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True and faux international schools

A notable development in private K-12 education countrywide is the mushroom growth of professedly international schools. According to publicly available information, currently there are 91 ‘international’ schools across the country, with nine having sprung up in Bangalore in the new millennium. 

With its large outward looking community of IT and ITES (information technology and IT-enabled services) professionals employed in companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Cap Gemini, among a host of others, Bangalore has a multi-cultural community of hi-tech professionals ready, willing and able to pay for globally benchmarked K-12 education. Hence, the explosive growth of international primary-secondary schools. But the rapid multiplication of high-end schools with the infix ‘international’ has created confusion in the minds of parents and students, about which among the rising number of claimants to this status, are truly international.

As an individual who has researched international schools around the world prior to transforming the Canadian International School, Bangalore into an institution which ticks all the boxes, I believe that a truly international school is one with a culturally diverse community — an institution that provides world-class, internationally acceptable education, develops life-long intellectual, social and emotional skills, and prepares students to succeed in an ever-changing global society. In short, genuinely international primary-secondary schools should pass the tests of global mindset, international governance and administrative practices, offer a mix of teachers and students of varied nationalities and prescribe globally accepted syllabuses/curriculums.

A top management which appreciates, celebrates and practices diversity is the first prerequisite of an international school. In this digital age of jet travel and Internet connectivity, we live in a global society and an international school must provide an environment which encourages and enables teachers and students to become sensitive to and respect diverse cultures and individuals. A global perspective enables students to look beyond themselves, overcome traditional prejudices, transcend national boundaries to develop an international outlook. 

Likewise, an administration that has adopted globally recognised administrative practices is also the touchstone of a true international school. Since management drives the school towards acquiring a worldview, an administrative team comprising members of differing communities and cultures, who have lived in and taught in schools abroad, infuses the benefit of international best practices into the school curriculum, and by default develops students’ global mindsets. 

But perhaps even more important than a culturally open-minded top management, is a well-trained faculty with transnational teaching experience especially in developed OECD countries where technology-enabled classrooms are normative. In my opinion, at least 40 percent of teachers in a bona fide international school, should have lived and worked outside the country. 

Yet, perhaps the defining litmus test of an international institution is that apart from an international administration and faculty, it must attract non-native students to offer visual proof of internationalism. Students from assorted nationalities, interacting and learning together and from each other, and establishing lifelong friendships which could transform into business and diplomatic networks, are the enriching benefits of an international school experience. Expatriates from developed countries are accustomed to their children receiving high quality professionally administered education. Therefore, schools with at least 25-30 percent of the student body drawn from foreign and expatriate households provides self-evident internationalism, a critically important parameter of education excellence.

Last but not least, a genuinely international school should offer one or more syllabuses/curriculums researched and designed by respectable and time-tested offshore examination boards such as IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation, Geneva/The Hague), CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) and Edexcel, UK, College Board, USA etc. These highly respected international examination boards affiliate schools after careful scrutiny and after assessing whether applicant institutions have sufficiently enlightened managements and faculty to transform their syllabuses into excellent curricula.

Although a large number of K-12 education institutions use the infix ‘international’ liberally, for serious minded and committed school managements, adoption of the word international into its title is tantamount to voluntary assumption of a heavy responsibility. The school has to live and breathe internationalism on a daily basis. If not, they are being untrue to themselves, their students and wider communities.

(Shweta Sastri is executive director of Canadian International School, Bangalore)

190 Views  | Posted on:13 Jun,2017 Add Comment  Show Comments (0)