International school highlights need for understanding cultural diversity post-Brexit

International School London (ISL), Surrey hosted a special Festival of Learning in June, Fiona Murchie reports.

ISL Surrey, Festival of Learning
In June, International School London (ISL), Surrey hosted a two-day Festival of Learning celebrating the past, present and future of ISL schools. It also recognised over fifty years of leadership in education by ISL’s Chairman Mr Nadim Makarem, and marked his 80th birthday. Fiona Murchie reports on the evening’s celebrations and reflects on the importance of embracing culture and difference post-Brexit.

ISL: Relocate Global Award Winners

The ISL schools which include ISL London, ISL Surrey and Doha, Qatar are well known in the relocation community for their caring approach, their understanding around settling not only children but whole families and of course the ground breaking, mother tongue language programmes for which they won a Relocate Award in 2013. Heather Mulkey the group marketing and admissions officer was recognised as an inspirational thought leader and educationalist as the Relocate Personality of the Year in 2015.With this pedigree and a legacy going back to the 1960s, together with testimonies of the schools evolutions over the years as captured on video shown at the event, it is not surprising that so many esteemed educationalists turned out to celebrate the schools’ ethos and achievements.

Supporting international students

Jane Larsson, executive director of the Council of International Schools (CIS) joined the celebrations as guest speaker at a formal evening ceremony.“Your goal is to support students as they find their way in this world, no matter where they paths will take them, to provide them with a sense of community, to strengthen their cultural roots and identities. This requires diverse knowledge, expertise and perspective, all hallmarks of the education provided by ISL Schools,” she said.“You should feel especially proud given that your schools are among an elite group that have demonstrated their achievements over the years through international accreditation, as recognized and awarded by the CIS international community of educators.”Indeed accreditation is highly prized by employers relocating their employees around the world and by the parents wanting reassurance of the quality of education and the well-being of their children.

International curriculum and globalisation

As she explained, “the nature of international education is changing around the world. As a result, the number of international programs offered by universities are growing, and more and more national schools are internationalizing their curricula and the experiences they are providing to their students.“What used to be an education provided by expatriate communities for multi-national and highly mobile families and their children, is now valued and sought-after by families of all types in all countries in all systems of education. And so, the demand and need for an evaluative process that recognizes high quality schools that do this well is also growing. ISL school communities clearly reflect the shared values of leading schools around the world,” she proclaimed.

Embracing cultural difference post-Brexit

She spoke poignantly of, “the importance of embracing perspectives, ideas and cultures from every corner of the world, making different views a source of inspiration that enrich every member of the community, and indeed: this community!”She went on to address some of the challenges in the wider world that impact educators, employers and relocating families.“In our world today, we are faced with daily, almost incessant news of conflict, of struggle, of violence. Families are fleeing their homes, seeking safety and stability for their children. The refugee crisis is spreading like a web, with significant implications for all of us in education to address a critical need for support and solutions. We debate what we each can do, and we see our school communities struggle as they try to find solutions, to help, to play a role.

International schools: creating safe spaces

As she pointed out, watching the crisis from afar, too often empathy fatigue can set in and went on to pose the question what can the education community do?“In such times, I ask myself this question, and I’ve determined that we have to rely on what we do, on our expertise as educators, to double down in our jobs, and use our profession, where we have the incredible responsibility and opportunity to mentor and encourage young people, to foster dialogue and create safe spaces for where they can talk about their ideas, and how they put them into productive action.“International Schools are often referred to as homes by families and students, but they should not be islands.  While we work with our students to emphasize commonalities, we must also help them to explore differences.” She concluded.In post BREXIT UK and against the shadow of the terrorist attack in Nice and the political unrest in Turkey this resolve is even more important.The young people graduating from the ISL schools come from a tradition of innovation, through the early adoption of the International Baccalaureate programmes, the unique and trend setting mother tongue programmes, and the innovative community engagement projects.  

Tributes to founder Mr Nadim Makarem

ISL Qatar’s Headmaster Mr Christopher Charleson paid tribute to the work done by Mr Nadim Makarem, and presented him with two awards including the ECIS Award for the Promotion of International Education. Clearly ISL are stepping up to the mark to meet the future head on.UK Schools Director Mr Andrew Atkinson closed the evening with a presentation on the future of the ISL schools, highlighting the strategic planning work done on both campuses over the past year and the exciting journey ahead. He talked of their collaboration to develop a ‘culture of innovation that excites students and staff’. This would include every individual finding a pathway, where every child would be challenged and each leaver flourish. It was about teamwork, debate and excitement, authenticity and relevance. He talked of stretching and challenging every student especially in the adolescent years and of course the importance of career related programmes and the value of diversity.The ISL schools have a strong commitment to helping children deepen their understanding of their own culture whilst maintain literacy in their home language. Find out more in Relocate Global’s Guide to International Education & Schools plus their tips on easing the transition to a new home and school.The summer issue of Relocate magazine includes valuable features on Securing School Places Out of Term Time and Education Consultants.Jane Larsson, executive director of the Council of International Schools also currently services as Chair of the International Task Force on Child Protection. We explore issues around keeping children safe in the global mobility context in the Autumn issue of Relocate magazine to be published in September.
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