Yesterday morning I attended an assembly at our secondary campus commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. Students from the French, British and German Sections read testimonials written by WWI soldiers, young men who were the same age in 1914-1918 as the our students are now..
This ceremony has a particular importance for our school- with so few survivors of the first world war still alive today, it is our responsibility to ensure that the memory of that terrible conflict lives on. It is not a task that schools can take lightly. Remembrance Day on the 11th of November is a moment for us to commemorate those who died in conflicts regardless of when and where they took place.
Remembrance Day allows us to measure the progress made over the past 60 odd years – TES being a small but significant example of that progress. Who could have predicted the unique alliance of our three schools or that – a little less unusual – of the French and German schools? Certainly not the soldiers whose accounts of the war our students read.
Education played an enormous role in getting us here. Education in Europe is many things, including a political instrument at the service of the state. The connection between education and state is not always a good thing; educators would like a little more independence, and not to see the curriculum change with each change in government. We would like to see more level-headed and less polemical debate around current affairs. But it has to be admitted that sometimes, when the objective is a noble one and when there is appropriate financial backing, the results of state-backed education can be impressive.
It is the case with the desire to live in peace with our neighbours. The reconciliation phase had its origins in the education of the youth of Europe: what students read in history books and literature, the foreign languages they learn is of vital importance when it comes to accomplishing lasting peace. The number of students learning German in French schools and German students learning French testifies to the ongoing efforts being made.
Yesterday’s ceremony was just as important: to see Taiwanese, French, German and anglo-saxon students unite and spend a solemn moment together, incredulous at the idea that children of their age once fought against each other and thinking that the possibility of such an event occuring again in the future is nigh on impossible.
That said, we must never let our guard down. In that respect, yesterday’s ceremony was a symbolic reminder of what we do every day: share a common space, collaborate and work together to educate. It is the manifestation of a project of peace that doesn’t always advertise itself as such. A project that we can be proud of.
Have an excellent weekend,