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Claire Lawrence

Former British Ambassador to Lithuania

Part of UK in Lithuania

25th July 2016 Vilnius, Lithuania

Why I am – talking to young leaders at their international summer school

On 25 July I’m very excited to be talking to 120 young leaders from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and the UK at an International Future Leaders School in Trakai. Meeting teenagers and university students in Lithuania is one of my favourite things to do. I enjoy hearing their perspective on life, and find they ask me very good questions. In the year I have spent in Lithuania I have visited schools and universities in Lithuania’s bigger cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda) and spoken to students from across the country (from Salcininkai to Ukmerge to Visaginas).

I know that students in today’s world face challenges – and opportunities – which didn’t exist when I was at school. My son is only 20 months old. He is going to grow up in a world which is changing quickly. He may do a job in 20 years time which doesn’t even exist now, using technology which I can’t imagine.

My son has an advantage; he is growing up learning English as his first language. English is no longer a global language though, it is a global skill. It is a skill which is necessary to access information including, but not only on, the internet. It is also a skill for communication in a shrinking world. A Lithuanian might use English to talk to someone from Sweden, from Estonia, from China even.

My son will have to master other 21st Century skill, however. With the surplus of information available online and offline, how will he know how to evaluate that information and which sources he can trust? How will he develop the entrepreneurial skills to flourish in the 21st Century economy?

The British Council is running this summer school for future leaders to share British experience of teaching these skills to young people. Of course, we are global leaders in teaching English language skills. We have a lot of other experience to share too though. The UK already supports initiatives in Lithuania to help young people develop important 21st Century skills like citizenship and community engagement. The UK’s Duke of Edinburgh scheme http://www.dofe.lt/ which has run very successfully in Lithuania for 10 years now is a good example of this. Meeting Duke of Edinburgh award winners I’m impressed how the scheme has helped them develop not only their skills but also their confidence.

They are also running the summer school to increase contact between people in the Baltic States and people in the UK. People in the UK and Lithuania share the same fundamental Western values, for example the right to free speech, the importance of democracy and having your say, and freedom to follow your dreams. And, while we might disagree on whether football or basketball is the better sport, teenagers from Lithuania and the UK have many of the same worries and hopes.

The British Council has invited young leaders particularly from minority backgrounds to the summer school. In the UK we have developed a lot of experience in education in multi-cultural environments. People from different backgrounds have come to the UK and made a wonderful contribution to our country, including for example from Lithuania and Poland. We have learnt that respecting different communities – and at the same time making sure that contact between different communities increases – is important. We hope we can share our experience in building strong societies which are inclusive as well as diverse. We know that this is important if communities are going to prosper and feel secure.

My view is that children from minority groups in Lithuania have a lot to be proud of. They can draw on two rich cultures; they can access a different heritage while enjoying the benefits of being a Lithuanian citizen; and being bi-lingual is an enormous gift to be able to explore a wider world.


My son will start a Lithuanian language kindergarten in August, because I believe in the benefits of being brought up bilingually. But I know it will bring some challenges as he is immersed in a new language. Just as I know that learning high school subjects in your second language can sometimes be more challenging. This is one other reason why we have decided to invite young leaders from Polish and Russian communities to the summer school, because we want to add our assistance to the support that is going to young people from different backgrounds.

So I am attending and supporting the summer school because I believe that the UK should help young people from different backgrounds across Lithuania, and because these bright, interesting individuals are the future of their communities and this country.

About Claire Lawrence

Ms Claire Lawrence was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania in June 2015. Ms Lawrence joined the FCO in 2000, working on European issues. She has worked…

Ms Claire Lawrence was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania in June 2015.

Ms Lawrence joined the FCO in 2000, working on European issues. She has worked on various international issues since, including a posting to the UK Representation to the EU. She has most recently served as Deputy Western Balkans Director.