One of the ideas that keeps presenting itself to me is the need for a greater intranational intercultural approach to international education, especially with respect to including local indigenous learning in curricula. Prior to beginning my doctoral studies, my idea of international education was very limited to global citizenship and the creation of shared values within a global community. Thinking about how to include non-Western ideas into international education has helped me to view the issues through the lens of the tension between the nation state and international concerns in international education.
Though international education has historically been a more euro-centric construct, the massive growth of international education in Asia (Bunnel, 2008, p. 13) and the student body demographic shift from expatriate to local majority enrollment in international schools might necessitate altering the definition of international education to meet the needs of their students’ national interests and identities. This balance between the needs of the nation and the need to create global citizenship and understanding has been a challenge within international education almost from the start, and one that I don't think will be solved any time soon. I’ve been trying to re-examine my schema from the perspective of the nation-state in international education, as opposed to a more global perspective, and to re-examine for myself the value of supporting national identity as a challenge within the international education movement.
As far back as the 1950’s the tension between the two competing approaches, the national versus the international has been affecting policy and how the term is defined (Sylvester, 2005, p. 132). The importance of the nation within of international education was quite pronounced early on, as one of its defining concerns was cooperation between nations for development (Sylvester, 2005, p. 129). Moving forward through time, UNESCO, in its work, continued to take care to take care to reinforce that the ultimate responsibility for the education of citizens lies within the structures of the nation state (Sylvester, 2005, p. 134). According to Sylvester (2005, p. 139), a big shift towards more of a focus on global interdependence occurred in the 1990s.
Tate (2012, p. 206) highlights the inadequacy of viewing international education as involving only the interaction between nation states when dealing with the needs of today’s students. One concern he has is that the name ‘international education’ might be leading to ideological inertia and resulting intercultural and intranational issues being overlooked in favor of issue affecting interactions between nations, but that the inclusion of ‘intercultural’ in the IB mission statement shows that steps are being taken in the right direction. (Tate, 2012, pp. 206, 207).
Supporting the value of a focus on the place of the nation within international education, Sylvester comments that international education runs the risk of eroding the myth of the self-sufficient nation and results in conservative movements to return to that place (Sylvester, 2005, p. 127). Recent headlines about political issues facing Canada’s southern neighbor might be indicative of such a movement occurring. On a recent episode of The Agenda with Steve Paikin about the allure of hate groups, radical religious movements, and white nationalist groups, experts, ex-skinheads, and embedded CSIS operatives all seemed to agree that such movements took advantage of citizens lacking in a positive sense of pride and identity (Bombicino, 2017). The nation state can provide its citizens with a sense of belonging, identity, and purpose that might help to transcend the sense of “insignificance and transience” that could lead to the proliferation of such groups (Tate, 2012, p. 207).
In addition to preventing negative and bigoted backlash resulting from a hazy sense of identity, national citizenship education provides students with the knowledge they will need to participate as citizens of their nation on the international stage. This begins with having the chance to gain authentic experience engaging with the plural cultures of their state (Tate, 2012, p. 207). Policies that ultimately prevent social justice issues will likely be national ones, so the role of the nation needs to be considered. Another positive to the inclusion of strong national citizenship in international education is provided by Tate (2012, p. 208) discussing Appiah’s approach to global citizenship that begins with the local, then moves outwards to embrace the national and global in turn. Tate (2012, p. 209) also cites Maalouf’s writing on the individual’s “ethical homeland” that includes national, cultural, and ethnic identities and how global citizenship might involve a universal understanding of human values overlaid on top of such a construct.
All of these ideas have highlighted for me the importance of striking a balance between global and national citizenship in international education. Before my current studies, I leaned more heavily towards a ‘one world, one love’ idealistic approach that didn’t see enough value in the national. Revisiting the importance of the nation state has helped me to better integrate into my personal framework intranational social justice concerns and the inclusion of local indigenous practices and knowledge in international education and has reaffirmed for me the value of supporting national identity and citizenship studies.
Appiah, K.A. (2006). Cosmopolitanism. New York: W.W. Norton.
Sylvester, R. (2005). Framing the map of international education (1969–1998). Journal of Research in International Education, 4, 123–151.
Bombicino, E. (Producer). (2017, Sep 11). The Agenda with Steve Paikin [Web Broadcast]. Toronto, ON: TVO. Retrieved from: http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/the-appeal-of-hate
Bunnell, T. (2014). An overview of the current situation. The changing landscape of international schooling: Implications for theory and practice. New York, NY: Routledge. 1-17.
Bunnell, T. (2014). The previous landscape as revealed by the literature. The changing landscape of international schooling: Implications for theory and practice. New Yok, NY: Routledge. 18-33.
Maalouf, A. (1998) Les Identities Meurtieres. Trans. Barbara Bray as In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. New York: Arcade.
Tate, N. (2012). Challenges and pitfalls facing international education in a post-international world. Journal of Research in International Education, 11, 205-217.
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 18 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.