(Article written using excerpts taken from the ITEPS study day April 2017 presentation given by Corrina Gifford, Sue Beattie and Hanneke Blijham)
What is international-mindedness?
What does it take to be internationally minded? Do I have those characteristics?
These are the questions I asked myself whilst preparing my part of this presentation.
Growing up in an English village with a Dutch mother and an English father meant that I was certainly more internationally minded than my peers. We did things differently at home, we ate different food; apparently apple sauce is not classed as ‘vegetables’ in English cuisine……
There was also a Chinese family in the school and a family from Mauritius. Those children had a different physical appearance than the other, white, children but I don’t really remember them as anything other than classmates. Was this because they really did their best to fit in? Or was I just not that observant? Most likely, as with many young children, I did notice the differences, but they weren’t important to me. Gary Chang was good at maths and Fasil could run really fast, that’s all I remember about them.
My dad was a travel agent, so unlike many of my peers we went on holiday abroad. I played with local children (or children who were also on holiday), even though we didn’t speak the same language, we could always find a way to play together.
Does this background make me internationally minded?
Characteristics of an internationally minded person
I was once on a course for international mindedness. We were asked to think of a famous person who was internationally minded….
Think….think…..time pressure…..what is international mindedness????…….um…..someone who does something good for the world???…….think….think….UNICEF…..I can see her face, what’s her name???……
Then we had to get up and walk around and share our idea with another person. “Ban-qi Moon” said the person “Excuse me?” . “Ban-qi Moon” he repeated. “I’m sorry, I just speak English and Dutch” Current affairs were never my strong point….
I can speak more that one language (with varying degrees of success), I’ve travelled and visited places of cultural significance, worked for international companies and international schools and my favourite activity in school is where children bring in food from their home country for us to sample (I take home most of the left-overs).
Does working for an international school or company automatically make you internationally minded?
Not necessarily. You may need to have an understanding of the culture and customs of the country you are doing business with or not depending on your function. Quite often people only see their hotel room, the conference centre and the airport……
So what characteristics does an internationally minded person have? We use the International Primary Curriculum in school.
Which defines an internationally minded person as follows:
- has a good sense of identity
- open-minded and adaptable
- respectful of other cultures and beliefs
- aware of and celebrates similarities and diversity
- a good communicator
- has respect for the ideas and opinions of others
- takes an interest in global issues
Within IPC there are international learning goals which help to develop the international understanding of the students.
These learning goals focus on respect; respecting other cultures and other traditions, respecting similarities and diversity.
The children are also asked to consider the similarities and differences between their home country and the host country (in our case: The Netherlands).
The international learning goals are based on an understanding of the characteristics of an international curriculum.
This should enable children to adapt to other educations systems whilst developing both a national and international perspective.
As said earlier, the curriculum includes a degree of focus on the home country and on the host country, which allows the child to develop an understanding of the independence and interdependence of peoples, countries and cultures.
Implications for teaching
We have set topics, ‘units’, which a class will complete in a given school year. Sometimes a teacher will do the same units two years in a row They are never the same.
Every year there are different children in the class, with different backgrounds and different interests. The units are adapted to suit the class that is currently doing the unit.
For example, the unit ‘Significant people’, every country has their own ‘heroes’ and people who are historically important. Therefore the unit will cover important historical figures from world history but will also give children the opportunity to study and report to the rest of the class on important figures from their own country’s history. Giving the children in the class a global perspective that is relevant to them and their peers.
Developing international mindedness through foreign language learning
To be internationally minded a child needs to have a good sense of identity.
This is why it is important to celebrate a child’s own culture, customs, background and (mother tongue) language.
In the past bilingualism was seen as a hindrance to children’s learning, my mother was told to stop speaking Dutch with me as it would prevent me from learning English properly. At the time I experienced this as part of my identity being taken away from me.
We now know that multilingualism is an enrichment and will help in developing an international mindset.
Early exposure to a foreign language has shown to help in developing a flexible way of thinking. When learning a language it is also important to have an understanding of the culture of the country in which it is spoken in order to be able to have a full understanding of the linguistic nuances.
Rindeth Long’s TEDx talk highlights the importance of foreign language learning in developing international mindedness and can be found on YouTube.
So, in conclusion, I feel that I am reasonably internationally-minded (I just need to watch the news more often). But what about you? How internationally – minded are you?
Take the test!
A quiz to test your level of international mindedness can be found on: