Discussion on International Mindedness, Intercultural Literacy and Global Competence
My definition of ‘international mindedness’ is when one understands that one’s own perspective, values and experiences may be only one of multiple possibilities in the world. An internationally minded person is also able to question the suitability of one’s own and others’ perspectives while seeing value in all perspectives, value systems and experiences.
I define ‘intercultural literacy’ is when one is able to navigate – and importantly: feels comfortable navigating – between and within multiple cultures and or languages. My definition of language and culture includes dialects such as Ebonics, Creole English and Pidgeon English versus standard English.
In my opinion, ‘global competence’ is when one has mastered the tools and skills (both intellectual and social) to investigate, discover and apply alternate perspectives and solutions from international sources. This requires an awareness of the existence other cultures, but does not necessarily require one to demonstrate much respect for or to learn anything significant about these cultures. In other words, one need not necessarily be ‘internationally minded’ in order to be globally competent.
Comparing and Contrasting International Mindedness, Intercultural Literacy and Global Competence and How They Are Incorporated into the School Curriculum
According to Arathi Sriprakash, Michael Singh and Qi Jing (2014), learning to be ‘internationally minded’ is sometimes conceptualized as a sort of “Western cultural capital” that can be marketed to parents and students. When defines in this sense, ‘international mindedness’ converges towards an idea of ‘global competence’ with a certain amount of ‘intercultural literacy’ thrown into the mix – but only as the latter [intercultural literacy] pertains to being able to successfully meander Western academic systems and societies. Nonetheless, I prefer my definition of international mindedness [given above] because it leans towards a liberal, more inclusive view of it as being similar to open-mindedness. Being internationally minded is more like an attitude; it is a liberally accepting value system. Such a concept could be taught in schools in a subtle fashion through the way in which subjects and themes are presented and by encouraging a constant awareness of the impact of one’s actions on others. An internationally minded person might also be expected to be an environmentalist and a community activist. An internationally minded person is not only aware of others’ perspectives and backgrounds, but is well-versed in and respectful of cultural norms, though they will usually be humble enough to not consider themselves an expert in these things. Internationally minded persons use and wield their knowledge cautiously. This latter point marks the contrast between a person who is globally competent, but not necessarily international minded. Such a person will use the information they source, but not necessarily be as respectful, interculturally literate or sensitive in how this knowledge is used. Global competence, in my eyes, is a more capitalistic motivated notion of culture.
Still, in my opinion, all three of theses concepts could accurately be described as commodities being marketed to middle-class parents and students in order to guarantee those students’ success in a globalized world economy. Nevertheless, my impression is that intercultural literacy would be the most elusive of these three skill sets because it can only be fully achieved through immersion in another culture, e.g. such as through a foreign exchange or living abroad experience (see Mark Heyward’s 2002 essay about intercultural literacy and ‘third culture kids’). On the other hand, global competence, is the most purely academic of the skill sets. Being globally competent consists in being able to complete a set of tasks in a specific and measurable way. It is the cultural component which can best be achieved directly through the school system because global competency can be taught in classrooms. Most of the ‘Twenty-First Century skills’ directly relate to global competency.
Source: Boix Mansilla, Veronica & Jackson, Anthony. (2011). “Chapter 2: Understanding the World through Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Study”. Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO’s) EdSteps Initiative & Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning. 136 pgs. New York, New York & Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Retrieved from http://www.ccsso.org, http://www.edsteps.org or http://www.asiasociety.org/education.
What are the benefits, pitfalls, and arguments against education with an international focus?
Benefits of education with an international focus: reduction in prejudices, easier adjustment to living overseas, less likely to offend people of other cultures (more culturally sensitive), learning to value diverse perspectives, a greater understanding of the motive behind and impact of international events.
Pitfalls: false impression of self as being ‘international-minded’, the only way to truly become internationally-minded is to live overseas for a period of time.
Arguments against: living overseas for a period of time is an expensive option and is only available to elites.
What are reasons why you as an educator may support ideas against international-mindedness (IM), intercultural literacy (IL), and or global competence (GC)?
Arguments against international-mindedness: The homogenization of ideas into them all being internationally focused. In my opinion, it is worth focusing on some local ideas because this is the only way that many minority cultures can be preserved and promoted, thus preserving diversity in perspectives.
Arguments against intercultural literacy or global competency: It is numerically impossible to become culturally literate in every culture. Therefore, in which cultures do we choose to become interculturally literate and which ones do we disregard? What would be the justifications for these decisions? Can we be sure that the selection of those cultures to learn would not be biased by the economic benefit which could be derived from them, or similar capitalistic motivations?
Another point worth mentioning, is that put forward by Nicholas Alchin*, the high school principal at the United World College of South East Asia, in a newsletter to parents, there is also the danger of being able to justify any and all perspectives based on them being culturally valid behaviors. This is dangerous because, human rights must be considered absolute rights to be defended at all costs and in all situations and contexts. In the opposite case, human rights versus cultural rights becomes very confusing.
* Nicholas Alchin is the High School Principal at the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA). In a newsletter he wrote to UWCSEA parents, Nicholas Alchin explains how an IB student’s essay raised issues about open-mindedness.
What are reasons why you as an educator would support the integration of international mindedness (IM), intercultural literacy (IL), and global competence (GC) into curricula?
Reasons to support the integration of international-mindedness: It is beneficial to temper one’s natural tendency to assume that one’s knowledge and culture contains the absolute right and single answer on every topic. An open-minded attitude promotes peace, harmony, sympathy and the willingness to listen to other perspectives and think about and consider things before making decisions. Intercultural literacy takes international mindedness one step further because more is understood about the reasons behind specific perspectives which differ from one’s own, and one is able to achieve empathy and become more flexible and perhaps even establish a consensus on opinions. Global competence, in my opinion, provides the skills, abilities and impetus to actively discover these differing perspectives and ways of doing things. All three together result in an individual and perhaps even in a community that can create unity in diversity – a necessary step for achieving world peace, and ‘just and considerate’ decision-making.
Alchin, Nicholas. (Summer-Winter 2014). “Tolerance is Good – But the Need to Question Remains”. International School, Vol. 16, Issue no. 3. John Catt Educational Ltd., a member of the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG). Suffolk, England, U.K. Retrieved from http://www.johncatt.com/downloads/is16_3/offline/download.pdf
Boix Mansilla, Veronica & Jackson, Anthony. (2011). Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World. Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO’s) EdSteps Initiative & Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning. 136 pgs. New York, New York & Washington, D.C., U.S.A. Retrieved from www.ccsso.org, www.edsteps.org or www.asiasociety.org/education.
Drake, Barry. (2004). International Education and IB Programmes: Worldwide Expansion and Potential Cultural Dissonance. Journal of Research in International Education (JRIE). Vol 3 (2), pp. 189 – 205. International Baccalaureate Organization & Sage Publications. The Chinese International School. Hong Kong, China.
Heyward, Mark. (2002). From International to Intercultural: Redefining the International School for a Globalized World. Journal of Research in International Education (JRIE). Vol. 1 (1); pp. 9-32. International Baccalaureate Organization & Sage Publications. Lombok, Indonesia.
Sriprakash, Arathi; Singh, Michael & Jing, Qi. (2014). A Comparative Study of International mindedness in the IB Diploma Programme in Australia, China and India. Faculty of Education and Social Work, The University of Sydney. Sydney, Australia.
van Oord, Lodewijk. (2007). To Westernize the Nations? An Analysis of the International Baccalaureate’s Philosophy of Education. Atlantic College, United World Colleges. Wales, U.K. Cambridge Journal of Education. 37:3, 375-390, DOI: 10.1080/03057640701546680. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ccje20 and http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057640701546680