It is a logical conclusion for many, that international mindedness is a natural by-product of good international education. However, when researching international mindedness within international schools for our recent report, the evidence suggested something else.
ISC Research hosted an online panel discussion addressing international mindedness within an international school setting. Our panel, which included international school educators and alumni, responded to results from the report and discussed how the evolution of international schools has impacted students and their expectations of learning about international mindedness.
You can listen to a recording of this talk on our podcast here.
The term ‘international mindedness’ is often used throughout the global international schools community but it is so loosely defined that it can be hard for students and educators alike to understand its meaning. For some, there is a concern that international mindedness has been reduced to a trendy ‘buzzword’ that some schools use to do little more than entice parents to enrol their children.
What is international mindedness?
When asked how to define international mindedness, no two panellists had the exact same answer, although there were similar themes.
International school alumna, Anson Wong, defined it as “an attitude towards understanding the interconnectedness between individuals and groups around the world, it is also the acknowledgement that we are not the same and that we may or may not have differences but, despite all that, we respect each other’s position and are willing to work towards maintaining peace and minimizing conflict.”
Hannah Senel-Walp, Head of Strategy and Operations at Elite IB Education said that it is “an open-minded awareness that the world is much larger than oneself and the community in which you live. It’s about respect for the perspectives and history of other cultures and languages. And I think we can embody it through being a very active participant.”
Christopher Allen, Director of Learning & Technology at Al Sahwa, IB School in Muscat, Oman, gave the short answer: “Learning to be a neighbour, and neighbours that stand in the face of global challenges.”
Maria Krasinski, News Decoder’s Managing Director, said that it is “really is about the awareness, the understanding of the world, beyond our immediate surroundings, but really getting up the ability to question one’s own perspective in the world and our roles into it.”
How to develop international mindedness in schools?
Anson Wong provided important context to address this question, drawing upon her own experiences at four different international schools. She suggested that there’s an assumption by many people including parents, students and some educators, that by simply attending an international school, students will naturally develop international mindedness. “There was a lack of acknowledgement and discussion about culture and diversity in my international schools and this is the opposite, really, of embodying international mindedness,” she said, “I think there needs to be more active discussions in the classroom about things like racism, climate change, poverty, with the intent of broadening students’ knowledge of the world and developing their skills to tackle the problems.”
Chris believes that context helps a school community to view international mindedness through a lens that people recognise: “The contextualisation as a school is a really important way of bringing international mindedness to the forefront and having a school-wide definition for what it means,” he said. “I think the key thing is, first of all, for schools to actually define, as a school community, what is international mindedness.”
Maria believes that developing international mindedness comes from “actually [doing] this in practice, not just talking about it abstractly in the classroom.” From the News Decoder perspective, she said that they “really encourage students to interact with local communities through researching through reporting, exploring a topic or an issue from that local perspective. And that kind of activity often extends beyond their school day.”
According to findings from the recent ISC Research Student Profile report, there is no method that is currently implemented for effectively measuring and tracking the development of international mindedness in children. The report includes the results of research conducted with international school students, teachers and alumni in which 100% of respondents said that international mindedness had not knowingly been measured in their classrooms.
The International School Student Profile report is free and can be downloaded here.