The final few days before Christmas and the new year break are a great time to reflect on what has come before, and what will come next. It is traditionally a time to take a pause and reflect upon what is most important to us. A time to count our blessings and remember the most important moments of the year, with hope and anticipation for the year ahead. A time to recognise those individuals who have made the past year a special one for us.
After a year in which it seemed every hour was dominated by the response to the evolving Covid pandemic and continuity planning, we may not have met all the goals or targets which we set ourselves at this time last year. We still find ourselves at an inflection point in terms of a global public health crisis, the climate crisis, at an inflection point for education and for the internationalism which has been a driving force in our UWC mission since the outset.
But, as we look ahead to 2022, at UWCSEA we can celebrate the fact that in the first half of our 50th anniversary year, we found time to double down on our mission-led work in peace and environmental sustainability, and to “pay it forward” by developing new partnerships and new initiatives at a time when our commitment to this work is needed now, more than ever. Led by SEA, the UWC movement came together with a statement that all 18 UWC Heads signed 6 months before COP26, in recognition of our role in tackling the climate crisis and working together towards a net zero world. And our students continued to show the resilience and strength of character inherent in the UWC experience, made even more important as we faced such global disruption.
A good friend recently shared a quote from Albert Camus, a passage which was written in a colder climate than Singapore, at a particularly difficult time for the writer. But it seems particularly apt in our context, and at a time when we are still in the “winter” of the Covid crisis, with the new Omicron variant looming large, and threatening to delay any hopes of moving soon to a more normal state, which we all yearn for.
UWC founding father, Kurt Hahn, famously said
In our own community, we will continue to adjust to new, post-pandemic realities. We have it in us: as we come together, in the second half of our 50th anniversary plans, to build a framework and a blueprint for our next 5 year strategy. We will reflect on the future of education in our Forum at the end of April, “Learning to Shape the Future”. In the words of the new DG of the IB Organisation, these are urgent discussions – as we join with others, to reflect on “educating the next wave of humanity”. Inextricably linked will be our response to the net zero challenge, as we explore what education as a force for sustainable futures truly means #afterCOP26.
On a personal level, I am very committed to pursuing our work on gender equity and equality. The theme for International Women’s Day in 2022 is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” recognising the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all. The last year has surely shown us how important it is to have diversity represented at the top table, and at every level where decisions are made, research is done, and funding made, if we are to address the crises we face. This year will also see focus on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work – the impact on women in employment of the Covid crisis is massively disproportionate, and needs a global response.
Finally, I have been catching up with some reading in the last few days, in particular a couple of books recommended by those who curated an expanded section on Singapore and by Singapore writers in our campus libraries for our 50th anniversary. My recommendations so far are: non-fiction, “The Birthday Book: What is Singapore’s next big thing?” and fiction, The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo. I am looking forward to working my way through many more before the end of the 50th year!
I wish all peace and joy, and hope for a bright tomorrow.