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Harpur Forum speaker focuses on international education

George Walker, director general emeritus of the International Baccalaureate Organization, speaks to the Harpur Forum on Jan. 25 at the Binghamton Club. His talk was titled Education: A National or an International Affair?
Education is both a national and an international concern, George Walker, director general emeritus of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), told Harpur Forum members Jan. 25.

Walker quoted scholars, educators and writers from the last two centuries in a wide-ranging talk that focused on the evolution of international education. In one hour, the audience was treated to perspectives from Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Friedman and Charles Dickens, among others.

“I feel very strongly that many of the most important things in education are not measurable in the short term,” Walker said.

That’s in part because so much information is being created so quickly that the education system needs to focus on teaching students how to learn. Only lifelong learners will have the skills to cope with changes in their profession and with the challenges of switching careers.

Walker sees education as a “peaceful weapon” in a country’s struggle to create and maintain its own identity.

Although it may make some people uncomfortable, Walker added, education is concerned not just with skills and information but also the transmission of values.

He believes there will be a slow but definite shift from international awareness to global awareness. By that he means people will no longer consider foreign countries curiosities to be seen through a window that can later be closed. Rather, people will see themselves as part of that larger global society.

Walker, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland, was director general of the IBO from 1999 until the end of last year.

The nonprofi t organization was established in 1968 as a practical solution for globally mobile families. Its original mission was to provide schools a curriculum and diploma recognized by universities around the world. It has since expanded to offer curricula focused on primary and middle school in addition to high school. Walker noted that Binghamton High School participates in the program.

Walker, the author of articles and books on physical chemistry, comprehensive education and international education, is also a visiting professor of education at the University of Bath. He was appointed Offi cer of the Order of the British Empire in 1992 for his services to education.

The Harpur Forum’s next meeting will feature a talk by Charley Kestenbaum ’75, chief operating offi cer of Diligence Middle East, a security and risk assessment company specializing in the Middle East.

The breakfast meeting will begin at 7:30 a.m. March 30 at the Binghamton Club. Kestenbaum’s formal presentation will start at 8 a.m. For more information, call the Harpur Forum office at 777-4390.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08