The importance of international mindedness in education

In today’s fast changing, multi-cultural world where industry extends across borders and worldwide trends and policy impact upon us all, a global outlook is increasingly important. So what does an internationally minded school look like and why is this so key in to a modern education?

Here at Redmaids’ High School in Bristol, we are delighted that we have been recognised for our international outlook in the 2018 TES School Awards. Our shortlisting is the result of our awareness of the world our students face when they leave school, actively preparing them to think globally in readiness to excel in an international environment.

This ethos is central to our school. We help our students become agile thinkers, understanding diversity in the world around them. They set up and support charities both home and abroad; they can choose from six languages; they organise and take part in networking events and conferences with people locally and from across the world. A global view is woven into the day-to-day fabric of school life.

In our view, this mentality is the foundation of a quality education. Our pupils will be working in an increasingly interconnected world, forging careers in fields that we haven’t even heard of yet. They will be the generations that truly tackle global cross-border issues such as plastics in the ocean, epidemic outbreaks, food shortages and distribution, economic changes (who would have thought Bitcoin would take off when it first emerged?), and the ever changing nature of conflict.

These issues aren’t resolved alone as sovereign states or individual organisations but require worldwide responses, compromises and partnerships, dependent on the activity and initiative of socially conscious individuals. Giving pupils the sense that they are global citizens is important; they need to take responsibility for their local community, whilst looking across borders to take a wider interest in the world around us.

It can be hard to know what to do about big, often abstract ideas like these. As school leaders we need to show our students the way. At Redmaids’ High across the curriculum we use case studies, examples, literature and topics drawn from a variety of countries and communities. Different voices and perspectives are heard and evaluated.

Redmaids’ High was also the first school in Bristol to introduce the International Baccalaureate Diploma as an option for Sixth Form students ten years ago, which we run alongside a successful programme of A Levels. This adds another key strand to the academic education, shaping young minds to be critical of the knowledge they acquire, an essential skill for the future. The world and the workplace are undergoing a transformation unusual in scale, scope and complexity. Universities and businesses increasingly want their recruits to have more than just good grades: they need to be agile thinkers who are confident with in-depth independent assignments as well as collaborative, thought-provoking projects.

And we know our emphasis on the international is having an impact, as our alumnae are making a real difference. Former students have set up charitable organisations such as Linda Cruse’s Be the Change Foundation and the Moldova Project started by Lucy and Emma Watson. Others have worked for the European Parliament, Save the Children and even United World Schools (UWS) – who we partnered with over seven years ago. They are literally changing the world!

These alumnae in turn provide a resource for the school; students study a humanitarian course started by Linda Cruse and go on expeditions through her foundation to offer aid and support in countries like Nepal and Morocco. Sixth Formers fundraise for children living in poverty in Moldova through the Watson sisters’ charity. We’ve funded the building and maintenance of Jong school in Cambodia through UWS.

Getting these links with charities and other organisations right is essential. Rather than buying big expedition off-the-shelf trips, teaming up with NGOs allows us to embed global links across the school and offer bespoke and long-term links to communities and projects. Through UWS, for example, Redmaids’ High enjoys a depth and cohesiveness to our internationally minded strategy. As soon as students start here, they learn about the partnership and raise money and awareness in their local community. Students can gain UWS Global Citizenship Awards at four levels (bronze through to platinum).

Once a year, Sixth Form students visit the Jong school for three weeks. Leading up to the trip, students work collaboratively to raise funds. Then, when they are in the village, they teach students for six hours a day, plan lessons and learn about Cambodian culture and history. It is truly a two-way education where both groups of pupils learn there is a world beyond their own. They understand the value of each other’s knowledge. They share in a cultural exchange and are thrown into new challenges. It’s an invaluable experience that has helped increase international mindedness and enhance their academic studies too.

The quest to become internationally minded is never ending. Our curriculum is evolving to include more material that explicitly relates to this, drawing on cross-curricular work and allowing subjects to support and complement each other. A major aim of the school over the coming couple of years is to make steps forward in our green agenda which will involve policy decisions, pupil and teacher response, as well as joining up our response in relation to overall recycling decisions at school and catering choices we might be making, and how our community makes their way to school each morning.

Being a school with a global view is the primary means by which we will prepare our pupils to bridge divides, be that cultural, linguistic or otherwise. It will make sure they lead the decisions of the future and are ready to be the generation that will need new levels of intellectual engagement, flexibility and individual resourcefulness. It is a major task and responsibility but in this day and age, schools should be ensuing an international mindedness is at the core of their teaching and learning.

 

Jon Cooper, Assistant Head (International) and IB Co-ordinator for Redmaids’ High School, Bristol

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