International schools will blow your mind
Shirley Davis, GUEST COLUMNIST
In international schools, the student body is typically composed of nearly 40 different nationalities. Sitting side by side, classmates bring real-life experiences to the curriculum discussion or simply to the lunch table, expanding the world vision from a young age right through high school. Add the nations' cultural events celebrated throughout the academic year, local and around the globe, it is clear that such exposure places meaning to the term 'global citizen'.
Here is a direct quote from an international student who will graduate in 2018:
"The international community readies students for university life and builds tolerance for all races, creeds and nationalities. My school also allows the exchange of culture, another important part of education."
In the student's words, you sense a personal aptitude of openness. In their lifetime, this person is equipped to value another person's intellectual capabilities and embrace their heritage. A global citizen looks for diversity and relishes the opportunity to be among peers who share viewpoints outside their way of thinking.
In international schools, students celebrate national and international holidays and events. Take, for instance, Heroes Day, wherein students and staff arrived in national colours. There were performances onstage and various displays of Jamaican national heroes. From dance, to poetry, to student displays, you could feel the patriotism being celebrated. Nearly 500 people of multiple nationalities left with an awareness and respect. When International Day, Thanksgiving, etc., come up on the school calendar, we are certain the gusto of celebration will be equal. As global citizens, we thrive on occurrences that bring variety and knowledge to our lives.
During my time in China, a catastrophic earthquake wiped out the lives of nearly 2,000 people. Eighty per cent of the dead were children who were sitting in classrooms ready to begin the day. The construction of the school buildings could not withstand the force, and multi-tiered buildings buried the young.
Two days later, my international school had an evening performance by students from around the globe. The proceeds from the audience of parents and school staff filled the Red Cross donation box. We readily donated for those children who would never sing or laugh again.
The next morning, 500 people strong, we circled the school flags. Bus drivers were hiding their eyes and crying. We, as the international community, embraced each other, China as our country of choice, and gave an earthquake survivor our little red box.
In October, 15 students in middle and high school left for Argentina to participate in the Global Issues Network (GIN). Upon arrival, the group will join 300 students from international schools around the world. GIN was founded in 2003 by the European Union and the headquarters are worldwide. The focus of environmentalism, humanism, and peace movements bring adolescents into one location to discuss global issues such as waste, recycling, solar power, alternative energy, destruction of the rain forests, holes in the ozone layer, etc. This generation has begun to solve problems and groupthink as global citizens.
The methodologies of inform, inspire and act poise the students to present their findings to others. Within cohorts and via technology because of multiple geographic locations, they are one intellectual mass stretching far beyond the teachings on any campus.
These students are united in their thinking, beliefs and know that it is their moral responsibility to devote themselves to real-world problems. To learn more, visit global-issues-network.org.
Having spent many years in the world of international education in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the discourse of beliefs and why others believe what they do makes for patient and concerned conversation. As an educationalist, seeking out ways to embed the same ethos and values into the classrooms, encouraging all learners to be internationally minded is always paramount in my mind. The curriculum itself contributes to increasing knowledge, consideration for multiple perspectives, yet there are many extracurricular ways of broadening the experiences.
Examples would be the students travelling to GIN, and, also community service such as weekly visits of our students to the Bustamante Hospital, the coastal beach clean-up, the work with Angels of Love, and so much more. That importance of developing internationally minded citizens in a national context means we seek out ways to give to others while opening students' eyes from elementary all the way through to the day of graduation.
As educators, we nurture respect and empathy as a component of international-mindedness and social responsibility. With children of all ages leading the way with clear values that promote global citizenship, the students are well prepared for full and purposeful lives.
Shirley Davis is head of school at the American International School of Kingston. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.