How Diversity Leads to Better Learners and Future Leaders

Michelle Dickinson
Updated on
August 19, 2020

"Diversity in education" recognises and honours the unique backgrounds of every student, including race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality, and intentionally fosters a multicultural school environment built on respect. But why is diversity so important for our students? A school’s cultural climate directly impacts student success. Students benefit from interacting with a diverse peer group because they learn how to build relationships across backgrounds. They get to experience different traditions, mind-sets, languages and so much more.  They are stronger leaders, better global citizens, and more creative problem solvers. It gives them compassion and empathy when they experience those who come from different backgrounds and allows them to grow into kind and caring individuals. OWIS prides itself on creating an environment of inclusivity and diversity, both with its students and their teachers.

 

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Why Diversity Matters:

Research from the Teachers College at Columbia underscores the importance of diversity for developing improved cognitive skills, critical thinking and problem-solving. Research finds that all students – regardless of their backgrounds – benefit from a diverse classroom. “The benefits of school diversity run in all directions” the report concludes, stating, “the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings… makes us smarter.”

Attending a diverse school sets students up for long-term success. In today’s multicultural world, students must be prepared to interact with people from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Employers place great value on the ability to navigate a diverse society. Employees must be “comfortable working with colleagues, customers, and/or clients from diverse cultural backgrounds,” notes The Century Foundation.

All students begin school with a skills and information framework from their own culture. Students who attend a diverse school learn how to relate new information to their own cultural experiences. Rather than dismissing a new tradition as foreign, students with a diverse education have a framework for understanding and embracing cultural differences within the safety of the school environment. Habits, etiquette, and social expectations are thus not limited to what a student may learn at home but are open to broader cross-cultural experiences that can be explored and embraced.

One of the most important skills that children need to develop during their younger years is communication. It can often be the case that there are initial challenges when communicating with others from a different background, be it due to language differences, cultural differences or general confidence.  Being surrounded by other children from different backgrounds allows our students to build on their communication skills on a day-to-day basis so that these skills and the understanding of others become second nature.

Diverse classrooms also support our children in developing an open mind when it comes to others’ experiences. They are able to learn about their peer’s traditions and gain insights into what it is like to live in a different country, be part of a different religion or speak a different language. It opens up discussions and allows our students to be open-minded in all aspects of life. We are able to celebrate various food, cultural, dance or religious traditions as a community that furthers our children’s experiences in these areas. It aids in bringing all the cultures and backgrounds together in harmony.

Stereotyping is an unfortunate social issue, which is known to be a cause of unhealthy relationships with others. Being an international school we are in a fantastic position to prevent this, and our students are able to strengthen their relationships with peers, building trust, respect and empathy.

In having diverse classrooms, the goal is not for students to forget or abandon their own cultural roots, but to be open to understanding and respecting the traditions of others. This builds stronger leaders and responsible citizens. It allows our students’ world to open up even wider and explore the opportunities around them. It helps to guide them into adulthood where they may need to integrate into different cultures whether it is due to moving to a new country for work, having colleagues from different backgrounds or when travelling and experiencing the world.

To ensure diversity, OWIS has a 30 percent student nationality cap, which means no more than 30 percent of admitted students may come from a single nationality.  Students at our OWIS Nanyang campus represent more than 70 nationalities from around the world.  

The educators and staff at OWIS are equally diverse, representing a number of nationalities. These dedicated international educators come from Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, India, Philippines Malaysia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, USA, the UK and various other countries.

Many have travelled extensively and attended leading institutions around the world. Most importantly, these educators embrace the OWIS mission to provide students with a comprehensive perspective of the world. They recognise the importance of intentionally structuring lesson plans to celebrate diversity and honour student differences. By doing so, OWIS educators foster a strong sense of community between different heritages within our school culture, setting students up for long-term success.

To understand how OWIS respects and encourages diversity in our classrooms and school, contact us and find out all the details.

About Author

Michelle Dickinson

Head of School

Michelle has a BA (Hons) in History and South Asian Studies from North London University and PGCE from Middlesex University. She began teaching across all three primary key stages. Michelle began her school leadership career in 2002, when she became the Deputy Head Teacher of a large primary school in North London and spent four wonderful years there before relocating to India in 2005.

Her first international position was the Head of Primary of a local/international school in Bangalore in Southern India, where she introduced the Cambridge International Primary Programme and Checkpoint. Michelle then spent 6 years in China and 3 years in Ethiopia developing curriculum and assessment practices.

Michelle believes that children learn best when they are having fun and are engaged in practical, real life activities. While she recognises that outstanding academic achievement is the ultimate goal, she feels it is just as important to build self-esteem, instill character and encourage a global outlook in every child. Michelle believes that learning transcends the classroom environment and is passionate about educational visits and extra-curricular experiences.

Michelle is married with four children - Ana, Hindya, Bille and Markos. The Dickinson family have a sense of adventure and love of life. They particularly enjoy the outdoors, family holidays, making friends, good weather, camping and exploring and are delighted to be at OWIS.

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