07/06/2017 by Art Charles |

How to Make Your School More “International”

Globe against a dark background

In the year 2000, the number of “English-medium international” schools was roughly the same as the number of domestic NAIS-member schools. According to ISC Research, a firm that tracks the growth of international schools, by 2014 the number of international schools had more than tripled, to about 7,000. That computes to more than one new international school per day in 14 years. The number of NAIS-member schools, on the other hand, has remained rather static during that period.

More and more of our U.S. independent schools have mission statements that speak to “preparing responsible global citizens.”

For years, U.S. boarding schools have been accepting international students. There continues to be a huge demand from international students for places in boarding schools, both in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, because these students want to attend English-language universities. English is, and will remain, the language of commerce.

Most of our independent day schools are located in cosmopolitan centers, where the parents who pay the tuition fees are involved in international commerce and understand the importance of preparing students who understand the global village and have the skills to compete in the global marketplace. (In a recent search I did for a day school on the East Coast, half the members of the board of trustees had been born outside the United States.)

I would strongly argue that no school can afford not to be international in the 21st century. However, simply recruiting international students to a boarding school, having an annual “International Day,” adding a reference to “preparing global citizens” to a school’s mission statement, or adding global studies to the curriculum is not enough.

I would like to suggest that we can make our schools more global in their focus by adopting new approaches to teacher and administrator recruitment and professional development.

With regard to recruiting, why not look for more teachers and administrators who are currently working overseas? For example, the three-dozen international schools where CS&A has recently placed senior administrators employ 1,640 U.S. faculty who will be coming “home” at some point to care for aging parents or return to their roots. They are already the global citizens we want our students to be. They are also the risk-takers and multilingual professionals our students will enjoy learning from. Here are some good reasons for hiring these “global citizens:”

  • They will add diversity of experience to your teaching staff.
  • They can relate to international students.
  • They employ 21st-century teaching and learning skills in their classrooms.
  • They are risk-takers.
  • They understand and can explain the global village.

I would also add an important quality — they are generally unflappable. Many have lived through experiences that we in the U.S. worry about when we watch CNN — coups d’état, rioting, bombings, working in State Department “no travel” areas. Their current location should not be an impediment to recruiting them. They are used to interviewing via Skype and to traveling across oceans for interviews.

With regard to teacher professional development, I would suggest that you consider implementing a program I started at International College in Beirut. I stopped sending staff to conferences that were expensive and did not seem to benefit teaching and learning in the classroom. Instead, I started sending teachers to visit schools in other parts of the world that offered programs we wanted to learn more about. Rather than the more passive nature of conference attendance, this program required teachers to be risk-takers, to become actively engaged in learning. Indeed, one participating head of school labeled the program as “the best professional development program my colleagues have become involved with — both from the mentoring perspective and the teaching perspective.” It is more a shadowing program that leaves teachers free to see education in practice, to explore the cultures of another school and society, and to exchange ideas with new colleagues.

In terms of operation, the program is actually very simple. The sending school pays for airfare and visas for its teachers, and the host school houses, feeds, and provides an educational and social program for them. Our teachers returned from their visits excited about what they had observed and were ready to apply what they had learned in the classroom. The cost was usually less than half that of sending a teacher to a conference. We also discovered how much the teachers who remain at school benefit from an exchange of ideas and educational practices by spending time with visitors from other schools. All in all, this proved to be a win-win situation for our teachers and for the schools we networked with.

So let’s take our commitment to promoting global citizens one step further by expanding our own horizons as educators.

Art Charles is a search consultant for Carney Sandoe and Associates and the Managing Associate of the International Schools Practice. He has served as an administrator in U.S. independent schools and international schools in five different countries. Art can be reached at art.charles@carneysandoe.com.

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