What is really ‘Internationalism’ in Schools?

“Mom, why don’t you teach me the way you teach in your school?” my ten year old told me, while I was researching on a topic, to be taught in school the next day.

“Is that because you are in an international school and I am not? I wish you could send me too, to an international school”.

Ha! how I wish all schools could teach the ‘international’ way!

But what is really ‘internationalism’ in schools?

While I was with ‘The Hindu’ in their NIE department, I had the good fortune to visit and teach at number of educational institutions, many of which claimed to be ‘international’. Back then for me, ‘internationalism’ was a ‘cool’ term. It meant a HUGE campus with lush green landscape, a cafeteria serving global cuisine, ‘white’ kids and teachers, may be horse riding and golf as extra curricular activities. And then, I had the chance to visit a school which claimed to be international AND it broke all my preconceived notions. It wasn’t huge, no ‘foreign’ crowd, extracurricular was music and dance and to top it, they followed the state syllabus! Ok, so one myth busted!

So again, how is international, international?

I think, being international doesn’t come with the ‘name tag’ but it’s the approach and attitude of a school. It is on us as teachers and the school management, to see, howwell is it embedded in our curriculum. What is our goal? What do we want our kids to be?

Internationalism in schools should be ‘internationalional mindedness’ in ‘international education’ and when I mention‘international education’, it is

  • NOT studying the history and geography of other countries or
  • NOT having a strong foreign language department (though both might help)

International education should focus on global issues and not just of a particular country or culture. It should encourage students to understand that all cultures have equal validity and to practice tolerance and understanding, leading to a peaceful world.

Howard Gardner describes “declining ego-centrism” as the basis of human development. Therein perhaps lies the most helpful way of considering what international-mindedness might be: a journey from ‘self’ to ‘other’. If we can help our students to develop a strong sense not only of themselves and their own identity, which is crucial, but alongside that, a deep sense and awareness of other peoples, cultures, countries and customs, then we offer them a great chance to be truly 21st century global citizens. Living in such an interconnected world as we now do, and facing complex challenges –ranging from climate change, to terrorism, to poverty elimination – will require a generation of problem solvers and creative thinkers, who see problems not from one perspective but from many.

If we are an INTERNATIONAL school, we should strive to nurture our kids into Global Citizens. Someone, who is aware of the wider world and has a sense of their own role as a world citizen, takes responsibility of their actions, respects and values diversity, participates and contributes to the community from local to global level and is willing to act to make the world a more sustainable place!

– Shynara Reddy
Primary English Facilitator, International Centre for Excellence
References taken from:, Slide