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:
- What are the discourses that drive this particular “international” school or program? Do they match those found by Parker (2008, 2011)?
- 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?
- Do the current IE discourses reflect the rise of populist ethno-nationalism in the US?
- Is international education seen as the salvation to a current crisis of public education in the area?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.