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Against Ageism: Opting for Open-mindedness & Equal Opportunity Practices

By Margaret Shibuya
Against Ageism: Opting for Open-mindedness & Equal Opportunity Practices

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash __________________________ What is the final front line of prejudicial treatment yet to be challenged in international school teacher recruitment and retention practices? The answer is ageism. The recent “Me Too” movement has shone a spotlight on sexism and sexual harassment, bringing awareness of that important issue to the forefront of people’s minds in the international school sector as elsewhere. International administrators take into consideration racism and sexism in their school environments and hiring practices as they make their decisions to retain or hire employees. But what about ageism? This form of discrimination has yet to be addressed. According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, ageism “is prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.” For a decade or more there has been no mandatory retirement age for public school teachers in Canada, Australia, or the United States, yet most international schools still hang on to the outdated practice of enforcing a mandatory retirement age. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, “factual research shows that older workers are equally committed to their jobs and just as capable as their younger counterparts; in fact, they complement each other to build a more efficient and productive workplace. The most successful workplace is the one characterized by intergenerational cooperation.” International schools should change all discriminatory practices and eliminate ageism in their retirement and recruitment practices! Like all prejudices, ageism is embedded into our thinking early on, and we tend to generalize about certain age groups without considering each individual. “Becoming old” gets equated with “becoming incapable.” It is true that certain countries have set a legal retirement age and international schools operating within their borders cannot do anything about that. However, that is not the case everywhere. Even so, many international schools place an age limit on whom they will hire or allow to stay on. In countries that do not force institutions to set a retirement or recruitment age, international schools should demonstrate critical thinking, open-mindedness, and equal opportunity practices as they consider which individuals to hire or retain, regardless of their age. As international schools whose mission is to educate and nurture global citizens and leaders throughout the world, what better place to lead the way against this form of discrimination? It is time to look at people in the “above 65 group” as individuals and not stereotype them under the label “old,” which implies “incapable.” As is true of younger generations, the over-65 category covers all types of individuals. Some will want to retire, change jobs, or continue working in their field. Many are solid, qualified teachers who bring experience—both in teaching and in life—and a sense of responsibility and diligence to a job position. Yet, we overlook them because of our age prejudices or set institutional requirements inspired by such prejudices. If you think about it, ageism is actually a self-discriminatory practice. We all grow older, and the view we take of those 65 or above will eventually be turned on us. However, as with every age group, individuals within the 65+ group are all unique. Educators should know this well from their experiences in the classroom. Just as no two students of any age group are the same, no two older adults/teachers are the same either. To conclude that all should retire at a given age is narrow-minded and a discriminatory viewpoint that needs to be acknowledged and eliminated. Three key factors that should decide whether a person is hired, continues on, or stops any job at any age are: 1) desire and qualifications, 2) physical health, and 3) emotional/mental health. This is true no matter the individual’s age. Taking a stand to end ageism in international educational institutions would be an authentic and inspirational example to our students as we continue to teach them to rise up and speak out for what is right. Let’s all work to encourage non-discriminatory practices at all levels with a much-needed focus on eradicating ageism. One school making a difference initiates a ripple effect in our international school environment. Let’s heed this call to action and lead the way to the elimination of ageism in international school practices. Margaret Shibuya is an educator with over thirty years’ experience as an elementary teacher, an International Primary Curriculum Coordinator, an Elementary Coordinator, and a Principal.

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11/03/2019 - roberto santos
Your article is so true. I turned 62 in July. I’m perfectly healthy, qualified and willing to work.

I was excessed three months because of age and the school’s ability to pay a younger person a lesser salary.

So know I’m seeking employment. So far have received msgs from 3 schools regarding the inability to be hired due to age.

Thank you for bringing this ageism issue to light

11/03/2019 - K
Thank you for bringing this issue to light. I am more than 10 years away from retirement age for my country and I am already experiencing this.
11/02/2019 - MissShanks
Thanks so much for writing this article. As a 57-year-old with 25 years of valuable experience, yet still possessing an eagerness to continue growing and learning, I really appreciate someone addressing the issue of ageism.
11/02/2019 - Htay Myat win mon
excellent and I support . Please make sure it goes to all admin leaders of all international schools



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