The Rise and Confusion of International Education
International schools have grown in the 21st century, and with them the promotion of international-mindedness. According to leading educational organization International Baccalaureate (IB), international-mindedness develops “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
As lofty as these goals are, implementing international-mindedness is another story. LaGuardia Community College Professor Maria Savva and Dave Stanfield of the Council of International Schools delved into those problems in a co-authored paper published with the Journal of Research in International Education.
Reviewing scholarship on international-mindedness, Savva and Stanfield identified three areas that require further thought. For starters, descriptions of international-mindedness failed to fully differentiate it from other concepts like multiculturalism and interculturalism, both of which arose as a way to understand “diversity within the context of a traditional nation-state and the issues specific to it.”
Secondly, although international-mindedness curriculum focuses on morality and character development, the authors found that scholarship often failed to address those two components. More concerning, the IB lists 10 attributes it expects students to develop, but as the authors point out, “these traits assume an absoluteness that seems to ignore the complexity of human nature.” In other words, not all attributes automatically form strong character. “One needs only to look at modern day radicalism to find individuals who are ‘risk-takers’ but use the trait to cause harm to others,” they explained.
Finally, thanks to the flexibility of the concept, schools have been able to mold it to fit their particular purview. Following those shifts remains critical. “An intentional and ongoing professional development plan is essential to developing cultural competence in teachers and leaders,” they wrote, “particularly one that expects and anticipates the transiency that is inherent in so many international schools.”
But that’s where the exciting future of this pedagogy may lie: in its adaptability. Savva and Stanfield conclude, “To this end, the ability of key institutions to revise definitions to fit this rapidly changing landscape remains central to moving the concept of international-mindedness forward.”