Head's Blog

Of circles and culture

According to current research, there are over twelve thousand international schools, with less than half of those doing the IB Diploma Programme. Many do fantastic work, in some areas groundbreaking work that is helping to redefine education. I miss visiting other schools, something I have done as a volunteer for the Council of International Schools. I look forward to the time when I can visit other schools to learn from them, as every time I have visited a school I have gone back home having learnt something and with my head buzzing with ideas and possibilities.

Back to Dilijan, though. One can spend weeks reading what researchers on international education have to say, starting by what the definition of an international school is. (Google Scholar offers over four million references!) UWC Dilijan is a small school (in terms of student population), but I would posit that we punch above our weight in some areas, and our diversity is one. Many schools have the "flags, food and festivals" level, which is obviously better than schools in which students are being taught by teachers of a particular nationality that country's curriculum, with an implication that that nation's educational system is, therefore, better than their own.

You may be wondering by now where the circles in this blogpost title fit in. Here it goes: a video from our community recorded yesterday after we had taken a series of group photos on our sports field. Our DP2 students had prepared a surprise flashmob for our DP1s. Afterwards, they danced together: Over two hundred students from all continents (except Antarctica) dancing a traditional Armenian dance, Ծաղկաձորի Պար (Tsakhadzroi par or the "Circle Dance").

Whole UWCD Student Body Dance

So what is so special about it? It is not the quality of the dancing (in such a diverse community as ours we have both former professional dancers... and those at the other end of the dancing-skills-spectrum!) but rather the fact that it was a poignant moment: our students joined in concentric circles, a powerful symbol of inclusiveness. In fact, if you look at the image carefully, you will notice one of our students on a wheelchair (he is recovering from successful surgery) being part of the dance.

We have had several conversations about culture, including a town hall with our DP1 students earlier today in which we reflected on what culture we want to foster next year with our new students. We value our student and staff diversity and are constantly negotiating our norms as we co-create our own community culture, one that has inclusiveness at its core. This is a long road with many surprises along the way, but we are committed to this journey and are delighted to be supported by our new councils: Alumni Council and Parent Council. I would like to finish today expressing my gratitude to all of their members, who are helping us advance our school.