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An Introduction to International Mindedness

Here we explore International Mindedness and how this increasingly important topic of conversation is being threaded into education content.

The teaching and learning content of many international schools has a distinctly international thread which positions international schools as influential educators of global mindedness and cultural understanding.

ISC Research, Teaching and Learning in International Schools Report, 2021

What is It?  

Education expert Carolyn Savage wrote for the Huffington Post: “Put simply, international mindedness means understanding, respecting and valuing different cultures, embracing diversity and knowing that different perspectives have a great deal to offer.

This enables us to work in harmony with colleagues from around the world and to benefit from a wide range of knowledge and experience. It promotes respect, encourages collaboration and sees students develop high levels of empathy and compassion.”

Carolyn Savage suggests that there are seven key elements to an internationally minded individual:

  • Knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of different cultures
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Increased empathy
  • Ability to collaborate with peers from different backgrounds
  • Deepening knowledge and understanding of global issues
  • Ability to see themselves as responsible, global citizens
  • Language skills

Closely relating to this is the term global mindedness, meaning the ability of individuals to understand the world in which they live and how they fit into that world, as well as their willingness to take action on global issues. This term often relates to being a global citizen, which as we can see above, closely aligns to international mindedness.

What does international mindedness mean in relation to education?

When to referring to international mindedness within education, schools and educators take what it means to be internationally minded and infuse this into their overarching school strategy and day-to-day teaching. This is of course particularly prevalent in international schools, where so many of the elements of being internationally minded are already set in place – for instance, many global students and educators are from different backgrounds already and will be more exposed to different cultures as a result of this. Naturally, this enables international students to see the world from different perspectives.

How will international teaching and learning content develop this?

According to the ISC research, teaching and learning content is increasingly incorporating additional collateral to help students develop what international schools consider essential knowledge and skills. These content themes vary, but the research identified common areas of focus that are particularly aligned to the international school market. A huge 89% of respondents stated that global context is incorporated into their school’s teaching and learning. 82% said that their teaching and learning includes a focus on host country culture, with 58% stating they incorporate mother-tongue learning support, and 41% integrating bilingual provision. 

Most international schools also value and encourage the development of life skills. 81% of all respondents stated that their teaching and learning include the development of ethical values. All of this indicates that international mindedness is not only already in sharp focus but will continue to grow and be an established part of global classrooms. 

International mindedness and the whole learner

Many of the international-mindedness principles correlate to the same principles as the whole learner model. The concept of the whole learner is grounded in the science of brain development and learning, which tells us that learning occurs in an integrated way at every stage of development. Cognitive, social, emotional, creative, and physical skills are strongly integral. Students learn and thrive when they develop skills in all these areas. Whole learner approaches to education embrace a diversity of learning experiences and pedagogical techniques that reflect the interconnected way young people learn, develop skills, and interact with the world, much like international mindedness. Educators can help to establish caring and supportive learning environments using practices that actively involve all students in their social-emotional and academic growth through these principles. You can meet the needs of your learners and create a school culture that understands how each student has different needs, what those individual needs are, and how to address them to ensure academic success. This directly links to how you can create a global citizen-aligned environment for your students to thrive.

The importance of language 

One key thing we think about relating to internationally minded individuals is the significance of language. This doesn’t just mean simply learning another language, but what another language can add to an individual’s life experience. Language can help students look at things from a different perspective and even alter how they would look at solving a problem. 

We explore some thought-provoking TED Talks for educators interested in all things relating to language. In one of the TED talks we featured, linguist and Columbia professor John McWhorter shares four reasons people should learn a language. One of the benefits he discusses is the chance it gives individuals to immerse themselves in a completely new culture. Professor John McWhorter notes:

And so to the extent that hundreds of languages will be left, one reason to learn them is because they are tickets to being able to participate in the culture of the people who speak them, just by virtue of the fact that it is their code.

Another key link between international-minded and language is the importance of the mother tongue and, therefore, celebrating one’s own culture. In another one of our featured TED Talks, Suzanne Talhouk highlights the importance of celebrating one’s mother tongue. “Research says that mastery of other languages demands mastery of the mother tongue. Mastery of the mother tongue is a prerequisite for creative expression in other languages.”

From the ISC Research report mentioned previously, when asked about the future of teaching content, 58% of respondents said it incorporates mother-tongue learning support, and 41% said it integrates bilingual provision.

Within the report, one international school said: “We are currently reviewing the high school pathways to introduce career pathways and to collaborate more intentionally with industry to give our students other options. We have had several discussions about introducing a bilingual education as the market is changing. Mother Tongue is another area we want to make changes…I think schools are all into introducing innovation regularly it is part of the fabric of international schools. We do not stay still!”

Questions about international mindedness

Our K-12 integrated digital curriculum and assessment solutions cater to your English language learners’ diverse teaching and learning needs (ELLs) in and out of the classroom, ensuring every student can experience growth and a truly personalized and tailored learning experience. The real-time tracking of student success means educators can identify meaningful learning trends and support language proficiency and academic success through data points like progress, growth, pacing, and usage. Our flexible approach to learning offers additional accommodation options for students. From allowing for more individualized support to built-in text-to-speech functionality ensuring content can be read aloud, we’re here for your ELLs.

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