Here at One World International School (OWIS), we believe that every child should be internationally minded. It's a big concept and one that prospective parents and teachers often ask us to define.
Carolyn Savage, an independent educational consultant in the UK, says, "Put simply, international mindedness means understanding, respecting and valuing different cultures, embracing diversity and knowing that different perspectives have a great deal to offer."
That's a good working definition.
For schools, international mindedness forms a values-based framework in which to teach concepts like collaboration, compassion and empathy. From a practical point of view, leading corporations are searching for prospective leaders with a keen sense of global awareness -- that have deep-and-broad perspective on economics, the environment, human rights and political structures. It is the internationally minded student of today who will lead the world of tomorrow.
For our students at OWIS, international mindedness means adopting a certain value system of kindness, tolerance and acceptance of multiple viewpoints. Since our school is home to learners of more than 70 nationalities, students have many chances to learn and grow. Our students have the opportunity to spend time with other children from around the world who have grown up immersed in a range of cultures, traditions and opinions. Being in a multicultural environment is not unusual for our students, and they quickly become empathetic to others views and opinions.
That's important because globally competent leaders in the 21st century possess a distinct array of values, attitudes, behaviours and concepts. They realise how their own culture shapes their understanding of others, for instance, and they can engage in constructive dialogue with people from a variety of perspectives. They learn to make adaptations to their thoughts where appropriate and are able to help support and understand their peers. Our students gain a deep sense of respect for each other and have a passion for learning about other people’s backgrounds.
Technology plays an important role in international mindedness, too. Consider that only 39% of the world uses a safe sanitation service, but more than 50% of the population is online. Plus, new fields like bioengineering are bringing culturally diverse thinkers together to solve global problems on a global scale. It may be the case that in the past, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work together, but with the technology that is available to us these days, the world can feel smaller. That's why today's students need to be more than digitally fluent; they also need to be technologically ethical and able to work collaboratively with colleagues from around the world. They need to learn to understand other peoples’ opinions and empathise with different points of view.
Further, an attitude of openness to new ways of thinking help students frame questions, analyse data and apply new understanding to complex puzzles. By valuing international mindedness, our teachers can equip students with multi-faceted skills for personal and professional success. They can facilitate opportunities for students to experience what life after school may look like while at the same time, providing support to their students. From the first day of education at OWIS, teachers will help to integrate their classes and teach their children that cultural differences should be celebrated.
Teachers face the same shrinking, flattening world that students do. As urbanisation, climate change and demographic restructuring present new challenges, teachers must expose their learners to a broader array of ideas. To do it, they need to devise innovative teaching strategies rooted in historic understandings of how children learn.
At OWIS, we provide students with direct classroom education in subjects like global perspectives. This course exposes our children to international topics and lets them collaborate, reflect and communicate to solve problems. We discuss current world news and how these stories may affect us. Students are able to discuss first-hand experiences and ask questions between themselves. They are able to gain a better understanding of the world around them from the perspectives of their peers who may have lived quite different lives to theirs.
We keep diversity in mind when teaching other subjects as well. We always assess how the topics within each subject could affect different student groups and make adaptations when needed. We ensure that students feel that the subjects that they are studying relate to the world that they live in today. Of course, not all learning happens in the classroom. Our students also enjoy celebrating major festivals and traditions from around the world. We encourage them to take ownership of these events and to teach others about their traditions.
Moreover, we make it a point to build a community of teachers with international exposure. Our teachers come from different parts of the globe, have worked in international schools in countries other than their own and have been exposed to several different cultures, languages and communities. The perspectives that they bring with them are not something that learners get at every institution.
International mindedness doesn't stop at the exit door of the school. Our OWIS parents commit to transmitting similar values at home. Some families take their children to multicultural events. Others cultivate international friendships. And still, others make movies, holidays and entertainment into opportunities to practice purposeful multiculturalism. This is important as it helps children to understand that multiculturalism is all around us. For some students spending time with family members and friends from around the world is the norm, but this is not the case for everyone. This is why we encourage parents to get involved with a range of multicultural opportunities with their children. Why not have a diverse group of friends over to celebrate the holidays with your family and enjoy an international potluck together?
However your family chooses to celebrate diversity, know that we at OWIS are with you in spirit, believing every child should be internationally minded and striving daily to inculcate this value into every aspect of our school.
Piyush G., parent of three primary students at OWIS, agrees, "Being in Singapore, which is so multi-racial and multi-cultural, we wanted our children to be exposed to an environment with racial diversity and an international outlook. OWIS has lived up to all our expectations!: