From the health care situation in Morocco, to school enrolment stats in Italy, the balance of imports versus exports in Vietnam, to the gender pay gap in Canada; these are issues being discussed at the United Nations, and increasingly by Parksville students.
For several years, Ballenas Secondary School students have participated in the Model UN club, attending conferences and debating some of the worlds biggest issues from the perspective of various nations.
Though seen more often in private schools, Model UN clubs are getting more popular, especially at Ballenas, said the club’s head teacher, Olivia Hill.
This year, the club became so popular, that it’s now a credited class (though it continues to run at lunches and outside of school time).
With about 45 students, Hill said she’s thrilled with how much value students see in the course, and how well they are doing at conferences.
“It’s a huge skill-builder,” she said of the Model UN system.
A major part of Model UN’s is attending weekend conferences where students compete with students from other schools.
Students are given countries to represent on certain issues, and work to further their countries policies and outlook while making compromises.
“The goal of the conferences is to have a resolution paper passed. And a resolution paper is a draft paper of suggested solutions,” said Hill.
Along the way, students (called delegates) are awarded for their performances.
This October, Ballenas students Ramsay Locke and Maxine Creery were awarded Best Delegate, and Derian Guadarrama and Enzo Agostini were given Outstanding Delegate awards at a Shawnigan Model United Nations day conference.
Also in October, Ballenas’ 20 students won best small delegation at the Vancouver Youth Model United Nations in Whistler, while Karol Christopher Diego-Lucero and Enzo Agostini won the Best Delegate award, and Ramsay Locke won an honourable mention in the position paper category.
These are just the latest accolades earned by Ballenas students at such conferences.
“(They do) incredibly well. We’re proud of them,” said Hill.
While students are excited and energized by the conferences (which can run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., sometimes with a midnight emergency meeting), they also gain many skills.
“(They’re) learning about global perspectives on current issues, (gaining) oral communication skills, there’s listening skills, there’s critical thinking and creative thinking because they’re trying to come up with solutions to problems,” said Hill.
Students also learn about the powers and piftalls of the UN, they try to understand the perspectives of people from other cultures, and they learn to think about major issues and about solutions.