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UWC International Congress 2024: Education as a Force

UWC International Congress 2024: Education as a Force. 29 February - 2 March 2024 in Phuket, Thailand

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Happening once every six years*, the next UWC International Congress will take place on 29 February - 2 March 2024 in Phuket, Thailand. This event will culminate the UWC movement’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and will be our first ever hybrid congress, enabling even greater participation across the UWC community.  

Inspired by the words ‘Education as a Force’, the UWC International Congress 2024 will bring together UWC's educational and governance leaders alongside partners, supporters, and representatives of all UWC stakeholder groups, to discuss the future of education and re-align our educational model to the greatest needs of our time. Through a combination of keynote sessions, panel discussions, workshops and impact talks, we will re-energise our mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and sustainable future.  

The programme will include sessions across five thematic tracks:

1. Curriculum, Teaching & Learning 

UWC schools and colleges attract young people who seek to make a difference in the world. Expressed through curriculum, teaching and learning, education at UWC aims to develop conscious global citizens who are empowered and inspired to take action individually and collectively to help to address the world's greatest challenges, particularly related to peace and sustainability. Through academics, outdoor and experiential learning, residential life and student-led projects, students experience a rigorous programme that equips them with a sense of agency and possibility. 

To enhance teaching and learning across UWC schools and colleges, there is a need to continually revisit UWC's educational offerings and invest in the capacity of teachers and staff to support students' learning journeys. 

2. Admissions 

UWC seeks deliberately diverse students from all over the world for its programmes, with particular emphasis on the role of national committees in selecting 16-18 year old students for the IBDP/IBCP. This relies on a corps of largely volunteer-run national committees implementing a set of selection criteria with selection activities tailored to each country. The smooth functioning of the annual process requires high quality efforts in promotion, selection, nomination, financial needs assessment and onboarding of students. 

To guarantee a seamless admissions cycle each year, there is a need to strengthen each step of the process and continually pursue alignment between national committees and UWC schools and colleges.

3. Wellbeing 

In recent years, several researchers, including Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education (authors of the Harvard-UWC Impact Study), have concluded that rigorous educational experiences like schooling at UWC can place considerable pressure on students, which may lead to  mental health challenges for some. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular accentuated the reality of the youth mental health crisis, and the rigours of the IBDP have equally been identified as a significant source of stress for students and adults. Many students who arrive at UWC schools need extra support to help settle into their new environments, and having to study in English presents another challenge for some. In addition to this, safeguarding of young people is a subject of heightened focus in schools. 

To ensure the holistic wellbeing of students in the 21st Century, there is an urgent need to re-evaluate the predominant ideologies that have underpinned a UWC education.

4. Financial Sustainability 

Deliberate diversity is at the heart of UWC's educational model. This is often best achieved through the provision of needs-based scholarships for students from all parts of the world, particularly those who come from under-resourced and under-represented backgrounds. Programmes like the UWC Refugee Initiative specifically support refugees and internally displaced people to study at UWC. However, spiralling inflation and the growing cost of delivering education globally pose a significant challenge for UWC in sustaining its scholarship model, and ensuring the financial sustainability of its schools and colleges. 

There is an opportunity to think differently about a UWC movement-wide funding strategy encompassing engagement of alumni and donors, and leveraging the unique capacities of national committees, schools and UWC International. 

5. Educational Leadership & Partnerships 

UWC played a pioneering role in responding to the needs of the world through innovative education design in the 1960s and beyond. Our visionary founders designed service-learning experiences and imagined new curricula that culminated in the establishment of the International Baccalaureate. For decades, UWC schools and colleges have partnered with governments, multilateral organisations and other educational organisations to transform the delivery of education in local contexts and to contribute towards peace-building in post-conflict areas. With the support of the UWC movement, UWCx projects like Amala have blossomed into fully fledged organisations providing educational services to under-reached communities. UWC is uniquely positioned to continue to lead through innovation, partnerships and community engagement.  
To continue to demonstrate educational leadership in the world, there is a need for UWC to strengthen its approach to working with partners including governments, multilateral organisations, educational organisations, donors and alumni.

Between October 2023 and February 2024, delegates will also engage in a series of online pre-Congress discussions on each of these tracks.

Who will participate?

The UWC International Congress 2024 will be primarily a working opportunity opened to educational stakeholders. Participation will be mainly by invitation and extended to: 

  • UWC school representatives (teachers/staff and students)
  • UWC national committee representatives
  • UWC governing bodies (UWC International Board, Council and Office)
  • UWC community at-large
  • Friends of UWC, donors and partners
How can I participate? 

Thanks to the hybrid nature of the Congress, there will be different options to participate in-person or online

  • Full delegates - in-person: will participate in the Congress in Thailand (29 February- 2 March) and also online for the pre-Congress sessions (October 2023 - February 2024). 
  • Full delegates - online: will participate online both to the Congress (29 February- 2 March) and to the pre-Congress sessions (October 2023 - February 2024). Online delegates are expected to commit to all sessions and actively engage and contribute to the discussions as much as in-person delegates. 
  • Plenary attendees - online: anyone can attend the online public plenary sessions, both during the pre-Congress and the Congress.

* The last UWC International Congress was held in Trieste, Italy, in October 2016. Disruptions caused by COVID-19 forced us to reschedule the next Congress for 2024.

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