Friday January 20th was the date of the annual LISA (London International Schools Association Conference. There are currently 15 LISA schools: most are international schools in and around the London area (although the International School of Aberdeen is also a member).

The conference was hosted by the King Fahd Academy with almost 500 participants attending.

The keynote speech was given by Processor George Walker, talking about international education, proposing links between recent writings by Howard Gardener (Five Minds for the Future) and the six challenges that Professor Walker has identified. (Initially he highlighted four key features of the 21st century – diversity, complexity, sustainability and inequality – but later added two more).

I thought that the most engaging part of the speech involved his analogy between a famous song from the1956 film musical “The King and I” and the way in which we can learn about another culture.

In the film Deborah Kerr (as Anna) sings “Getting to Know You” as she strikes up a warm and affectionate relationship with the children and the wives of the King of Siam.

Professor Walker suggested that there are parallels between the lyrics of this song and our aspirations for cultural understanding: it’s a matter of give and take…

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you,
Putting it my way,
But nicely,
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.

Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say


Five Minds for the Future (Gardener)

 “In his book Five Minds for the Future, Professor Howard Gardner describes five intellectual minds that people will need if they are to “thrive in the world during the eras to come”.

 These are:

  • the disciplined mind, which has mastered (over about 10 years) at least one of the major schools of thought
  • the synthesizing mind, which brings to bear on an issue information from a variety of disciplines
  • the creating mind, which breaks new ground, asks different questions and proposes new solutions
  • the respectful mind, which explores, respects and tries to make sense of the differences between different groups of people
  • the ethical mind, which recognizes one’s responsibilities as a worker and a citizen.

Gardner’s minds form a valuable checklist against which to measure the IB’s programmes, in particular their balance between disciplinary and trans disciplinary learning, the application of critical-thinking skills, intercultural understanding and the ethical values that underlie the programmes”.

About George Walker

“George Walker started his career in education as a science teacher and ended it as director general of the International Baccalaureate. In between he spent nearly 30 years in the leadership of schools, experience that forms the basis of this book. He was appointed OBE for his services to education and is visiting professor in the University of Bath”.

“George Walker studied chemistry at Oxford University and music at the University of Cape Town. He lectured in education at the University of York and was visiting professor of education in the University of Bath, which awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003. His career in education divides into three parts: science teacher and lecturer, comprehensive school headmaster, and international educator. He has written and spoken extensively on all three subjects. In 1991 George Walker was appointed director general of the International School of Geneva and in 1999 he became director general of the International Baccalaureate until his retirement in 2006”.

“Professor George Walker, former director general of the International Baccalaureate, continues to shine as one of the leading lights in exploring, promoting and driving forward international education”.


If you visit the IB store there is a link to the “Ask George Walker” page



Lyrics from