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Wednesday, 26 June 2019
INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL APPOINTMENTS

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Diversity Without Inclusion

Addressing the dearth of authentic multiculturalism in international schools

By John L. Lyons

03/15/2019

Diversity Without Inclusion
Authentic multiculturalism takes place in culturally diverse international schools whenever honest, meaningful, open-ended, change-producing communication transpires between people from different cultures.

Of course, it helps greatly when such exchanges are purposeful (with shared hopes and expectations), well-managed (with shared norms), and well-meaning (with shared blessings). Cross-cultural interaction of this caliber in diverse schools, simply put, can only increase understanding, empathy, and responsiveness among individuals who are different, and who, perhaps, first strike one another as incomprehensible and distant “others.”

Cross-cultural interaction of this nature is also flushed with opportunities for self-understanding, as the contours of one’s own “cultural constructedness” become apparent through the self-other encounter.

The unrealized possibilities of brand international

Arguably, then, if enough educators and students in international schools mindfully pursue authentic multiculturalism, and do so often enough, we can expect sizable improvements in such outcomes as community cohesion, professional cooperation and effectiveness, learner-teacher accord, and workplace and classroom satisfaction.

Indeed, authentic multiculturalism—in learning, teaching, staff relations, and student society—should be a clear and distinguishable hallmark of any school seeking to benefit from “Brand International.”

Unfortunately for many international schools, authentic multiculturalism is sorely lacking. I have done extensive research in this area and am chagrined to find that the sort of organized, meaningful, significant cross-cultural communication sketched above is the exception rather than the norm in a vast number of international schools around the world.

My research is further supported by my own extensive personal and professional experience in international schools across five continents and three decades. The principles and practices of the sort of rich, textured, engaging, transformative, culture-based growth and learning processes involved in authentic multiculturalism are simply not an important part of the mission statement or lifeworld of most international schools. They are not typically found in the stated outlook of schools, in their philosophy, or in their social dynamics. If at all, multiculturalism qualifying as authentic is rarely found in the international school curriculum.

And why not?

I believe a tenable explanation for the current dearth of authentic multiculturalism in international schools can be found in a number of false beliefs or misconceptions. These are commonly held by those who teach in and manage such institutions regarding the role intercultural relations should play or are assumed to already play in schools.

Such misconceptions often impose blinders, preventing educators and administrators from realizing or acknowledging the immense learning and institutional benefits that accrue as organized, focused, meaningful, cross-cultural exchange takes place.

Nor does there seem to be much awareness of the tremendous contribution authentic multicultural activities can make in promoting the idealized and rarefied notions of “international mindedness,” or the esteemed “global citizen” construct so popular in international education discourse today.

In short, while many international schools are broadly and richly diverse, few are truly culturally inclusive in their dialogue or discourse. Given the lofty claims regarding “education for a globalized world” often made by these schools, and the need for truly democratic, inclusive, international places of learning everywhere, this is not an acceptable state of affairs.

In the April 2019 issue of The International Educator, I will explore some of the most common misconceptions regarding multiculturalism in international schools. I will propose we look at the ways in which these misconceptions may contribute to conditions of diversity without inclusion in schools, and what progressive international educators around the world can do about both.

John Lyons is an international educator, writer, and cross-cultural consultant. Your response to this article is warmly welcomed:

lyonsjlee@gmail.com




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