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International Schools
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Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

International Schools

current issues and future prospects


2016 paperback 240 pages, £42.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-92-2

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About the book

The foundation of the first international schools of the modern era well over a century ago, and their burgeoning growth over recent years, provides the context in this book for a series of personal perspectives written by some of those who have been involved centrally in their development. As the schools themselves have increased not only in number and geographical distribution but also in diversity of style and ownership, so have a range of complex issues arisen relating to their fundamental purposes, the curricula that they choose (what should be taught and what should be learned), the nature of their organization (including leadership and management), and their potential contributions in responding to a perceived global need and in influencing the promotion of international education in national systems of schools.

The distinguished group of authors contributing to this volume identify the current issues surrounding the rapid evolution of international schools and likely future directions of development, based on their own impressive personal and professional experience of the sector. That both comparative and international education genres are to be found in approaches taken in the various chapters means that the book will be of interest and value not only to teachers in international schools, but also to those working in national schools and to researchers in colleges and universities worldwide. 

Contents [Please click on author name for summary]

Preface (Mary Hayden & Jeff Thompson), 7-7

Introduction. International Schools: the developing agenda (Mary Hayden & Jeff Thompson), 9-16

Nicholas Tate What Are International Schools For?, 17-36

George Walker International Schools and International Curricula, 37-51

Tristian Stobie The Curriculum Battleground, 53-70

Martin Skelton What Should Students Learn in International Schools?, 71-83

Judith Fabian A Pedagogy for International Education, 85-103

Michael Fertig, Chris James The Leadership and Management of International Schools: very complex matters, 105-127

Margaret Halicioglu International Education: the role of the residential school experience, 129-149

Neil Richards ‘Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light’, 151-163

Sally Booth, Malcolm McKenzie, Edward Shanahan Lessons Learned from Opening a World School, 165-183

Mark Waterson The Corporatisation of International Schooling, 185-213

Tristan Bunnell International Schooling: implications of the changing growth pattern, 215-235

Notes on Contributors, 237-240

Preface (Mary Hayden & Jeff Thompson)

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Introduction. International Schools: the developing agenda (Mary Hayden & Jeff Thompson)

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What Are International Schools For?
Nicholas Tate

This chapter focuses on the purposes, pragmatic and ideological, behind the development of international schools and the extent to which these are being achieved. The ideological roots of the international schools movement are traced to the Enlightenment and to a set of ideas associated with democratic liberalism. The author argues for the continuing relevance of these ideas at a time when they are under attack. Four areas for reflection by international educators are identified: the structural function of international education in supporting local elites and promoting the global spread of English; the dangers of utopianism and sentimentalism; preparation for national, as opposed to global, citizenship; and the need for pedagogical debate to extend beyond constructivism. Although international schools are likely to be educating, at most, no more than 0.5% of the world’s school population, an important role for them is envisaged: in supporting, where appropriate, the ‘internationalisation’ of national education systems and as exemplars of educational practice freed from the pressures and social engineering imperatives of national governments.

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International Schools and International Curricula
George Walker

Challenging the common assumption that international schools necessarily use the programmes of the International Baccalaureate (IB), the author identifies distinctive features of the curricula of three international schools that pre-date the IB: the International School of Geneva, the United Nations International School in New York and Atlantic College in Wales. He applies these features to the recent dramatic growth of so-called ‘international schools’ to ask whether these new schools merit the use of the descriptor ‘international’. If so, will they be a vibrant force for the transformation of national education programmes; if not, can they be encouraged to contribute their substantial resources to the future development of international education?

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The Curriculum Battleground
Tristian Stobie

A rise in the number of international schools serving local populations who want to adopt what they perceive as international best practice raises a number of questions and issues explored in this chapter. Is there such a thing as international best practice? Does globalisation imply the need for a common curriculum and pedagogy? Curriculum must be a local construct, grounded in the school’s culture and context; one curriculum prescription does not suit all. Change, which is both desirable and inevitable, needs to be evolutionary and grounded in an understanding of local context and culture if it is to lead to beneficial outcomes. A few principles and approaches that might be helpful in building a curriculum that respects local and global realities are considered.

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What Should Students Learn in International Schools?
Martin Skelton

This chapter looks at the complex meanings within the terms ‘schools’, ‘international’ and ‘learning’. It suggests that, in Western democratic societies, different schools are increasingly reaching closer agreement about the kinds of children and students they are hoping to develop and, therefore, about the kinds of learning they should help their students achieve. It suggests that ‘international’ is a dispositional rather than a locational adjective. The chapter also describes how the goals of these schools and the learning that is connected to their purposes is problematic for a number of reasons. The chapter concludes by suggesting that schools that are both locationally and dispositionally international have a responsibility to take advantage of the situation they find themselves in and to lead the way in developing the learning necessary to lay the foundations for their students of an increasingly sophisticated awareness of ‘the other’.

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A Pedagogy for International Education
Judith Fabian

International education has most commonly been defined by the type of schools that teach it, and by the nature and content of the curriculum offered by those schools. This chapter argues that international education can be defined more meaningfully and productively by how students are taught, the quality and depth of their learning and the consequent relationship between teacher and student. Curriculum content is necessary but not sufficient. Furthermore, the nature and quality of the teaching and learning that takes place will have a more lasting impact than curriculum content or type of school; it will lead to students becoming internationally minded, that is, developing the values and attitudes that will lead them to respond actively and positively to making the world a better place. These teaching strategies value the knowledge and experience of students; they are inquiry based, concept driven and contextualised; they focus on teaching through collaboration and differentiation; they are informed by assessment and develop students as independent, lifelong learners.

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The Leadership and Management of International Schools: very complex matters
Michael Fertig, Chris James

The rapid and continuing growth of international schools has put their leadership and management under close scrutiny. In this chapter, the authors examine the nature of international schools as institutions. In doing this, they argue that, as with other schools, international schools are complex, evolving, loosely linked systems (CELLS), which has important implications for how they are led and managed. The authors then examine the relationship between leadership and management and argue that international school leaders and managers face important challenges in securing the legitimacy of their institutions as ‘schools’ and, also, as ‘international schools’. They conclude the chapter by examining the complexity of the different forms of international schools and the impact that this complexity has upon the leadership and the management of these institutions.

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International Education: the role of the residential school experience
Margaret Halicioglu

This chapter examines how schools with a residential/boarding facility can support and enhance the goal of international education. International understanding can be learned by children living alongside those from different cultures, facing authentic learning experiences. The responsibilities on staff who care for such children far from home are considerable. Some students may need academic support, including in terms of their language proficiency if their mother tongue is not the language of the school; other children may need psychological support, if they have a difficult transition, for example, or feel homesick. A defined residential curriculum, as well as a strong pastoral care programme, can provide the starting point. There will be a range of challenges for staff and students alike, but there is huge potential for a school to strengthen the realisation of its mission via the residential experience.

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‘Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light’
Neil Richards

This is not an academic chapter. Neither is it a celebration. Rather it is one, probably over-long, self-indulgent, howl of protest. The teaching profession in the United Kingdom has been anaesthetised and stretched out – racked upon a corporate template, the better to enable a succession of weekend educationalists to fumble over, and tinker with, its body parts. The result is as ugly as it sounds. Fundamentally, the political approach seems to be based upon an almost complete lack of trust in the teaching profession. This chapter attempts to set out the flawed rationale of our political masters, where target setting and inspection make an outmoded, inadequate system function with even greater efficiency and where the end goal seems to be the creation of a teacher-proof education system and the replacement of dissidents with party functionaries. Meanwhile, lurking in the background, and hovering over the plump carcass of international education, there are ‘the men in dark suits’. For respite there is a brief sojourn among the Finns, with more than a hint of an alternative way forward.

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Lessons Learned from Opening a World School
Sally Booth, Malcolm McKenzie, Edward Shanahan

The three authors of this chapter write about their planning and implementation work with a small but growing team of international and Chinese educators to design Keystone Academy, Beijing. This school has a singular educational approach, blending the best of New England preparatory school boarding programs and international curricular frameworks with a unique Chinese Thread to deepen the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the cultural heritage of China’s past, present, and future. Combining the global and the national in this way creates a new type of ‘world school’. The Academy is a K-12 bilingual boarding school that is already bringing a distinct learning experience to Chinese and international students. The stories narrated here about the myriad challenges and successes involved in opening a start-up school are intended to serve as a roadmap for others endeavoring to design new schools that will rejuvenate the educational experience of future students in an increasingly interconnected world.

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The Corporatisation of International Schooling
Mark Waterson

The number of international schools has grown significantly over the past fifty years. In a globalised world characterised by greater economic and cultural activity crossing national boundaries, the demand for such schools from expatriate families has grown, and continues to grow, at pace. Increasingly, this demand is being augmented by local parents wanting something different for their children than is being offered by their national school systems. This burgeoning market in international school education is attracting a wide range of private sector involvement including for-profit transnational corporations (TNCs) that are starting up, or buying up, multiple international schools around the world. Whenever for-profit providers enter the educational domain there is inevitable debate on both philosophical and practical grounds about the purpose and quality of educational provision. For better or worse, TNCs operating chains of schools are likely to be a permanent fixture in the global educational landscape and to exert a growing influence on the international school sector and beyond. This chapter explores some of the issues and questions raised by their entry into the market and hopefully will provoke discussions amongst proponents and detractors alike about the nature of the education they offer and their wider impact.

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International Schooling: implications of the changing growth pattern
Tristan Bunnell

The number of schools being classified or labelled as ‘international’ has grown enormously over the past decade. At the same time, there have been significant changes in the nature of purpose and operation of these schools, and in ways that warrant closer examination and critical discussion. In particular, there has been a shift from what might be deemed the ‘Ideal’ era of activity, towards a ‘post-Ideal’ era, characterised in the main by the growth of for-profit schooling aimed at educating the children of the emerging middle class within the host country. The growth of ‘non-traditional’ types of ‘international schools’ has been especially noticeable, and areas of the world such as Dubai and Singapore are now at the centre of activity. This chapter discusses these changes in scale and pattern of activity, and attempts to move the discussion forward by focusing on the possible implications of the changing growth pattern. In particular, the implications for legitimacy, strategy and further research are discussed.

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Notes on Contributors

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Sally Booth, a trained anthropologist, spent years researching, teaching and developing curriculum for K–16 schools and colleges. She now helps to open new schools, with focus on curriculum, recruitment, professional development and accreditation-authorisation. Her research and educational consulting includes projects with public and private schools in Italy, the United States, Sweden, Bhutan and China on global education, integrated curriculum and student engagement. She has published articles, presented papers and co-authored (with Jeffrey Cole) the book Dirty Work: Immigrants in Domestic Service, Agriculture, and Prostitution in Sicily. She is the recipient of teaching awards and grants, including a Fulbright for graduate study.

Tristan Bunnell is a Lecturer in International Education at the University of Bath. Previously he taught International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme economics at Copenhagen International School and before that at the International School of London. He completed his doctorate degree from the University of Southampton in 2003. He is the author of The Changing Landscape of International Schooling: Implications for Theory and Practice and has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on international education and international schools, which are the major areas of his research.

Judith Fabian is an educational consultant based in the UK. Following 10 years teaching English and drama in secondary schools in east London, she worked as Department Head and Principal in international schools in Jordan, Tanzania and Germany. She joined the International Baccalaureate Organization in 2004 as Head of Programme Development, and in 2007 was appointed Chief Academic Officer leading the development of IB curriculum for students aged 3 to 19 years. She has presented to and worked with schools and educators all over the world.

Michael Fertig is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Bath, UK. Formerly a secondary school teacher, he has been involved in teaching and working with international school educators for almost 20 years. He has been an Ofsted-trained School Inspector in England and a Subject Reviewer for the UK Quality Assurance Agency. He produced an internal IB report on school authorisation processes. His research interests lie in the areas of educational leadership and governance, with a particular focus upon schools in the developing world and upon international schools.

Mary Hayden is Head of the Department of Education at the University of Bath, where she is also Head of the Internationalisation and Globalisation of Education research group. Her personal research interests relate to international schools and international education, an area in which she has published widely, as well as supervising masters and doctoral students. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Research in International Education, is a member of the advisory boards of a number of international education projects and is a Founding Trustee of the Alliance for International Education.

Margaret Halicioglu is the Dean of Student Affairs at Robert College in Istanbul, the oldest continually running American school founded outside the United States, where her responsibilities include residential life, and where she also teaches music. Her research interests include transition to high school, homesickness and residential staff training; among her most recently published papers is ‘Counseling Supervision of Boarding School Staff Teams’. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Bath.

Chris James is Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. He researches and teaches in educational leadership, management and governance. His specific research interests are in organisational psychodynamics in educational settings; the institutionalisation of educational organisations; and the governing and governance of schools and further education institutions. During his career, Chris has directed a large number of education research projects with a total value in excess of £1 million. He has published over 100 journal articles and book chapters, written 15 books/major reports and edited two books.

Malcolm McKenzie studied at the Universities of Cape Town, Oxford and Lancaster. At Oxford he was a Rhodes Scholar. Although starting his career as a university teacher, Malcolm soon moved into school teaching and he has been Head of four schools: Maru a Pula in Botswana; the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales; The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, USA; and now Keystone Academy in Beijing. Malcolm has served on the Board of the Round Square, which numbers over 150 schools worldwide. He was a co-founder of the Global Connections Foundation and is President of this confederation of schools.

Neil Richards obtained his first teaching post in Kathmandu and has since worked in the Canary Islands, Egypt, Chile, Lesotho, Japan and Wales. He has held senior administrative posts in international schools for over 30 years and is currently Head of the British International School of Phuket, Thailand. He has worked with the International Baccalaureate curriculum for over twenty-five years, and is an experienced writer, speaker and workshop leader at educational conferences. His research centres around staff development and the implementation of change in an international school, and he has a particular interest in neurological research and its implications for learning.

Edward Shanahan has been a devoted educator and academic leader for more than 40 years: Dean of Students at Wesleyan University; Dean of the College at Dartmouth; President and Headmaster of Choate Rosemary Hall; and Founding President and Chair of the Board at Keystone Academy, Beijing. He has engineered unprecedented growth and quality performance at prestigious schools and universities as well as within accreditation agencies and the New York charter school movement, and pioneered vital initiatives between peer organisations, introducing dynamic new approaches to education while reaffirming the traditions that preserve an organisation’s character. He is a widely recognised and prominent authority in education’s global landscape.

Martin Skelton co-founded Fieldwork Education following a career in teaching that included two headships. He later co-founded the WCL Group, of which Fieldwork was a part. Amongst other things, he designed the International Primary Curriculum and the Looking for Learning Toolkit and he co-designed the International Middle Years Curriculum. His passion is learning and he has worked with teachers and schools in many countries, helping them both to define learning and to create structures that help great learning happen. He is currently focusing on ideas around international mindedness and the meaning of ‘understanding’ and has written extensively about both.

Tristian Stobie is Director of Education at Cambridge International Examinations where he has been since 2011, having previously worked for the International Baccalaureate Organization as Head of Diploma Programme Development. Prior to that post, he spent 20 years working as a teacher and as a Secondary Principal in a number of international schools. Tristian completed a doctorate and Master’s degree at the University of Bath with a particular focus on curriculum studies.

Nicholas Tate was Chief Executive of England’s School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and its successor body the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, during the years 1994 2000. Since 2000 he has been Head of Winchester College (2000 03) and the International School of Geneva (2003 11), as well as of a global network of schools. He chaired the IB’s Education Committee for five years and served on the French Education Minister’s Haut Conseil de l’Évaluation de l’École. He is currently Vice-Chairman of Trustees of a London university. He has a doctorate in history and has written extensively, most recently What is Education For? (2015).

Jeff Thompson is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Bath with particular interests in the fields of international schools and international education. He has published many articles and books in this area, in which he also teaches and supervises doctoral and masters students. He has been involved with the IB since its earliest days in a number of roles, including Academic Director and Chair of the Examining Board. He is a member of a wide range of advisory boards for international education projects, serves on many international organisation boards and is Chair of the Alliance for International Education.

George Walker’s career divides into three parts: science teacher, UK comprehensive school head teacher and international educator. In the last of these roles he was Director General of the International School of Geneva and, prior to retirement, Director General of the International Baccalaureate. He has been Senior Visiting Fellow in the University of York and Visiting Professor in the University of Bath. He has written and lectured around the world on many educational topics. He was appointed OBE for services to UK education and awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bath.

Mark Waterson is a freelance consultant specialising in leadership development and teacher education in the context of international education. He has worked with governments, universities, non-governmental organisations, social enterprises and charities on a range of development, implementation and evaluation initiatives. Prior to moving into consultancy he worked for the International Baccalaureate Organization as Head of Teacher Education Services, building upon his 20 years of teaching and administration experience with national and international schools in Africa and Europe. His research interests focus on school leadership and governance issues within the for-profit international school sector.

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