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Widening horizons

Ni hao! On the afternoon of Tuesday 7 October we shall be hosting a now annual event wherein international universities send representatives to Bryanston to talk to interested A3 pupils.

Our hope is that every sixth form Bryanstonian will consider carefully whether they would like to study abroad, in the States or the Netherlands, Spain or China. The world is not confined to this foggy island off the coast of Europe and the wiser and braver amongst us will look outwards not inwards, however beautiful the campus and engaging the company here may be. And they are. 

This outlook is one of the reasons I was so keen that we offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) in the sixth form. The IB diploma demands that pupils keep up their modern foreign language beyond sixteen; further, its learner profile describes the principal virtues required of any learner. These virtues are qualities with which it would be hard to argue. A sense of and conviction for international mindedness is also an important element throughout the whole diploma; the IB programme sets out to produce students who will understand the need for their playing a role post-18-years-old in an international world. 

I decided to put myself outside my comfort zone to test my own bravery and wisdom this term: I attended my first Mandarin lesson this week. I did it partly to see if a Classicist can approach learning a language of huge suppleness and tonal complexity; partly to see if I can still learn anything at all at my advancing age; and partly because I hope that by learning admittedly only a glimmer or two of the language, I might understand more about a country I have always found fascinating in terms of art and culture. I have to report that I am likely to be a very slow pupil as my ear is, I fear, made of tin. But I really enjoyed trying to discipline my tongue to make noises I could barely recognise aurally and my brain to accept new ideas and frameworks, some of which I found surprisingly attractive. I will let you see my end of term report on the basis that most of you have to read termly those I write upon your own children; I think I should balance things with some humble pie of my own. 

If I had my time again I am pretty sure I would still want to read Classics. After all both my daughters have followed my footsteps in this regard. But I think I would want my younger self to be braver about the range of opportunities than I dared to be when I left university in 1984. Many of those opportunities now lie abroad, and many of the opportunities at home in the United Kingdom (I might not have been able to say that if the Scottish vote had gone differently) are open to well-educated, experienced, talented people from around the world. The world will not at any point soon be standing still or become entirely Anglophone or Anglocentric. It’s to my mind essential that Bryanstonians see clearly their way ahead beyond Bryanston and allow themselves to be happy and successful in this evolving habitat. We will try to do all we can to help them to do so here, including nudging them in new directions.