Many schools claim to provide an 'International Education'. Some even brand themselves as "International Schools". I gave pause to think about authentic international education tossing the coin for the cricket match between the Kormilda 1st XI versus the Nepal U/19 world cup touring team ...is this an example of authentic international education in action?
What constitutes authentic international education? More than a brand that sounds slick in today's socially-connected world, it is actually an extremely important mindset. Our students and children are growing up in a world that is networked like never before. The transient nature of employment prospects is not only prevalent within Australia, but between countries too as companies expand their offices to other nations; not to mention the desire of young people to travel and see the world.
International issues are a part of our everyday lives. To explain the plight of asylum seekers, for example, and the associated issues for us here in Australia we first must understand why some people need to seek asylum. Without understanding it is easy to fall into the trap of inward and xenophobic thinking – those who have lived abroad know what these issues look like to the world outside of Australia. Joe Hildebrand's recent series on ABC (Dumb, Drunk and Racist) is an alarming mirror held up before us all.
The understanding of cultures different from our own lies at the heart of what an international education should be about. Learning a different language is a window into a different culture. It is a popular view amongst Europeans that Germans do not have a sense of humour (and as I write this I am poking fun at my wife who is German). Those who have heard the German expression 'Ich verstehe nur Bahnhoff' can be left in no doubt that Germans do have a sense of humour – colloquially it means "clear as mud", its literal translation to English is "I only understand the train station". An appreciation of what it takes to learn and understand a different language helps us also understand our own culture – and hopefully allows us to adapt and grow as human beings.
A central tenet of the Kormilda Mission is to understand others. Cricket matches against Singapore and Nepal, ski trips to New Zealand, service trips to Cambodia Laos and Vietnam, reading world literature, hosting exchange students, sitting internationally standardised exams and being inspected by international bodies such as the IB and CIS are all important vehicles to motivate international mindedness. But learning a different language is critical to the process, and being challenged to be tolerant and understanding of cultures different from our own here at home and in school is vital.
Authentic International Education is more than a brand; it is nirvana