Photo: Maple Bear West Coast, Singapore
The DEIJ International School Award highlights some of the inspiring initiatives being delivered by international schools with the goal of developing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) throughout their school, for students and all other stakeholders.
Embedding DEIJ in a school’s strategic journey and as a continuum within all school life is an important conversation of today, and the commitment to DEIJ demonstrated within this year’s shortlisted initiatives is wholly aligned and integral to this objective. Rooting DEIJ within all international school improvement is something that ISC Research supports and for this reason, in the 2024 International School Awards and beyond, how diversity, equity, inclusion and justice is embraced within any school initiative will be a criterion in the judging of all categories. As a result, this year (the 2023 International School Awards) will be the final year when we include DEIJ as a stand-alone category.
Photo: British International School of Houston, USA
Here are the initiatives that have been shortlisted in this year’s DEIJ category:
A school’s mission for stakeholder representation
The British International School of Houston in the USA is shortlisted for its initiative which involves a school-wide auditing of curriculum offerings to ensure the representation of all stakeholders. The structural change initiative includes the implementation of an action research team who meet regularly to provide feedback on staff and student wellbeing. These meetings cover areas including topic choices, novel studies, historical perspectives, and the humanisation of the school community to validate the unique journeys of all stakeholders within the school.
The application shares evidence of how auditing the curriculum has positively impacted the whole school community. Students are empowered to communicate what types of books they want to read, resulting in the restocking of the school library. The library also showcases collaborative student artwork, demonstrating how students of different ages and backgrounds are working together. As part of the school’s action research effort, visitors and speakers are invited onto campus to educate and inspire the school community. Similarly, the school promotes significant cultural events with the staff, student, and parent community to help build cultural awareness and relationships, and offer enhanced learning opportunities. As part of this initiative parents have been offered the chance to share culturally significant stories and artifacts with the school community.
Photo: British International School of Houston, USA
Igniting conversation around DEIJ one session at a time
The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) has been shortlisted for its thought leadership initiative VOX ISKL, an online platform where external guest speakers share perspectives and ignite learning, reflection, and conversations around DEIJ. The online sessions are held quarterly and are attended by both internal and external stakeholders, with recordings accessible on the school’s YouTube and Spotify channels.
In the application, ISKL states that its stakeholders have committed to courageously challenge each other to take action against systemic racism, marginalisation, oppression, biases and stereotypes that are often harmful to marginalised entities within and outside its community. “Sometimes such conversations create discomfort, and we believe it’s in these brave spaces that we stretch thinking, learning, and create change,” says the application.
The power of books
Maple Bear West Coast Preschool in Singapore has also been shortlisted in this category for its initiative that incorporates diversity-related books into the school curriculum as a tool to help educate very young children. This emerged from their outlook that children, from a pre-school age, should be provided with a space to learn the importance of valuing, respecting, and celebrating differences, regardless of race and religion. With the goal of creating internationally minded children, the initiative has involved a partnership with the National Library Board to help them select books that explore racial and cultural biases.
While delivering the topic ‘Who We Are’, the school observed the open discussions of children talking about themselves and the people around them. The observations identified that the children were acquainted with the three main racial groups in Singapore, however they displayed signs of being uneducated around alternative ethnicities. Noticing that the children focused on the visible difference of others, the school decided to provoke their thoughts further through a book that illustrates various ethnicities and balances the polarity between physical appearance and the essential qualities of an individual. The application shares evidence of the conversations sparked, demonstrating how just one book helped the children to recognise that “people can come in different colours, shapes, and sizes, but at the end of the day, their hearts are all the same.”
Congratulations to all three international schools. A big thankyou goes to ClassLink for sponsoring this year’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice award.