Who Are We


by Kate Doyle,  Deputy of Secondary at United World College Maastricht
July 1st, 2018


A community is defined as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.
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What therefore defines our school community? 
Is it our UWC mission statement? Is it our alignment with the IB? Can it be both? Of course it can and the mission statements attest to this.
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It is well known that the IB came out of UWC. Through UWC Atlantic College, UWC worked with the Geneva International School and the United Nations School in New York to develop the IB in the 1960’s. 
I wonder why therefore the debate rages on about “are we UWC or are we IB?”
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Is it not the same as having a commitment to a philosophy such as leading a healthy life but choosing how you wish to do this? For one person this could mean following a strict vegan diet and for another it might mean running 10 kilometers a day. Neither is wrong and both will ultimately contribute to the greater goal. Surely personal choice is what is important?
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For one person their time at UWC Maastricht might be about achieving or delivering academic excellence and for another it might mean participating in every activity possible and spending time getting to know as many people as they can. Is either aim less important? Are we to judge? Can you do both?
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Surely when parents, students and staff choose UWCM they are individuals who think critically, discuss and debate ideas and respect another person’s choice?  The founder of UWC, Kurt Hahn’s educational philosophy was based on respect for adolescents, whom he believed to possess an innate decency and moral sense. Respect is key to this discussion and the respect for choice is fundamental. It is something that I believe we should stay true to.
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Hahn wrote about 10 learning principles:



1.fThe primacy of self-discovery.
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students undertake tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline, and significant achievement. A teacher’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.
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2. The having of wonderful ideas

Teaching in Expeditionary Learning schools fosters curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
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3. The responsibility for learning

Learning is both a personal process of discovery and a social activity. Everyone learns both individually and as part of a group. Every aspect of an Expeditionary Learning school encourages both children and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
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4. Empathy and caring

Learning is fostered best in communities where students’ and teachers’ ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust. Learning groups are small in Expeditionary Learning schools, with a caring adult looking after the progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older students mentor younger ones, and students feel physically and emotionally safe.
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5. Success and failure

All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.
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6. Collaboration and competition

Individual development and group development are integrated so that the value of friendship, trust, and group action is clear. Students are encouraged to compete not against each other but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
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7. Diversity and inclusion

Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, and respect for others. In Expeditionary Learning schools, students investigate and value their different histories and talents, as well as those of other communities’ cultures. Schools’ learning groups are heterogeneous.
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8. The natural world

A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Students learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.
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9. Solitude and reflection

Students and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need time to exchange their reflections with others.
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10. Service and compassion

We are crew, not passengers. Students and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others, and one of an Expeditionary Learning school’s primary functions is to prepare students with the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service to others.

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In any given week at our school, look around and I believe that you will see evidence of these 10 learning principles and the values of UWC and the IB.
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Whether our staff and students are engaged in academic pursuit; a challenging hike; serving food at The Salvation Army; debating political ideologies; enjoying some quiet time; working as part of team conducting a carbon analysis or discussing the rights of marginalized groups such as transgender people, I believe that they are living the values of the IB and the UWC.
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We remind ourselves that the philosophies of Kurt Hahn, the values of the UWC and the principles of the IB require us to balance the belief we aim for in academic excellence and development of global citizens who are well prepared to enter a challenging future, but one filled with endless possibilities. This requires the support of all our stakeholders be they students, staff, parents, alumni and supporters of UWC. All of this will ultimately make us into better people and surely that is what this world needs.
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I think Kurt Hahn would be proud of what we are doing.

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