to collaborate and to learn. In a multicultural society, and in the global world of business, language skills have never been more important. Arguably, Brexit makes this even more so with the students of today being the workers of tomorrow who will navigate the aftermath. Without sufficient communication skills in any language other than English they may find themselves – and the UK as a whole – at a disadvantage. Yet despite this, A-level exam entries in German, French and Spanish


fell by 7.9 per cent in the UK this year. It’s a disappointing statistic and a decline that we need to arrest as language competence is a key business requirement. In fact, a CBI/Pearson survey has previously shown that it is precisely these three languages that are most desirable - half of employers rated French as useful to their business, 47 per cent German and 30 per cent Spanish.


The business benefit of languages It’s little wonder, as businesses whose employees have language skills are well-placed to enjoy more productive interactions, both within the company and outside it with stakeholders including customers, suppliers and partners. Strength in communication translates into higher levels of collaboration, a more productive workforce and increased sales opportunities. Businesses that recognise the impact language expertise can have on the bottom line will look for these skills when they recruit and applicants with them will have an advantage. Neither is it just enhanced career prospects that should motivate


students to study languages and educators to encourage language learning. A range of studies have examined the additional benefits bi- and multilingualism bring.


22 www.education-today.co.uk


Languages and social skills One such study looked at how bilingual children may be better placed to see another person’s perspective. Another study found a correlation between tolerating ambiguity – a useful trait to avoid feeling uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations - and multilingualism. With language learning comes increased cultural awareness and this is likely to result in a more positive attitude towards speakers of other languages. Fortunately for the future of language learning there are ways to utilise


technology to make study easier. Supplementing traditional classroom- based teaching methods with technology-enabled study can result in an enhanced learning experience, one where languages can be made more accessible and study more engaging, to the benefit of both students and educators. Well-designed, digital language learning tools support students in


applying their learning through simulated realistic speaking situations. Personal feedback encourages students and helps them develop good pronunciation from the very start. What’s more, digital tools are flexible and can adapt the learning package to meet the different needs of students, varying pace of delivery and degree of repetition according to proficiency. With the challenges UK businesses face competing internationally, and


the pressures today’s students are under to gain marketable skills and stand out in the global talent pool, it is important that language learning is encouraged early on and maintained throughout schooling and into adult life. Many educational institutions have discovered the benefits of technology-enabled learning and are using it to help deliver inspiring and effective language courses that help students succeed academically and attain a valuable capability to benefit them both inside and outside the workplace.


November 2018


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