UWC Mahindra has, since its inception, been a pioneer in the development of interdisciplinary academic courses that focus on global issues and concerns. It is currently piloting the Cambridge pre-U’s Global Perspectives course. Six graduates completed the course in June 2010; eleven second-years are scheduled to finish it in June 2011; and about 25 first-years students have begun doing the course this September. The course looks at various issues – such as globalization, China / India as superpowers, science and politics of climate change, peak oil theories, and medical ethics. Several sources are used to acquaint students with the relevant content but the focus is on getting students to critically evaluate the role of the media in its coverage of these issues, from different political and cultural perspectives.
The World Studies Extended Essay was developed at Mahindra College in 2002 and students have been doing it since 2004. In recent years approximately half its students chose to do their EE in World Studies. Students choose a global issue (say, infant malnutrition, or the distortion of history by governments in power) and study it in depth in one or two local case-studies. The IB converted it into a pilot in 2007, and the Harvard Zero Project (headed by Prof Howard Gardner) was brought in to provide the theoretical framework for both inter-disciplinary learning and the acquisition of global consciousness.
At a meeting of pilot schools, and Harvard scholars held in Cardiff (Sept 18-20) teacher support materials and assessment schemas for the WS EE were developed and finalized. Based on the Mahindra experience, the World Studies EE will now be open to all students in all IB schools across the world. Mahindra College’s Deputy Head Dr Cyrus Vakil, who represented the college at Cardiff, and was one of the three faculty who developed the World Studies EE in 2002, feels this is only the first step. “Now that the EE is going main stream, our next project is to convince the IB to design, or to entrust us to design and pilot a Global Studies two-year course. I can’t think of a more fertile ground to develop it on than with Mahindra students.”