Thursday, 19 September 2013

What does it mean to be internationally minded?

The concept of 'international mindedness' is a relatively new one in education. It has increased in importance as our world has become smaller, travel more accessible and world wide events having an impact on our daily lives.

In a place such as Hong Kong, a place that we think of as cosmopolitan, with a very wide range of ethnic groups- we have over 50 nationalities in our school, we have the perfect opportunity to explore the concept of being internationally minded and right from Year 1, give our students the chance to see and appreciate a wider world than just their own.

We have had lots of discussion what this means and around how we define this concept. Ultimately, we have adopted the IB's definition, which seeks to promote "intercultural understanding and respect, not as an alternative to a sense of cultural and national identity, but as an essential part of life in the 21st century". The first sentence of the IB's mission statement therefore reads:

"The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

The aim of the PYP is for our students become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

Being internationally minded is not something you can teach in a lesson, it is an attitude, a way of thinking and being, of accepting other ways of thinking and doing are equally as valid as our own.
At Bradbury, we teach international mindedness as a concept, it permeates much of what we do as a way of being and thinking. It is my hope that while our students can appreciate cultural differences, they do not use them to make judgements or to perpetuate stereotypes, that they see their fellow students simply as peers and friends.

Last week, our Year 6 students, as part of their Unit of Inquiry, in which the central idea was
'International mindedness can provide an insight into the beliefs and values of others', held an international day, where students wore their national costumes and brought along food from their culture. It made for really fascinating conversation about where food was from (did the pavlova originate in NZ or Australia?), how it was made, and about names of food, for example I learned that round sweets in India are called 'ladoo' because of their shape. The students were asked to reflect on what they had noted about the food- similarities and differences. It was very interesting to see what they said, some of their reflections were quite sophisticated!

Of course, food and costumes are quite a shallow look at cultural differences, the concept is much deeper and richer than that. It includes things such as personal space, the concept of 'self', non verbal communication eg body language, attitude towards elders, ideas around adolescence, the list goes on!

Living as we do in an interconnected world, where global issues affect us all, we need our students to be creative, to be able to see and solve problems from multiple perspectives. As it is our current students who will have to face and solve these problems in the future, we need them to be able to move away from the idea of 'self' to that of 'other'.