In the era of globalisation, people are influenced by other cultures, migration and international affairs. Therefore, the development of education systems that respond to the needs of diverse societies becomes essential. International Mindedness (IM) helps students to develop skills that allow them to navigate through the ever-changing cultural landscapes of the globalised world as it emphasises the importance of developing multilingual and intercultural communication skills, as well as the significance of global and local scale engagement in gaining perspective on pan-national issues.
International schools are to a great extent independent institutions that consist of multicultural and multinational populations and foster international orientation in knowledge and attitude. They follow an international curriculum that is non-native to the host country, and that is usually conveyed in English (IBDP, IGCSE, AP).
The concept of IM became the underpinning philosophy of International Baccalaureate (IB) international schools, however, it is not exclusive to them. This study explores the notion of IM in international schools that follow curricula of one of the British examination boards such as Cambridge or Edexcel.
As bottom-up approaches can allow for a deeper understanding of issues and provide tools for effective change, this mixed-methods study explores IM by investigating the views and experiences of principals, teachers, and students in six international schools across Cyprus. The study focuses on the participants’ perceptions on the IM main components: Multilingualism, Global Engagement, and Intercultural Understanding in order to help understand international school practices that can lead to the development of International Mindedness and its limitations.
The results showed that the non-IB schools provide much of the research recommended effective IM education. The participants gave examples of extracurricular and in-lesson practices that can be used to achieve IM-related goals encompassing its cognitive, affective, and behavioural aspects.
What was also observed, is that certain school characteristics, that are not curriculum-related, can provide a platform where IM can be developed and cultivated by students organically and independently: a multinational population, a common prevailing language of communication, a welcoming, inclusive, fair and safe school atmosphere, as well as a collaborative school community. Therefore, this study distinguishes between the
approach of ‘identifying differences' and ‘allowing for differences', with the latter being beneficial to IM development due to its focus on acceptance and inclusion of diversity.
The challenges revealed by this research, among others, refer to the language barrier, and the students’ limited knowledge of current affairs. Moreover, the fact that the international school environment is inclined towards tolerance for the purpose of mutual-coexistence, opportunities for cross-cultural critical engagement on issues that may be deemed controversial are limited to the context suitable to the school reality. However, taking an academic rather than a personal approach to discussing such issues in class can lead schools to overcome this challenge and engage students critically with global and cultural topics.
The research also showed that school characteristics influence the development of IM. This study illustrated that by exploring IM in two different school settings: Internationally-British and Internationally-Cypriot. Factors such as the school population, values, the prevailing language of communication, formal and non-formal education with major significance placed on integration and exposure to cultural diversity impact how schools perceive and approach IM. They also indicate the specific challenges to advancing students’ Multilingualism, Intercultural Understanding and Global Engagement.
International mindedness and international schools in Cyprus: A study on perceptions, possibilities and challenges
- PhD thesis
- International Relations -- Education