International schools are being set up throughout the world, with significant growth in Asia and the Middle East. It is intriguing to understand its development and services historically, as well as its implications for our time.
The first wave of international schools was created for the children of missionaries, and these schools have existed for over a hundred years. Their primary purpose was to prepare these children of missionaries for adult life while the families served in their mission fields.
Following the end of World War II, there was a rapidly increasing need for expatriate “experts” to help in the restoration of the destroyed countries, soon followed by the independence of many formerly colonial countries that required expatriate skills and experiences to train the nationals. As many of the “experts” did not want to leave their families behind when they worked aboard, the second wave of international schools bloomed.
In Hong Kong, there has been a demand from local families who want an international education. Some parents may desire an international school to prepare their children for a more global lifestyle. Others have concerns about the suitability of the local school for their children.
With that being said, international schools have served different purposes in the past and now. Hence, how should we define an international school? An international student community, an internationally mixed faculty, an international (i.e., non-local) curriculum, or a school that promotes “international-mindedness”?
My choice would be to cultivate “international-mindedness” among stakeholders of an international school. Müller (2017) advocated that
Students in today’s international schools, growing up to be global leaders of the future, will require a remarkable insight into people and cultures across the world, and an unprecedented concern for the well-being of the world community. Around the world, many educational systems are gearing themselves toward catering to a greater global consciousness.
International schools represent a phenomenon that is able to take the lead in setting an example to educate students toward international-mindedness, through an education that reduces ethnocentrism, increases knowledge of other cultures, and promotes a concern for global environmental issues.
International-mindedness is a view of the world in which people see themselves connected to the global community and assume a sense of responsibility to its members. It is an awareness of the inter-relatedness of all nations and peoples, and a recognition of the complexity of these relationships. Internationally-minded people appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world and make an effort to learn more about them.
They exhibit personal concern for people all around the world, and this manifests itself in a sense of moral responsibility to other people, and a commitment to the values of a community. They are aware of the long-term consequences of human behavior on the environment and on global society.
Not only is this definition more applicable for any 21st-century international school, but it also fits well within a Biblical framework.
As a Christian international school, we expose God’s truth through our curriculum. In doing so, we find out who we are in Christ and whom we serve (https://www.capcl.edu.hk/learning/#who). For examples:
- We are Earth Keepers who respond to God’s call to be stewards of all creation.
- We are Beauty Creators who create beauty that praises God and enriches our world.
- We are Servant Workers who work actively to heal brokenness and bring joy to individuals and to culture.
- We are Community Builders who are active pursuers and builders of community in our classrooms, in our neighbourhoods, and in the global village.
- We are Justice Seekers who act as agents of restoration.
It has been and will continue to be the fact that a significant number of international school alumni become prominent politicians, business and social service leaders, fluent in at least two languages with a global perspective. Christian international schools have an excellent opportunity to be influential in this context, and we should strive to develop servant leaders.
Müller, C. (2017, January 4). 10 ways to promote international-mindedness. International Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from https://consiliumeducation.com/itm/2017/01/04/10-ways-to-promote-international-mindedness/
Thompson, M. J. (2019). A guide to establishing and maintaining quality international schools. Leicestershire, England: The Book Guild Ltd.