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Marc Kielburger: Turning classrooms into global communities

Marc Kielburger is the co-founder of the We movement.

Amanda Clay Photography/Amanda Clay Photography

My daughters are growing up in a global village. Lily-Rose is 5, and she speaks French with the franco-Manitoban accent she inherited from her mother. Violette, my youngest, has picked up a handful of Swahili words from our Maasai friends in Kenya, our second home.

Like all kids born into digital nativity, my girls will develop a different view of languages, cultures and borders than previous generations. Travelling on their dad's air miles aside, their cohort will learn about the Syrian refugee crisis through social media and real-time feeds – and from the Syrian-Canadian children who will grow up here. This is a peer group that's closer than ever to world issues, and we need to make them feel more capable than ever of solving them.

The Canada I envisage for my daughters will transform education to consider our nation's place in the global community, and its role in tackling the world's challenges.

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As I look to our country's 150th anniversary, I picture global education for a global village.

In his own column above, my brother Craig mentioned our We Schools programming in North America, where young people are creating positive change through service learning. We Villages applies that same philosophy overseas. Our development model fosters connections between supporters in Canada and communities in eight countries, where our local staff work with rural villages and regional governments to support people to build stable, thriving communities.

Canada's kids are holding fundraisers and awareness campaigns – a few of which are featured in these pages – to build schools, dig wells and provide food security and health care in our partner communities. Some student groups even raise the money to visit their projects overseas, on a Me to We Trip.

But we know that not every child will have the chance to see the global impact they've made firsthand. That's why we're bringing the world to the classroom, and the classroom to the world.

For We, the future of education embeds service right into the school curriculum. Our We Schools partnership with the College Board's Advanced Placement Program (AP) has students taking AP courses with We Service components – for academic credit.

It's what we call "courses with causes." Students will learn about biodiversity by testing for pollution in local waterways and petitioning governments with their results. In computer science, future engineers will learn to code by collaborating with students around the world to build online resources that will enhance learning for children with special needs. In human geography, future cartographers and urban planners will develop action plans to address local hunger.

At We, it is both our dream and our calling to transform education from rote memorization to experiential, skills-based learning.

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The future of education defies distance. The We Learning Centre will open in 2017, a hub for students in even rural regions of Canada and around the world to gain access to our trained facilitators, through voice or video chat. We will take leadership training across the country without leaving our headquarters in Toronto. Geography shouldn't be a barrier to youth empowerment workshops.

The future of education fosters global communities. Student groups in Canada will have sister villages overseas, with communication technology that makes regular interaction possible, allowing each community to come alive for the other. This is the future of learning.

The next cohort will graduate with a deep understanding of the greatest challenges facing our time, as well as the knowledge, skills and desire to tackle those challenges.

Raising socially conscious Canadians should be part of the fabric of our country for the next 150 years.

My family comes from a long line of teachers. My parents were teachers, and my brother and I have devoted our professional lives to educating and empowering young people with the knowledge and the tools they need to change the world.

I don't know if my daughters will choose education as their calling. But I do hope that their classrooms will become global communities.

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Marc Kielburger is the co-founder of the We movement, which includes We Charity, Me to We Social Enterprise and We Day.

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