As technology advances and travel is more frequent, the world grows increasingly international. Nowadays, it is common for families to relocate globally to work opportunities across the world. This opportunity extends to children who find themselves in a new country and often, international schools. Through these collective experiences, they build intercultural understanding that has become an important and relevant soft skill that benefits a student’s overall growth and development in the future world.
Why Is Diversity In Education Important?
There are three key influencers to what a child may know: society, school and the home. As such, the school that your child attends will significantly affect your child’s holistic development. For children who go to international schools, they have the unique opportunity of mingling with a diverse population from different cultures and backgrounds in the world.
However, not all international schools share the same level of diversity. To maximise the benefits of diversity in education, it will be advantageous to pick international schools that are home to a wide variety of nationalities and a balanced mix of each.
For example, Nexus has a truly diverse student population with 60 nationalities and no one nationality above 15%. It is a unique offering amongst most schools in Singapore because this statistic translates into each classroom typically having at least eight different nationalities and languages spoken.
The strengths of diversity in education can lead to three main learning points:
1. Educational Opportunities – Viewing Cross-Cultural Perspectives
When you have a classroom with over eight nationalities, that means a classroom with potentially at least eight different worldviews! People who live in different countries will come along with different upbringings, viewpoints and experiences. This means that there will be different truths, goods and wrongs in each situation. It teaches learners to understand where others come from and keep an open-mind.
2. Social Opportunities – Challenging Prejudice
We all naturally come with cultural prejudices based on nature, nurture and your own personal experiences. However, it is important to remember that these are merely prejudices – they are not the truth. To embrace the social opportunities of diversity, it is very important to accept your existing prejudices, understand them and challenge them with an open mind. One strength of international school teachers is that they are familiar with this process and are more inclined towards cultural sensitivity due to their exposure and experience. Many of them expertly balance a classroom and create a community that is respectful, tolerant and sensitive towards each other.
3. Cultural Opportunities – Building Intercultural Understanding
When we make a connection with someone from another culture and background, we also build a personal connection with their heritage, country and culture. This allows learners to foster tolerance towards the new worldview. Now you may ask, how does tolerance promote intercultural understanding? Well, tolerance is a strength because it demonstrates how one has learnt and understood the history behind someone’s life. This is a great skill for a child to develop as it teaches them maturity and respect for others despite differences.
Cultural Diversity In International Schools
It is important to consider how international schools promote cultural diversity among students. Depending on the school you choose, there will be different opportunities for families to gain intercultural knowledge.
Within The Classroom
There are many opportunities to celebrate diversity within the classroom. With Nexus, for example, we champion diversity in education by placing a high emphasis on cultural diversity and appreciation within the curriculum. We use the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme that has a neutral framework that works well for learners from all backgrounds. As a school that promotes agency amongst its learners, we see many projects related to their culture and personal experiences. Zooming into Year 3, Nexus learners had a Cultural Fair which was part of their unit of inquiry, “Cultures Are Reflected Through The Arts”. Each learner had a passport to visit the different countries (booths and workshops) to get a stamp from each country they visited. It was one of the many ways culture is highlighted and celebrated in class. Find out more in Nexus’ feature in HoneyKids Asia:
In The Community
Beyond the classroom, many families value the community that they meet at their child’s school. At Nexus, we have a diverse group of families who find many ways to celebrate each other’s cultures. The school’s parent group, Nexus Community Group (NCG) highly values the benefits of diversity and organises various opportunities to celebrate it. They were the driving force behind the annual “International Fair” where community members gathered together to share food, language and traditions from their home countries with the larger community. On a more regular basis, the NCG organise “knowledge sharing” workshops where they teach each other languages and even learn cultural dances or crafts together.
Three Lessons Learnt From Cross-Cultural Experiences
For those who have moved away from home and been exposed to many different cultures, they learn many valuable lessons from their cross-cultural experiences. There are three main takeaways that we hope to share with you about the importance of learning from an intercultural perspective:
1. Lead With Compassion
Always be compassionate and respectful. Even if we may not fully understand or agree with someone else, we should lead with compassion by caring about how others feel and follow with kindness.
2. It’s OK To Say “I Don’t Know.”
Cultures are ever-evolving and they require a constant process of learning. It is natural to be unsure at times – just keep listening, learning and updating yourself with new knowledge when you encounter someone with a new perspective.
3. Challenge Your “Truths”
Just like our devices get frequent updates, we are often due for “personal truth” updates too! Over the years, we accumulate “personal truths” that we’ve gathered from the media, our families or personal experiences. By allowing ourselves to reevaluate these with an open mind, we invite the potential to understand others better by growing more tolerant and culturally sensitive as we reflect.
At the end of the day, we are one people, one planet. Just as the Nexus community learns from each other daily, we hope that you have learnt a few things that you can use in your daily encounters as well.
Find out more about how Nexus celebrates diversity. Book a tour today.