Stories from our international boarding schools

Futures taking flight

On Thursday 25 April, the EF Academy Oxford class of 2019 graduated in Oxford’s Town Hall. To celebrate the occasion, Dr. Paul Ellis, Head of School, gave this address to graduating students.

“Why does it matter that around ninety students, two years ago, made the bold decision to be part of a boarding school community of over forty different nationalities? It matters because these young men and women before you embody the values that will make a better world. Global connectedness. Open-mindedness. Diversity. In other words, our graduating students are the means of greater international understanding and togetherness.

They – you, are global leaders by virtue of what you have become. In your time here at EF Academy Oxford, you have gained, above all, global confidence. You are ready now to join a wider global community and to make a truly positive global impact. In preparation for this task, you have over the course of almost twenty months taken on new challenges. You have learned new skills. You have initiated and planned projects together. You have demonstrated individual commitment. You have practised ethical decision-making. It is to your credit that you have in your time here: helped the homeless; undertaken medical volunteering; conserved the natural environment and wildlife; raised funds for charities; done various kinds of community work with the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged; you have volunteered in museums; shared your culture and language with others; and more. You have thereby acquired the kind of experiences that will give you the personal authority to make real changes for the better in the world.

You have spent most of your time here, however, perfecting your pathway to university success. You have worked hard at your A-level or IB studies – some of you very hard indeed – and taken good advantage of the hundreds of academic extension opportunities on offer. It is probably through your future job that you will have the most impact in the world. You have offers – actual placements, in the case of US universities – from some of the very best universities in the world. Whether as an architect, doctor, engineer, lawyer, manager, or scientist, you will help shape the future world in a way that respects its variety and differences.

But what about all those unknowable jobs? The Institute for the Future, in California, recently published a report on the impact that emerging technologies will have on society and work. If the report is right, 85% of jobs in 2030 will be newly invented. What seems clear, however, is that we all need to be quick thinking, highly motivated, digitalised, and globally agile. We need the mindset of project-designers, problem-solvers, freelancers, and lifelong learners. What better place to have prepared for this kind of global job market than in a genuinely international school such as ours, where fast-paced adaptability and a keen awareness of different approaches are expected of you from Day 1, and repeatedly so over two years? Knowing you as I do, I also think that you have the skills and attitude not just to do these unknown jobs, but rather to create them. And remember, you will have connections and support out there in this ultra-competitive environment: you are joining a global EF Academy alumni network of thousands from around 80 countries or more.

This competitive edge in a global job market, this wider global confidence, this valuing of all people from all places – all these, are qualities that make you stand out from local students educated in their home countries. Moreover, your global interaction at EF Academy Oxford is particularly precious to all of us in this room – and outside it – as we witness, sadly, the rise of extreme nationalism and isolationism. You are globally literate people, immeasurably more so than people of my generation who, in the main, have too much influence in how things are. You are the champions of a unified global commitment to both humanity and to the environment.

But, as I admire your individual passion for photography or music or art or dance or drama or sport, I am also reminded that as well as saving humanity and the planet, you do need to take time out for personal growth and for pure enjoyment. Continue to make time to develop your wider creativity and talents. Most importantly, make time to nurture the friendships you have made here. As alumni always seem to say, quite rightly: “the best thing about EF Academy Oxford is making friends from all over the world!” And with global friendships, we have the beginnings of learning how to create a nicer world! So you are raised high here on the stage not just so that you can be seen more easily, but also to remind the rest of us that we need to get used to looking up to you as global leaders! Thank you.”

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