International mindedness or intercultural mindedness?
Is it easier to practice or “do” one than the other?
Can one assess international mindedness more easily than intercultural mindedness, or indeed at all?
International or intercultural: both terms sit at the centre of international schooling. They are used synonymously but is there one that is more appropriate? In a recent research report conducted by the University of Bath, commissioned by the International Baccalaureate Organisation, on international mindedness, it became very clear that the term “international mindedness” was contested. Over the sample group of schools that were examined by the University of Bath research team, the term “international mindedness” was defined in a broad set of ways. It was framed as a way of acting, a way of thinking, a mind-set and a way of living, to name a few examples. A common thread that emerged in what the sample schools revealed was that the conceptualisation of “international mindedness” was intensely relational; a concept forged in relationships.
I do think that the interconnectedness, interdependencies, and leading people to think less in terms of international mindedness, and global mind-set, and more in terms of being able to relate to and understand other human beings, and their perspectives, and their point of views. [Principal, Colarado (DP)]‘So, for two people to be internationally minded, they both kind of need to interact.’ [MYP Y9 final years student focus group, Danube (MYP)]
(Hacking, Blackmore, Bullock, Bunnell, Donnelly, Martin 2016: 40)
Parents also centred their definitions on the notion of international mindedness as an ultimately relational concept.
Being aware that one’s own culture provides just one perspective on the world and that other people think differently. No one world view is the correct one… being excited by the differences. [Parent, Mekong (DP)]
(Hacking, Blackmore, Bullock, Bunnell, Donnelly, Martin 2016:40)
“International mindedness” was determined to be something ultimately based on “reaching out” and “reflecting in”. In the report, “reaching out” was often described in terms of listening to others, understanding others, valuing other perspectives, respecting others, not judging others, accepting others and being open-minded and open to other perspectives. “Reflecting in” referred to both staff and students knowing themselves and their cultures. This meant knowing one’s own culture and mother-tongue, having a sense of one’s own values, interests and opinions, as well as an awareness of one’s own abilities and weaknesses, and an acceptance of one’s past and background.
I suspect this is where the idea that “international mindedness” might be replaced by “intercultural mindedness” (or words to that effect) comes from. The term “international” has connotations of the “nation-state”, of being related to the idea of polities engaging with one another. Extending this to the notion of “mindedness”, which could be also understood to mean “disposition” or “inclination”, and then positioning it as a significant anchor point for international schooling makes for too narrower a claim for the purpose of education in this day and age. Is it redundant to perceive (one of) the purpose(s) of international education as the promotion of international mindedness, which ultimately is referring to the interaction of nations (as opposed to the people of those nations), at a point in world history that might be identified as transnational?
The view being put forward here is that perhaps international education is now intercultural learning by another name. In a world that might be currently characterised as transnational, when one calls for greater international mindedness perhaps what is being referenced is the interaction of people. In other words, international education is about understanding how the world interacts with itself not just on the level of the nation-state but, more critically, on the level of the people who make up the different constituent cultures of that nation-state, and potentially others at the same time.
Elisabeth Barratt Hacking, Chloe Blackmore, Kate Bullock, Tristan Bunnell, Michael Donnelly, Sue Martin (2016) The International Mindedness Journey: School Practices for Developing and Assessing International Mindedness Across the IB Continuum Department of Education, University of Bath.