“Much is spoken about linking globally and acting locally. Through linking, the complex and asymmetrical nature of global interdependence becomes evident as people from varying economic, political and social situations connect and challenge each other’s understanding of the world. It is important to reflect upon the ways in which our own perspectives, experiences, political commitments, wider aims in life and social identities shape our understanding.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Introduction to the Toolkit for linking: opportunities and challenges
Over the last decade school linking has gained in popularity as an activity in which schools engage. HEC has been involved in linking for twenty years and continues to offer guidance around school linking and global learning. This section encourages you to think carefully about mutuality, sustainability and equity within links with the global South.
Linking locally first:
One strong recommendation is that partners attempt to form a link within their own country as a first step. Links are assumed to be made with other countries, but linking across cultures within one’s own country is an effective way of learning about others and the diverse nature of our own communities, challenging assumptions and helping to break down barriers.
Greater understanding and knowledge of other communities within our own countries is a positive development that can lead to greater social cohesion. Such links have the added benefit of enabling partners to experience linking within a more familiar setting where partners have access generally to common communications systems, greater understanding of the cultural, social and political context and easier travel opportunities.
Within the UK the Schools Linking Network facilitates regular contact between primary and secondary school pupils of different ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds and usually from different geographic neighbourhoods across the district, through shared cultural activities.
Teachers receive training in personal awareness, citizenship issues and practical guidance for operating the project. They then plan for a series of meetings over a school year which will enable students to learn together and about each other. The project also works in partnership with a range of creative practitioners and sports providers to develop a sense of what the children share in the district and to encourage everyone to express this in their own way.
School Linking Network (SLN) provides advice around linking withing England.
Linking internationally can provide opportunities to enhance all curriculum areas, providing the opportunity for a fulfilling and wider world experience for students and staff. Linking can motivate students encouraging them to take responsibility for their own learning, inform debate and heighten awareness of global issues.
Linking can enable students and teachers to be partners in learning, developing their skills in communication and enquiry and providing a context for them to reflect on their attitudes, gain an understanding of other perspectives and challenge stereotypical views.
Linking can provide an insight into alternative perspectives and combat prejudice, racism and xenophobia, however without careful thought and consideration it can reinforce stereotypes.
It can also lead students towards considering their own place as part of the global community.
However successful linking is a challenge in schools. There are differences in schools even within a country, but there are inevitably more differences across the world. There will be different curriculum content, teaching methods, access to resources and priorities. The academic cycle may start at a different time of year so that the natural ebb and flow of work influenced by holidays, exam times, and local activities such as harvesting need to be considered.
Linking should therefore be undertaken cautiously – different roles and responsibilities for teachers, reductions in funding and grants, and changes in the level of interest and engagement by students as they move through the school, are all part of the natural cycle of a school and impact on linking.
To explore issues around successful linking further, there is a free downloadable resource available of leaflets which explore different aspects of linking. To download the Toolkit for Linking: opportunities and challenges go to: UKOWLA, (UK One World Linking Association) website.