My Preparation for a Diverse Student Body

One of the main reasons I was drawn to the teaching profession was the opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and to promote such relationships in our society. As I white male working in or for communities of color as an English teacher first and then a primary teacher, I found that I had the opportunity to represent the dominant culture in a positive way for immigrant children and their families, or for marginalized minority American groups as well. I take this responsibility and opportunity very seriously and I have grown quite comfortable translating a parent-teacher conference in Spanish or reaching out to the Hmong community in our school in order to learn more about them. This is a part of the job I love.

And to be frank, I think I had that interest in understanding the other, in empathizing and attempting to take on their perspective before I entered the Teach-Now program, before I completed my clinical and before I continued on to the Master’s in Global Ed program. In fact, my purpose was set as I entered the profession, to be a positive social mirror for students of color and immigrants, and to do my best to treat them like the individuals that they are.

What my clinical experience and my learning in this module have taught me the academic terms and definitions that go along with my experiences teaching in these communities. I knew I wanted to seek to know and understand people of other cultures beyond stereotypes, but I didn’t know that I might be avoiding the single story danger or tokenism in the process. I always knew that I valued diversity and would seek it out in my personal and professional life, but I didn’t know that this was a central component of culturally competent teaching. I also keenly felt the insider immigrant tendencies while abroad to seek situations where I could take a break from my second language learning, where I could find emotional and instrumental support in regards to the challenges of living outside of my own culture. No I have those strategies in mind the next time I am working toward better intercultural communication and understanding in my classroom or school.

The truly revelatory part of my Teach-Now clinical experience and now with this Global Ed module, is that I have gone through the process of thinking and reflecting about cultural interactions, in what ways they are fraught with challenges, where and when I have had negative intercultural experiences, and also what the environment was like when I had sublime experiences of connecting across a great cultural divide. Knowing what both of those contexts look and feel like will make me more culturally self-aware going forward, and will allow me to more accurately dissect the dynamics of cultural interactions my students have and that I have with them and their families. In short, the reflection will make me more sensitive to the two-way social mirror present, how Hmong families might see me as a white man educating their son, and how I reflect their identity by treatment and consideration for them.

The big challenge for me at my current school is getting to know the Hmong community. I do not know their history, their language, or their culture like I know those of Latinos, African-Americans, Koreans, or other immigrant minority groups. In reading Chee Vang’s exhortation to implement Hmong culture into classrooms, my ignorance was confirmed once again, but so was my awareness for the need to learn more. In fact, earlier this year I had a conversation with a Hmong diversity consultant, who took some time out to teach me her approach to schools with significant Hmong populations along with a few critical facts about the Hmong culture. She taught that Hmong people are not as transactional as white Americans in their interactions and she told me that the biggest fear of Hmong parents is that their children will completely assimilate into American culture and lose their heritage even more than it has been threatened and lost already. As a member of the district equity team, I felt that it was very important that we have a Hmong representative from the Muir Elementary community and so I reached out to several and found one mother willing to commit her time to the effort.

I still have enormous gaps in my knowledge of the Hmong people, but at least I can see and feel those gaps now. At least, I have resources and community connections which can help me to slowly fill those gaps and implement more responsive approaches to my Hmong students. The next phase will be sharing what I learned and what institutional knowledge already exists at Muir Elementary about our Hmong community, so that new teachers can gain the knowledge they need with this particular population.

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My Cultural Identity Explained

I am a white, cisgender, straight, neurotypical male born in the Pacific Northwest, raised by a single mother, and firmly part of the American middle class. From early on I had to “code-switch” within my family because my mother’s side of the family did not go to church and did not identify as Christian, while my father’s side of my family goes to church routinely, identifies as Christian above and before many other identities they possess. I had switch my language somewhat dramatically when in the presence of my Christian family, careful not to say “Oh my God” or “Jesus!” as terms of exasperation or surprise. And considering my mom was raising me without being married to my dad and without my dad playing a major role in my childhood, this was controversial on that side of my family and I had to play diplomat. Furthermore, my dad’s half of the family were more recent rural immigrants of northern European descent, lacking any generational wealth and higher education aside from my dad at the time of my youth. In contrast, on my mom’s side of the family, I was a fifth generation Seattleite, urban, educated, wealthy, industrialists, and quite comfortable with the trappings of west coast high society.

Nevertheless, both sides of my family left me feeling ethnically identifiable as part of the dominant culture in the US, of anglo-saxon descent with a very American and Pacific Northwest social imaginary about my local place and the world. Fortunately, the bit of religious code-switching I had to do among my father’s side of the family began my training early on in taking the other’s side and trying to speak their language and learn their social norms and expectations. Otherwise, I would have floated along in a world that made sense to me and included many assumptions about the world that other cultures balk at, and I never would have fathomed such opinions and customs could exist.

That religious code-switching early on combined with my social interactions in middle school to begin to create my multi-cultural awareness and take me down a more globalized identity pathway. My best friend in elementary school was part of a proud middle class, well-educated, multigenerational Japanese-American family. They told me of the Japanese internment camps of WWII, how the government had seized their accumulated wealth at the time, shops, business, homes, and possessions. They told me how the Japanese-Americans had contributed to the settling and development of the Puget Sound region. And yet this family is fully assimilated into the American dominant culture on their own terms, owning an admirable fusion of cultures, a transcultural identity that has only grown stronger through the generations.

In middle school, we added a Chinese-Korean-American friend, who’s family lived and worked in the International District aka Chinatown of Seattle. This is a strong immigrant community, his parents were both first generation immigrants, he spoke a bit of a second language at home, ate much different foods than I did and had a much broader perspective on the world than I did. And yet, we identified each other as lovers of basketball, shoes and action movies. These relationships changed my identity in a way that I did not perceive at the time, yet I was already growing accustomed to being in the homes of families that did not look like me, sound like me, or see the world the same as me or my parents.

In high school, my heterosexual white male identity was dominant. I was a jock. I was a jock that was good at school. I was a jock that was good at school and somewhat popular and normal. I partied, I liked girls, I played on the basketball team, I liked typically urban male things like sneakers, rap music and hanging out with my friends in the popular crowd. I look back on this as my least tolerant and least multicultural identity phase. My identity pathway had narrowed and the dominant white urban American culture had come into stark focus. The whiteness of Seattle had won out.

The last major change of my identity took place over time starting in college. I began to seriously study the Spanish language, I studied abroad, traveled abroad, lived and worked abroad for the first time. I loved it. I felt empowered to explore the previously unknown corners of this endlessly interesting Earth. I found that interacting with a person from a totally different background was exhilarating and always edifying. I found that while I struggled all the same with the challenges of authentic encounter with the other, and butting cultural heads with my new friends and acquaintances in other countries, I never was discouraged by it, never focused to heavily on the confirmation of negative stereotypes and mostly found greater and greater nuance in the peoples I met across the globe. I attempted to become an intimate insider in Latin America and succeeded to a limited extent, proficiency in the language, long-term relationships and work environments provided the portals for entry into a deep understanding of people who did not grow up like me at all.

Consequently, I have come home with a mixed identity that I do not recognize in many of my oldest friends in Seattle who have not left, or who have not had these international experiences. Some of the cultural and social norms that I took for granted before now seem silly, frivolous, questionable or even more sensible and right than I perceived before. At this point, I feel like my identity is globally oriented while locally rooted. I know where I’m from and I’m proud of what my local place stands for in this world, and I’m proud to be a part of the PNW culture. Yet, I yearn for international exposure and count myself as a world=traveler who will spend his life seeking to understand foreign places and peoples as best I can.

Planning for Action Research II

Of the three topic options for my Teach-Now Global Education Master’s action research proposal (language and multilingualism, international mindedness, or self-defined), my research question will address international mindedness and how discourses around the need for such a mindset and skill-set in schools drives international education in my local school districts. Through a survey of recent literature, international education and 21st century learning implementation guides, internationally minded standards, and a cross-section of teachers and administrators working in local international schools, I intend to answer the following question:

 

What are the discourses that drive the creation and expansion of international schools and international programs in the greater Seattle area?

 

In pursuing an answer to that question I will use the discourse analysis outlined by Walter C. Parker of the University of Washington in 2008 and 2011, which identified two strong and three weak discourses pushing the international education movement forward in Seattle area schools. I will attempt a less exhaustive update to his analyses, but I will use his identified discourses as a tool to compare and contrast the current international education trends. In so doing, I will attempt to answer the following questions which will help me to answer my broader, primary question:

  1. What are the discourses that drive this particular “international” school or program? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  2. If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the development of international education, and the curriculum and instruction to go along with it?
  3. Do the current IE discourses reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  4. Is international education seen as the salvation to a current crisis of public education in the area?
  5. Do the WA OSPI 21st century Career and Technical Education (CTE) standards and resources stress the economic and military security discourse, or are Parker’s marginal discourses more prominent in their language?
  6. What discourses do the adopted CTE programs in the area, namely the IB Career Programme and AVID, reflect in their mission, vision and program descriptions?
  7. Does international education in Seattle Public Schools reflect the weak or strong discourses laid out by Parker, or has the power shifted in those terms?

 

The schools systems and districts I will be studying represent an education context that demands 21st century skills and knowledge of the world. The Seattle area is a major player in the global economy with many transnational corporations including Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing, which create many well-paid STEM jobs that the education system in the state of Washington cannot come close to filling with its own citizens. The state of Washington is the third largest exporting state in the union and many of the public education systems in the state are clamoring to prepare their students for this dynamic, globalized economy, yet they can’t keep pace with the demand for engineers, computer programmers and business managers prepared for a diverse, cross-cultural workplace. In the meantime, those transnational corporations are importing an affluent, well-educated migrant class to work for them. Mostly coming from China and India, these immigrants are rapidly changing the demographics and economics of the Seattle area in profound ways, creating tensions around housing prices, new school boundaries and more.

Thus, the Seattle area and its international education programs offer a vital measuring stick for the notion that in the 21st century a good education is truly an international education. If that notion is not supported by the discourses used to justify the creation and development of international schools in the area we need to know why. And we need to know what discourses are employed by local educators instead.

Cross-Cultural Terminology: Competing Forces

Mark Heyward defines Intercultural Literacy as the unconscious, transcultural ability to empathize with another from a different culture, to take on their perspective and embed it into your own thinking, to be the dynamic, multilingual ‘mediating person’ who can navigate between and among many different kinds of people.

For Heyward there are many reasons to aspire to this high level of cultural competency; to make the world more cooperative, safer, and sustainable for all, while also ensuring each person’s economic competitiveness in a globalized world. It is not clear where his emphasis lies, but the economic security of being interculturally literate is not mentioned first and is not mentioned repeatedly in his paper From international to intercultural. In fact, Heyward is setting a very high aspirational goal for a new ‘global species’ of human who still occupies a plurality of identities, but has gone well beyond a nationalist or monolingual culture and identity and has instead become transcultural.

Of course, Heyward argues that international schools are uniquely positioned to provide the environment which shepards young students through their ‘crisis of engagement’ and onto progressively higher levels of mono-, cross- and intercultural literacy. This ‘crisis of engagement’ as Heyward calls it, is essential, for only through experience and encounter with the other can one begin to understand and then move on to integrate the other cultural and social imaginary. This eventual unconscious integration of bicultural and transcultural identity is problematic in a world that is in many regions and nations backlashing against notions of transnational economic cooperation and transnational pluralistic societies. Looking at the white nationalist movements in the US and Eastern Europe as an extreme, one can easily assume the virulent objections concerning the loss of culture, identity, and the dangers of a monocultural or multicultural society that would be raised. There are more legitimate concerns, of course, like those who would see this transcultural process as another form of cultural imperialism from the west, or those developing nations that use a national image and identity to spur growth and energy in its workforce.

 

Intercultural literacy shares an emphasis on experience as a philosophical footing with international mindedness (IM). The term IM is associated with Kurt Hahn and the International Baccalaureate programmes (IB), and the experiences are meant to engender the dispositions and attributes of an IB Learner; risk-takers, caring, principled, open minded and more.

Dr. Arathi Sripakash and his colleagues, in their study of six IB schools in Australia, China and India, found a significant association with IM and Hahn’s idealized traditional western education and the IB World Schools acknowledgement that they come from a humanist western tradition. In fact, many students and families enrolled in IB schools in these countries see IM as a form of “western cultural capital” intended to help them navigate the western higher education system. The study found that IM in these schools and cultures was more curriculum and instruction focused and put less emphasis on the constructivist or experiential learning that both Hahn and Heyward find essential to creating a student who can effectively navigate and contribute to a globalized world. Thus, Sripakash describes a very practical version of IM which is limited in its effect on student identities and does deeply engage students in the tensions between the nationalist project of developing China, say, and the international education pursuits of its highest achieving students.

 

In this practical vein, we move on to global competence, as defined by Veronica Boix Mansilla and Anthony Jackson in the Asia Society’s joint publication with the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) entitled Educating for Global Competence. In it, Mansilla and Jackson define global competence as “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” Action to “improve conditions” in the world is emphasized throughout the document, but most especially in the matrices for global competence in multiple subject areas. To build global competence in students all subject area teachers should follow the following learning cycle:

  1. Investigate the world
  2. Recognize perspectives, both their own and others’
  3. Communicate ideas, to diverse audiences
  4. Take action, to improve conditions

The notable verbs repeated in all the subject area matrices are the following: Identify, Analyze, Produce, Recognize, Examine, Explain, Explore, Use, Select, Reflect, Assess, Act

Aside from ‘reflect’, this comes off as a very western-oriented actionable matrix. Even in the global competence matrix for the world languages subject area it is all about the functionality of the second language. For example, “reflect on how proficiency in more than one language contributes to their own capacity to advocate for and contribute to improvement locally, regionally or globally.” This is all about the ability to “improve conditions”, not about the reflecting upon new awarenesses, interconnections made, perspectives newly understood and adopted, not much at the intercultural literacy level advocated by Heyward.

Screenshot 2018-02-17 at 11.30.37

In fact, there is a whole body of western imperialism criticism of international education, and particularly the international mindedness of the IB programmes, being the most prominent and common model of international schools worldwide. Lodewijck van Oord argues that there are three primary western liberal epistemological assumptions embedded in the IB Diploma Programme:

  1. Marketplace of ideas, wide range of valid opinions
  2. Questioning is central, fallibility is acknowledged
  3. Marketplace of ideas will lead to truth, the best ideas win out

Citing Blooms and Gardner, van Oord makes the case that our traditional western liberal values tell us that mean-making is the ideal end of education, and that conceptual knowledge has primacy over rote learning of quantities of content.

In addition, Barry Drake takes van Oord’s conclusions about the values found in western liberal education and how the IB programme reflects those values, and calls on education policy makers in non-Western, non-Eurocentric nations to deeply consider the implications and potential ‘cultural dissonances’ produced when those Eastern, African or Latin American nations adopt the IB programmes in their national schools. In terms of teaching methodology

the PYP is committed, unapologetically, to “. . . structured, purposeful inquiry, which engages students actively in their own learning, because it is believed that this is the way in which students learn best. The PYP believes that students should be invited to investigate important subject matter by formulating their own questions, looking at the various means available to answer the questions and proceeding with research, experimentation,  observation and other means that will lead them to their own responses to the issues.” This is the IBO basically declaring a constructivist theory of learning. Meaning making through first person experience, which is a western pedagogical approach and yet also problematic in the west with western students in some settings, high poverty and trauma communities. Thus, the adoption of this epistemology and pedagogy must be done intentionally, Drake argues, so that the environment for cross-cultural cultivation is set appropriately.

 

My philosophical beliefs in how children be taught and should learn definitely fall into the western liberal tradition. I believe in meaning making through inquiry and that truth will reveal itself in the marketplace of ideas. But I certainly acknowledge that these assumptions are fraught, or simply ineffectual, for many communities and cultures. Like I said, constructivist learning does not work for all students coming from the western tradition, direct instruction, rote memorization and deep content knowledge are aspects of teaching and learning that are important even in the western education setting and indeed work better for some students, particularly those coming from high poverty or trauma situations where uncertainty in learning is not desirable. The pitfalls for non-western students can be even greater, identity alienation and a lack of relevance and reflection of their own lives in the educational setting. That lack of practical connection between their own lives and traditions and the learning taking place in their school, is the opposite intent of the western tradition of educating, thus it can self-defeating.

That being said, there are value judgments made when deciding upon education policy, and in curriculum and instruction choices, and I would tend to the integration of IM, IL and GC into a school curricula because I see the need for a trained, culturally competent citizenry in a globalized world, I’ve experienced the joy of intercultural experience, and those ‘crisis of engagement’ have been the most important formative experiences of my life and continued education. I agree with Drake, that it is critical for policy makers, school directors and teachers to consider the effect and implications for adopting IM through the IB programmes in a non-western school setting, but that does not mean that the right environment, the appropriate considerations, and the positive, identity affirming experiences cannot be achieved in the name of higher order thinking strategies, meaning making and self-actualizing student imaginaries.

 

Sources:

Heyward, M. (2002). From international to intercultural: Redefining the international school for a globalized world. Journal of Research in International Education,1, 9-32. Retrieved February 16, 2018

Sriprakash, A. (2014). A comparative study of international mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India(Publication).

Boix Mansilla, V., & Jackson, A. (2011). Educating for Global Competence: Preparing our Youth to Engage the World(Rep.). New York, NY: Asia Society.

Lodewijk van Oord (2007) To westernize the nations? An analysis of thevInternational Baccalaureate’s philosophy of education, Cambridge Journal of Education, 37:3, 375-390, DOI: 10.1080/03057640701546680

Drake, B. (2015). International education and IB programmes. Journal of Research in International Education,3, 189-205. Retrieved February 16, 2018.

Planning for Action Research

Action Research

Action Research is conducted by a reflective practitioner in a given field. A professional who is determined to improve his or her practice, knowledge or skill base through “planned and systematic inquiry.” According to Nancy and Gary Padak, there are four stages of the action research process for an educator. These four stages encompass the seven step cycle that Richard Sagor defines as the inquiry cycle for action research. Below is a synthesis of both frameworks for education research:

  1. Identify the question – this should include three major characteristics:
    1. Importance, needs-based (clarifying theories)
    2. Relevance, addressing a problem (selecting a focus)
    3. Answerable, the criterion should be appropriately limited in scope (identifying research questions)
  2. Collection of information – student assessment data, record of observations, surveys, interviews, daily notes, demographic data, tallies, official documents, conversations with groups or individuals:
    1. Develop a clear set of questions in advance
    2. Acquire multiple independent sources of data
    3. Be effective and efficient in your collection of data, uses sources close to you because “data can come from almost anywhere.”
  3. Analyze the information and data – “You will know that you have gathered enough information when new data bring no surprises”
    1. “Data saturation” or redundancy
    2. “Triangulation” of multiple independent sources
    3. Follow these four steps once data is collected:
      • Reach data saturation, ie no surprises
      • Thorough review of all data collected
      • Categorization, ie sift, sort, rank and examine to FIND THE STORY!
      • Identify the answers in the data (answers to the question or problem)
  4. Reports results – Research can lead to more research
    1. Write and publish for documentation
    2. The writing process allows one to refine, deepen, and reveal insights from the research
    3. Sharing with fellow educators allows them to leverage your work and reduces teacher isolation
    4. Will allow for informed action to be taken in the future

 

Potential Questions for my Action Research

I recently read Walter C. Parker’s piece in the journal Globalization, Societies and Education entitled, ‘International education’ in US public schools (2009), and found his analysis of discourses used to justify the creation of international schools very intriguing. Specifically, the classification of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ discourses interested me. Along with the crisis and salvation education reform history to which the current IE wave is connected. This is relevant to me, as I will be assessing the mission and vision of international schools over the next few years in search of an excellent school community abroad for which my wife and I will teach. A school’s mission and vision are essential to its effectiveness, so the stated justification for an international curriculum or 21st Century Skills integration, will speak volumes about the school. Plus, I would like to be a school leader one day and lead an effort to infuse daily instruction with international mindedness, therefore I must be able to communicate our reasons for this effort to my staff. Below is a list of potential questions:

  • What are the discourses that drive this “international” school? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
  • If not, what are they, and do they reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
  • If the strong and weak discourses have changed, has the mission of the local international schools changed? And if so, has this or how has this affected the curriculum and instruction?

 

Educatore Action Research Requirements

For our Action Research project in Module 14, we must follow the above mentioned steps of a quality and effective research project. We must produce a report of at least 20 to 30 pages with the following sections:

  1. Statement of Question or Problem – The scope must focused and it must draw on prior knowledge to achieve proficient on the evaluation rubric.
  2. Literature Review – References must current and pertinent to the topic or question. Must make clear connections between the literature gathered and the action research question.
  3. Proposed Methodology – “planned and systematic research” with consideration for privacy, safety and ethical concerns
  4. Analysis of Results – “The results were directly related to the research question…and followed a logical sequence.”
  5. Summary and Conclusion – “The conclusions/summary were based on outcomes and included some appropriate recommendations.” Tie to related literature and also question results against related literature.
  6. References – Academic level sources, ideally peer-reviewed
  7. Writing Mechanics – Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  8. APA Format – Bibliography is all in APA Format!

 

Challenges and Opportunities

I definitely feel comfortable putting together a research paper that ties the data collected to the action research question, compares and contrasts the data against the relevant academic literature in the field of inquiry, and draws logical conclusions and recommendations. I also feel confident in conducting a sufficient literature review, finding the relevant source material and gleaning the appropriate lessons tied to my action research question. However, the trick is going to be focusing the scope of my action research project in such a way that I am able to gather the data that I need. I know that I am going to have to leverage my professional connections in the the schools and districts in my area in order to interview the right people in the field of international education. I am not teaching at an international school, so my challenge will be access to data. Thus, I am going to need to think ahead, plan ahead and prepare my questions ahead of time in order to give myself the time necessary to access the data I need that is not readily at hand. I am thinking that I need to develop a survey, in short order, for international school administrators and teachers with the focused questions I desire answer. This way, I can give busy educators the time they need to respond to my inquiries, while not pressing me up against the wire of our early April deadline.

 

Sources

Sagor, R. (n.d.). Chapter 1. What Is Action Research? Retrieved February 08, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research%C2%A2.aspx

Padak, N., & Padak, G. (17, September 28). Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm

The Semantics of International Schools

In an interview with Professionals in International Education News, Nick Brummitt, the founder and Chairman of the Board of International School Consultancy (ISC), defines an international school as “one that delivers a curriculum to any combination of infant, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country” for the purposes of market research and analysis. As an educator, based on my readings and understandings of the history of international schools and the current variations in definition of international schools, I would have to disagree slightly with Mr. Brummitt’s definition. And indeed, he does make mention of the exceptions to this definition, but neglects to mention the historical difficulty in defining international schools in the first place, and the modern dilemmas facing the field in terms of the need for an expanding definition of international schools.

According to Ian Hill, the history of defining international schools appears to start with Bob Leach and a report for the International Schools Association in 1962. At the time, Leach’s 7 typologies of an international school emphasized ‘overseas’ schools that were parent-owned, English-speaking, and American-programme-centered. This is the legacy definition of an international school as “national education abroad for expatriates”. These typologies sufficed for many years until the beginnings of the current international school boom which began in the late 1980’s, thus prompting the creation of ISC by Brummitt.

Another influence on the definition of international schools is the immortal Kurt Hahn. A German Jew, influenced by his experiences in WWI, his exile to the UK following his objection to the rise of Nazism, Hahn had a keen sense of the power of common experience and meaning in the lives young men during wartime. His aim in founding the Salem School in Germany, the Gordonstoun in Scotland, Outward Bound and the United World Colleges seems to be a response to this William James’ challenge to educators in The Moral Equivalent of War:

James hated war but he admits that war satisfies a primitive longing of men which will never be extinguished, to lose yourself in a common cause, which claims the whole man.

The intention was to develop an educational program that provided a positive outlet for that ‘primitive longing’ and an authentic physical test of self-discovery and ‘common cause’ to engender ‘self-respect’, esteem, challenge weaknesses, purge negative self-talk, and create compassion among diverse groups of young men. Speaking in 1936, three years after his exile from Germany, and at the precipice of the breakout of WWII, laid out the loftiest of aims of his vision for boys education in the 20th century, by which he laid the cornerstones of international education as a classless, multicultural compassion for all of humanity:

Nothing but goodwill between nations and classes can save this generation from wars and revolutions. And education can help to build this bedrock of goodwill as a foundation of the society to be.

The definition of international education thus remains clear and intact from Hahn’s time; an internationally ‘minded’ education which creates what we call today, a global citizen who possesses mutual-understanding with people of other countries and cultures, along with an ability for cross-cultural communication.While this entreaty failed to save that generation from the horrors of WWII, his work at Gordonstoun did serve as the philosophical impetus for the creation of international education initiatives like UNESCO and the pedagogical basis for many internationally minded programs like the International Baccalaureate curricula.

However, the definition and identification of international schools, while generally being related to international education, is not as clearly defined and continues to evolve. It started as elite education for families with a foreign affinity or living in an expat community in a foreign country. Terwilliger began a refinement of the definition in 1972, by identifying “four main requisites”:

  1. A student body made up of a significant number of students who are not nationals of the host country
  2. A board of directors which proportionally reflects the student body, thus foreign parents
  3. A teaching staff that ‘experienced a period of cultural adaptation’
  4. A curriculum utilizing the best instructional practices from all nations involved

These requisites have become complicated by the current landscape of traditionally international schools and also those schools newly claiming the title. Hill calls this expansion of the defintion in late 20th century and early 21st century the ‘dilution’ and ‘dilemma’ of international schools.

So the classic notion of an international school a la ISA/Leach becomes diluted with the establishment of other well-meaning and often perfectly sound educational institutions. The concept of an international school becomes complex and confusing if we consider the range of manifestations it can have…

The wide spectrum of international schools now includes market-based overseas schools serving expatriate populations (both for-profit and nonprofit), IB programs serving under-served populations in the developing world, ECIS, CIS and other membership association international schools, English-medium schools in Asia and the Middle East, cross-nation partnership schools like those funded by the U.S. State Department, transnational corporation schools for the children of employees living abroad but employing a strictly nation-specific curriculum, along with the government schools in U.S. combining IB programs taught in non-English languages.

International Schools Infographic

Hill first attempts a new definition of modern international schools by drawing distinctions between national schools and international schools:

Using this comparative definition, he then develops a continuum for the typology of schools:

Lastly, he created five criterion and the corresponding descriptors to allow educators and researchers to score the ‘purity’ of a national school or international based on a rubric:

  1. Raison d’etre – weighted by Hill, considered the hallmarks of national schools or IS
  2. Education programme – nationally or internationally minded
  3. Nature of the student body – nationals or wholly international
  4. Cultural diversity of governing body (board or proprietors) – all nationals or only 10% represent the host nation
  5. Student tuition fees – none to full tuition

Personally, I don’t have a stake in any particular definition, past or present, of an international school, and I do think schools like Chief Sealth International High School in Seattle, and any other U.S. school with a diverse immigrant population and an identified international or culturally responsive raison d’etre should be able to call themselves an international school. For me, the only non-negotiable for an international school is a mission and pedagogy that is international minded and matches the international makeup of the student body. This is a clear distinction from a national school which lacks diversity outside of student nationals and a curriculum reflecting national values and instructional practices. That distinction from national schools may not provide for a well-delineated international school definition, but it does allow for the diversity and innovation needed to provide quality education in a globalized world.

Citations:

Hill, I. (2015). What is an international school? International Schools Journal, XXXV(1). Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Hahn, K. (2018, January 25). Outward Bound. Address presented at Annual Meeting of the Outward Bound Trust in UK, London.

Hahn, K. (1936). Education and Peace: The Foundations for Modern Society. The Inverness Courier. Retrieved January 24, 2018.

International schools and international education: a relationship reviewed. By: Hayden, Mary C.,

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