International Education and National Education - Can They Co-Exist?

By Nisbet, Isabel | The International Schools Journal, April 2014 | Go to article overview

International Education and National Education - Can They Co-Exist?


Nisbet, Isabel, The International Schools Journal


'Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained and corrupted? ... This question is concerned with the reconciliation of national loyalty, or patriotism, with superior devotion to the things which unite men in common ends, irrespective of national political boundaries.' (Dewey, 1918)

'Educated side by side, without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans.' (Monnet, 1953)

'All young Australians ... [should] become ... responsible global and local citizens.' (From Goal 2 of the Australian National Curriculum)

Once upon a time 'international education' was thought of as the specialised province of 'international schools', catering for students from different nationalities. Increasingly, however, it is seen as relevant to all young people - including those being educated in national state systems - preparing them to play a part in a globalised economy.

However, 'national education' also appears to be on the increase, with many countries publishing educational strategies or national curricula which explicitly aim to make their young people patriotic citizens. Many countries want the best of both worlds - to develop, in the words of the Australian National Curriculum, 'responsible global and local citizens'. Is that possible, or desirable?

This paper will start by examining some of the terms used in the debate. It will then consider whether the two are necessarily in conflict, and suggest an approach where each can inform and improve the other.

International education

When considering what is meant by 'international education', it is helpful to distinguish it from 'international schools'. The label 'international school' has been used to describe a range of arrangements:

A school run by an international organisation, which has schools in more than one country.

A school designed to bring together students from different countries. This was part of the philosophy of the European Schools, where pupils from different EU member states would, in Jean Monnet's words, be 'educated side by side', and of the United [World] College movement (Sutcliffe, 2012).

A school following a curriculum or preparing for qualifications obtained in more than one country (for example, programmes leading to Cambridge International qualifications or the International Baccalaureate). There is no contradiction if all or most of the students in an 'international school', in this sense, are of the same nationality.

A school intended primarily for children of citizens of one overseas country, often teaching in that country's language and offering programmes and qualifications in the overseas country's national system. Such schools are perhaps best described as 'overseas' schools, rather than 'international' schools;

A school following the national curriculum of the country in which it is situated, but particularly emphasising 'international' curriculum content and experiences. In this sense, quite a lot of schools - whether run by the state or by private organisations - might wish to describe themselves as 'international', while some might be selected to give this particular emphasis.

The last of these categories brings out the difference between international schools and international education: the latter is about what and how the students learn, whoever they are. In this sense, state and mono-ethnic schools can offer an international education.

It has become increasingly clear to organisations such as Cambridge International Examinations, offering international qualifications across the world, that the growing demand for our programmes is less from expats looking for schooling for their children that will qualify them for a UK/US university, and more from the burgeoning indigenous middle classes in countries such as India and Indonesia, where parents want an education for their children that will equip them for the best jobs in companies that operate across the world. …

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