The Legacy of a Queen

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II did not come as a surprise to many students in my school! When I got to school on the 9th of September it was business as usual for students while teachers discussed the tragic loss and mourned her death.

When discussing with students I got a few blank expressions and no reaction from them. The fact that got the most reaction was her passing at the age of 96 years. The Queen lived a long life. It was difficult to explain the significance of her life and consequently her death; students in today’s classroom did not recognize this British monarch as a youth icon or a significant contributor to their context.

A world leader passed away, so what and why should students in international schools learn or mourn? There is a lot to learn for sure. Learn that a woman could symbolize an entire nation’s service to people. Learn that a queen is remembered for her life of service, not for her beauty or jewels. Learn that even privileged people have to embody a great character. Learn that 96 years means adapting to almost 9 decades of change. Learn that royalty is a legacy and not an inheritance.

And why should students mourn, especially when they can not relate to monarchy in the modern age? This is a good opportunity to teach them empathy and care. It is understandable not to feel sad for people you do not know, but international education should teach respect and care towards other people’s cultures and beliefs. A specific student might not be impacted by the queen’s death but must show empathy towards those who are mourning. This is where the ethos and values of international education are tested, knowing that other people with different value systems are right in their way of looking at the world. With that said other people can also feel that the monarchy represents decades of colonialism and oppression. They might not be mourning and they are also entitled to the way they want to express themselves.

Hence, while the world mourned the death of a woman who lived a long life with dignity, there are others who also raised questions that are not being discussed. The elephant in the room-discuss the reign of the queen or the British empire as a positive impact on the world or not? The truth is it needs to be discussed and students need to express how they feel and what they know about the queen’s reign. Expecting everyone to mourn is also a stretch, at least this is something I experienced in my classroom in an international school in Asia. Truth be told it is a difficult conversation but needs to be had. While some need to understand why others are mourning, others need to understand why some are not mourning-finally everyone needs to agree to disagree. The greatest learning from this event. The values we teach in international schools-other people with their differences can also be right. I can settle for this feeling as the legacy worthy of a queen!

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