Questions are a great way to explore. Whilst we always ask “What something is”, we can also learn a lot by asking “what something isn’t?” The same is just the right means to explore the word “International Mindedness”. At the outset, the word just feels very similar to what we say in India – “Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”- World is but a family! Let’s try to unpack this word, its origin and its purpose.
What is International Mindedness?
It is natural that we connect International mindedness to being a person of open mind, who tries to understand and respect other cultures, their identity, language and religion. But it is a word that can be compared to an iceberg in an ocean! Just like an iceberg which might appear small from outside but has a larger part hidden within the ocean, International mindedness has a deeper meaning. It is deeply connected to the goals of International education that focus on grooming Global citizens who have a global mindset and promote world peace.
Origin and evolution:
If we look history, this word has originated from a deeper purpose. It finds its roots in the thought process of early philosophers whose ideas have progressively shaped the education system to what it is today. Today the system of education doesn’t limit learning to memorization of facts but moves learners beyond to critical thinking and analysis through constructivist approach. The impact of advances in transportation and communication industry combined with globalisation have led to broadening the goals of international education to developing international understanding, language learning and understanding the human rights. In a highly interconnected and complex world that we live in today, the aims of education have extended from a traditional approach where the focus was more on the cognitive intelligence to a more progressive approach where international education seeks to enable development of a holistic individual with due focus on the affective domain.
Why focus on Affective domain?
We are able to interact with people of various countries and cultures with more ease. The experience feels extra better when we can greet the other person in their language and can build a channel of communication. This ability to connect and interact can be further cemented with our drive to build better interpersonal channels and that’s where our affective domain plays a key role. Affective domain includes the emotions, feelings and attitudes that play an essential role in the way we respond to and navigate interpersonal relationships. Demonstrating attitudes like empathy, compassion, respect are a key to developing intercultural understanding in a deeply interconnected world. It helps learners to develop tolerance towards the differences we have as cultures and have an open mind to different ways of thinking and approaching situations or problems.
A deeper appreciation of cultural diversity of our countries and our world is key to enable learners to discover all the multiple perspectives that arise from such rich diversity. Thus a progressive model of international education incorporates curricula that promotes intercultural dialogue and helps students discover the interdependence of nations. It also encourages students to move from traditional consideration of national perspective alone to not just understanding the national perspective but also examining multiple perspectives of varied nations and cultures.
IM as a problem solving tool:
Today, multiple global issues that we are facing starting from Global warming to aggression between nations can only be solved by examining the issues through the lens of cultural implications and by applying critical thinking skills. This can be helpful in examining the issues from multiple dimensions and analysing the problem by applying varied perspectives to propose the most suitable solution. There could never be a straight solution to any problem that we face today as a world. Inarguably, these problems need uncompromised cooperation among different nations that can work with each other by adopting an open mind. International mindedness must be looked at as an attitude to adopt, in order to think beyond political barriers and national interests and adopt better means of collaboration and cooperation to solve problems.
Interdisciplinary approach to International mindedness:
Learning a new language and travel undeniably are the best ways to develop international mindedness. It provides first-hand experience to people about all aspects of culture, lifestyle, beliefs and values of the place. Not all of us might be as privileged to travel as much, attributing to various reasons. Reading and watching the Travel and Living shows could also be a good means to this end. Such books and shows are comforting, inspiring and satisfying in their own way. They are a perfect window for people who may not be able to travel as much to explore other cultures. They provide us an insight not just into differences between the cultures but also the commonalities or similarities between cultures, which might just be a great way to make connections. This is very similar to the constructivist approach because this is giving us an opportunity to build on our previous knowledge or experience. This does arouse curiosity and love for travel and inspire us to connect with people or experiences that can help us delve deeper into it.
However, if we think about what we intend to do in the classroom to build international mindedness. How and what we can do, matters. Small or intermittent efforts are not enough! Something like learning a Spanish song in a music class, is not just enough to develop international mindedness. Interdisciplinary approach to our curriculum might just be the most appropriate means to develop international mindedness. Interdisciplinary approach combined with content that is contextualized reinforces the fact that we will be able to make better connections to learning when it is embedded in a real world context combined with the approach that encourages learners to work across the boundaries of knowledge of different disciplines, examine multiple perspectives and create new knowledge in the process.
International mindedness in classroom:
- Adopting an attitude of international mindedness needs consistent and conscious effort. It is a process that must adopt a complete learning lifecycle which includes explore international mindedness through multiple approaches, make meaning, practice the necessary skills and attitudes and reflect.
- Identifying the curricular elements that can help learners explore global issues, aspects of cultural identity and diversity. Through these explorations, learners must be encouraged to engage in conversations that help them explore multiple perspectives. These engagements must be carefully planned to promote critical thinking and analysis of global issues through interdisciplinary lens so that learners apply not just their cognitive domain but also apply their affective domain to offer solutions that are meaningful and acceptable beyond individual interests or personal perspective. This can also promote the thinking that dialogue can help resolve differences better over war and violence.
- Providing an access to multiple languages can also be a great means for learners to learn about various cultures.
- Celebration of events like International mother language day, festivals across various religions and geographical barriers and discussing the reason for celebrations and underlying values and beliefs can be a great way to promote intercultural understanding and respect of diverse cultures.
- Promoting exploration of literature from different cultures/nations can give a great insight into the nations’ history, their culture and their point of view so that learners can extend their thinking and deepen their knowledge, show empathy and adopt an open mind.
Clearly, there is no one way of going to develop international mindedness. It is open for interpretation and it is a concept that every individual builds on based on their own experience, learning and engagement. There undoubtedly is more need for individuals and communities that are internationally minded to be able to live in a sustainable and peaceful world. After all, we all have just one home, EARTH!
IB Educator, Teacher trainer
Former PYP coordinator, Silver Oaks International School, Bangalore