International education has existed as a modern concept for over 100 years, and can perhaps be traced back even further. In the U.S., Boston Latin School holds the record for the oldest school with its inauguration dating back to 1635, and admittance was based on Latin, Greek, and arithmetic tests. St. Maur International School was opened in Yokohama, Japan in 1872, and has a long-standing relationship with its local community while catering to expatriates and their families. The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme based in Europe was formally instated in 1968, and was founded on educational techniques for peace, along with the idea of preparing globally mobile youth for university acceptance. These are just a few examples of the wealth of educational mind frames that still exist to this day. But even more important than their historical pedigree is their reasoning for incorporating multiple perspectives: a belief that bridging perspectives will foster a stronger, more well-rounded individual – one who is more capable of succeeding in the ever-evolving world.
With so much world history in multicultural and international education, it seems completely natural to me that instruction in any setting should incorporate diversity and multiple perspectives. And this perspective lines up with my own education as well: my story involves attending public, private, national and international schools in 4 different countries. After experiencing such a vast array of educational perspectives and practices, I can openly say that it was my years at my international schools that molded me into the individual I am today. Comparatively, and perhaps in a general sense, I feel that international schools are inherently more apt to weave cooperation, collaboration, patience, understanding and communication into their lessons, as opposed to public schools.
In international schools, most textbooks are already edited to include multiple cultures and perspectives in the readings, and I estimate that children grow up thinking it normal to personalize a story that is not from their culture. I compare this to my time spent attending public schools in the U.S. in the late 1990’s, where everything was U.S. centered, and very little time or attention was given to outside perspectives. I remember that even at that age I was able to identify a heavily biased text in history class, and wondering why the opposing perspective had been omitted. I honestly think that this kind of narrow-minded practice is damaging to a child’s and a country’s development. For this reason, I advocate exposing children to as many perspectives as possible: to show them that not everyone thinks alike, but can work together to solve common tasks; that there exists more than one viewpoint to an issue, and perhaps there isn’t an easy solution to any problem; to diversify their minds in such ways that they become critical thinkers and able to tackle any challenge set before them.
As an EAL teacher, I find it quite easy to incorporate multiple cultures into any class. Students are already full of cultural stories told to them by their elders, and more often than not they are quite ready to share those with others. They can be asked to bring in short stories, parables, fables, fairy tales, legends, etc., and activities ranging from presentations to story boards to short plays can be assigned. In this way, every year can be a cornucopia of learning for both the students and the teacher.
Naturally, any exchange of information should be followed by an activity, be it comprehension, synthesizing, et al. If students are able to process and internalize information based on a culture different than their own, then the first step in developing cultural competence is achieved. In my opinion, the second step will depend on the support the teachers and the school give, which should be in line with the philosophy the school has in place. In essence, cultural competency is not only about reading another culture’s story – it is understanding it, celebrating it, and respecting it enough to give it a place to grow.
About the IB. (2017). International Baccalaureate®. Retrieved from http://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/
Fudin, S. (2017). The Oldest Schools in America – Blog | USC Rossier Online. Rossieronline.usc.edu. Retrieved from https://rossieronline.usc.edu/the-oldest-schools-in-america/
Saint Maur International School: 140 Years Young!. (2017). Stmaur.ac.jp. Retrieved from http://www.stmaur.ac.jp/news/item/index.aspx?linkid=1&moduleid=33