Global citizenship, like international education, is a popular idea in education (Sutherland, Price, & Harris, 2014, p. 35). As schools try to address the desires of various stakeholders, including business, governments, and NGOs for global citizenship and international education, questions arise as to how best to approach it (Marshall, 2011, pg. 2). Given the different agendas of the actors crying out for global education, from pragmatic and economic concerns to idealist desires for international understanding, it is not an easy question to answer.
To further complicate matters, Cambridge (2014) makes the important observation that whether or not a school provides a truly international education is not solely determined by its status as an international or non-international school (pg. 17). Both accredited international schools and schools teaching national curricula may or may not provide international educations to equal degrees. In fact, even in schools with visions stating a dedication to global citizenship education, it is rarely addressed in the curriculum as written (Sutherland, Price, & Harris, 2014, p. 42).
Berenstein, as cited by Cambridge (2014) outlines how a curriculum might be strongly or weakly framed and classified. A strongly classified curriculum is likely presented as a discrete subject. This approach allows for more teacher autonomy with regards to instruction and assessment (pg. 21). While this offers the potential for individual teachers with a strong global mindset to produce great results in their classroom, conversely, less motivated individuals would have difficulty meeting the goals of the curriculum (Sutherland, Price, & Harris, 2014, pg. 37, 42). This type of learning can be described as 'education about global citizenship' (Cambridge, 2014, pg. 27).
A more integrated approach to global citizenship in which learning crosses subject boundaries and saturates the culture of the school seems to be a more common approach (Sutherland, Price, & Harris, 2014, pg. 43). Many schools, despite working towards visions that support global citizenship, don't mention it in their 'curriculum as written' (pg. 42). Rather, global citizenship education takes place more as 'interstitial learning' present in the school's 'hidden curriculum', the attitudes and disciplines that it supports (Cambridge, 2014, pg. 27). Cocurricular activities that allow students to seek out others experiences and experience global concerns are one approach to providing this (Sutherland, Price, & Harris, 2014, pg. 48) A challenge of this approach is that teachers in such a school must share a similar vision of global citizenship education and approach pedagogy and evaluation in the same way (Cambridge, 2014, pg. 22, 27). This approach can be thought of as 'education for global citizenship', in which students develop values and competencies that support acting as global citizens (pg. 27).
The content of global citizenship education is up for debate as well. Cambridge (2014) outlines two broad categories of values that global citizenship education might support: expressive values and instrumental values. The former include modes of conduct, character traits, and manners that we share when we interact as global citizens. The latter includes skills and knowledge that we can use when interacting (p. 17). Marshall (2011) outlines a number of different agendas that global citizenship education might support, which would likely affect the expressive and instrumental values given priority in different circumstances: capitalists, reformers, environmentalists, networkers, and cosmopolitans (pg. 3).
In my view, one of the most promising approaches to global citizenship programming lies in supporting the development of cosmopolitan citizenship. Generally, it presumes that a connected world community will produce multiple identities in individuals, and takes certain universal human rights to be shared values among all people (Cambridge, 2014, pg. 18). Marshall (2011) provides a list of cosmopolitan capitals that such an approach might support the development of, such as global knowledge of current conditions and issues, different social or economic orientations to global engagement, and global competencies required to interact with the world (pp. 6-7). He cites Andreotti's four types of 'post-colonial' learning for global citizenship (learning to unlearn, listen, learn, and reach out) as competencies that global citizenship education might develop, as well as Rizvi's epistemic virtues of historicity, criticality, reflexivity, and relationality (p. 13).
There is a danger of western bias in creating global citizenship curricula that often locates itself in discourses of modernity and progress (Cambridge, 2014, pg. 20). Eurocentric views of international education often assume that the west is at the center and in possession of Universal knowledge, while other knowleges are 'traditional' (Marshall, 2011, pg. 11). Perhaps approaching global citizenship education as a set of competencies like the ones outlined by Andreotti and Rizvi can help to mitigate this. As Marshall states, the "imagined global futures of adults might not necessarily be appropriate for the next generation" (p. 4). Focusing on metacognitive and inter/intrapersonal skills that allow students to be adaptable learners might be the best global citizenship education, or education in general, that we can hope to provide. Tomorrow's global citizens should be prepared to engage in their own debates about what matters in the world while being fully and critically aware of all of the actors and agendas at work.
Cambridge, J. (2014). Global citizenship education as pedagogic discourse. In Dobson, D. P., & Silova, I. (eds.) Globalizing minds: Rhetoric and realities in international schools. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc. 15-34.
Marshall, H. (2011). Instrumentalism, ideals and imaginaries: Theorising the contested space of global citizenship education in schools. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9 (3-4), 411- 426. Retrieved from http://opus.bath.ac.uk/27859/1/Marshall_Globalisation_Societies_Education_2011_9_3_4_411.pdf
Sutherland, I. E., Price, D., and Harris, D. (2014). Where is global citizenship? How international schools are fulfilling their mission. In Dobson, D. P., & Silova, I. (eds.) Globalizing minds: Rhetoric and realities in international schools. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing Inc. 35-50.
Pearce (2013) argues that the defining characteristic of international schools is their diverse student body (p. 61), highlighting how difficult it is to create a unified 'profile' to describe 'who' the typical international school student is. Hayden (2012) outlines some of the different types of students and schools that can be classified as 'international'; such as national schools with multicultural student bodies resulting from mobility and permanent immigration, temporary immigrants engaged in international tertiary studies, locals studying in international satellite campuses and offshore schools, and children of internationally mobile parents (pg. 59-60). One of the challenges that emerges is the difficulty that international school students have in forming identity in situations where the child and environment are of different cultures (Pearce, 2013, pg. 62). In addition, students of mobile parents may face language acquisition issues depending on the instruction of the schools they attend and their unique language needs (Pearce, 2016, pg. 185).
International school students face challenges forming identity while dealing with cultural dissonance they experience in their studies due to potentially different conventions regarding roles and communication (Pearce, 2013, pg. 62). Most teachers at international schools are nationally educated, often in the United States or the United Kingdom, cultures that may not easily view other cultures as equals (pg. 64-66). In addition, the multicultural upbringing of some international school students can result in the development of normative objectivity (pg. 74), which may result in conflict developing in the classroom due to different value placed on adherence to rules and norms. International teachers as a group tend to be risk takers or committed to internationalism as a group (pg. 63), and this self-selected approach might also lead to conflict with students from cultures that prize other values.
Other challenges can result specifically for Third Culture Kids (TCK), the transient children of internationally mobile parents, who report little connection to any home culture due to frequent migration to new countries and schools (Hayden, 2012, pg. 65). Though these students often move on to tertiary education and ultimately benefit from the language and cultural skills they gain in their migrations, these cross-cultural skills are often learned in response to suffering 'cross-cultural shocks' in youth (pg. 69). Their transiency results in many reporting their concept of 'home' as being bound less to place and more to relationships with loved ones (pg. 68). That said, their ability to form close bonds and relationships may be hampered by unresolved grief due to breaking of relationships due to their mobile existence (pg. 69). Hayden (2012) quotes McKillop Ostrom as stating:
"They tend to mesh and mimic, which cuts down the need to gain acceptance. They travel lightly, entering relationships that are typically short-term and intense, and they develop ease in saying goodbye, leaving very from people from whom they cannot walk away."
Another group of students encountered more and more in international education contexts are host country nationals who have chosen to study in international schools rather than the national educational system. While these students are frequently privileged or children of local elites, this may not always be the case (Hayden, 2012, pg. 65-66). Depending on their socio-economic reality, they may feel privileged among their peers in international schools or out of place due to their local culture and upbringing (pg. 66). Nationals studying in schools with curricula based upon foreign national systems and serving mostly expat student bodies run the risk of rejecting their local traditions and trying to take on the affectations and beliefs of their British or North American schoolmates (pg. 71).
Language issues may arise for both transient TCKs and nationals depending upon the language of instruction of the institutions in which they find themselves studying. The required multiple years of study, up to 7 years, to learn a new academic language, is made difficult to achieve by the frequency with which many international school students move (Pearce, 2016, pg. 185). This can limit their ability to benefit from their studies in general and may hinder their cognition in general (p. 185).
The diversity of student experiences in international schools requires a differentiated approach to meeting student needs that sets aside traditional reliance on cultural typology and approaches student need on a case-by-case basis (Pearce, 2016, pg. 188). Different groups of students will have different needs and experience different dissonances based on their unique situations: The child of two British parents studying in a British international school in their second year abroad will have different needs and experiences than the child of a Chinese father and Dutch mother who is in their final year of secondary studies after a transient life spent abroad who studies at the same insitution (Hayden, 2012, pg. 68). As such, the concept of differentiation is of great value to meeting student needs in international schools and international education contexts in order to minimize the cultural dissonance they face, especially with regard to values education (Pearce, 2013, pg. 65). Individual student observations can help to discover which students have come from groups that are 'good movers' and tolerate change reasonably well (pg. 188), and which students need specific support emotionally or through mother tongue programs to meet language needs (Pearce, 2013, pg. 74).
The stereotype of the wealthy, privileged international school student is one that is perpetuated by the globalist drivers of the expansion of international education and schools worldwide. However, in addition to the fact that the economic spectrum of students enrolled in such institutions is expanding to include and increasingly mobile middle class and local 'aspiring indigenous' learners (Hayden, 2012, pg. 63-64), it is also important to note that despite the economic advantages that many international students enjoy, they also face unique challenges. There may be a tendency to minimize these challenges and the negative effects that international students might suffer due to their privilege. To do so is unfair. Much as the child born into poverty has not had control over their starting conditions in life and shouldn't be judged for having been born poor, so too is the child born wealthy blameless in their privilege. As children of the world and students in our classrooms, they deserve to be cared for and treated as unique and valuable individuals deserving of care and understanding from the teachers and administratiors who serve them.
Hayden, M. (2012). Third culture kids: The global nomads of transnational spaces of learning. In Bunnell, T., Hayden, M., & Thompson, J. (eds.), SAGE Library of Educational Thought and Practice - International Education, Vol. 3. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd.
Pearce, R. (ed.) (2013). Student diversity: The core challenge of international schools. International education and schools: Moving beyond the first 40 years. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. 61-84.
Pearce, R. (2016). Culture and identity: A method for exploring individuals within groups. In Hayden, M., Levy, J., & Thompson, J. J. (eds.), The Sage handbook of research in international education. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd. 185-199.
Fisher (2016), synthesizing the ideas of Cheng, Schein, and Dumetz, defines school organizational culture as "the way people in school behave and act, what is considered important and valued, and what beliefs there are about learning" and goes on to put forward that schools with a healthy culture are effective at supporting learning in students (p. 419). Various accrediting bodies lend their 'kitemark' to schools that they deem, at least in part, to support cultures of improvement and that encourage organizational internal dialogue and reflexivity (Fertig, 2016, p. 450). Accrediting bodies and the accreditation process require schools to ask and reflect upon the questions: Where are we know, where are we going, how will we get there, and how will we know we are getting there? (pp. 452-453). The ulitmate goal is to promote continous improvement towards the stated goals and values of the accrediting institution in question (p. 456).
Given the diversity of international schools seeking accreditation world-wide, and the variety of local contexts they operate within and the variety of student demographics they serve, coming up with a single 'leadership profile' to describe the qualities school leaders should possess to best meet the needs of the schools they head is not an easy task. The traits of effective leaders put forward by Fisher (2016), citing MacNeil, of being "charismatic", "team-oriented", "participative", and "humane-oriented" (p. 425) serve well to support adaptable growth in their organizations and meet the requirements of accrediting bodies in certifying the quality of their schools.
The traits mentioned in the preceding paragraph support what Fisher (2016), citing Leitwood et al. and Day et al., asserts as being the activities that effective international school leaders take part in. Fisher says that effective school leaders define and communicate school vision, change teaching and learning conditions, redesign leadership, enrich the curriculum, and build internal collaboration (pp. 420-421). As accrediting bodies focus on finding tangible, objective evidence that the school's culture and processes ensure a certain level of learning and improvement though observations, reading documents, and interviewing teachers (Fertig, 2016, p. 450), it is important that leaders are able to make tangible through artifacts, events, and discourses the intangible elements of their organizations culture like values, norms, and convictions (Fisher, 2016, p. 419).
To make sure that intangible school visions are operationalized in practice it is important that teachers have a stake in putting them into practice in their work. Redefining leadership to promote collaboration and embrace change in pedagogy and organizational systems infrastructure based on the feedback and needs of students, teachers, and other stakeholders in the organization can help support the flexibility of approach required to integrate pedagogical shifts required to meet the criteria for accreditation into existing teacher skill sets and expectations (Fisher, 2016, p. 428). Offering options to teachers to meet multiple cultural (both national and organizational) expectations with regard to self-study approaches can help to integrate a culture of "teacher as researcher" into the school culture for the broadest spectrum of teaching professionals (Fisher, 2016, p.429).
Accreditiation processes and good leadership practices exist in a symbiotic relationship in which accreditation criteria promote positive leadership practices and the practices meet the goals of accreditation. Both Fisher (2016) and Fertig (2016) seem to agree that school leaders and accrediting bodies should seek to promote school cultures in which improvment and positive growth is embedded into the fabric of the school, from the school vision, through the practices, symbols, and rituals, to the instruction and ultimately the students themselves. An awareness of the practices and approaches that support this can lead to more effective leadership in international schools and better outcomes for their students.
Fertig, M. (2016). Quality assurance in national and international schools: Accreditation, authorization and inspection. In M. Hayden, J. Levy & J. J. Thompson (eds.), The Sage handbook of research in international education. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd. 447-463.
Fisher, D. (2016). Organizational culture and school leadership. In M. Hayden, J. Levy & J. J. Thompson (eds.), The Sage handbook of research in international education. London, UK: Sage Publications Ltd. 417-432.
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 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.