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by Vlatka Butkovic

A lot can be changed when the right initiative is recognised and backed by an entire organisation. It always takes more  than one ingredient, of course. In this case, the ingredients were fantastic teachers Sherri Spelic and Meredith Klein who  poured their heart and soul into building a region wide DEIJ initiative, Kathy Stetson, Executive Director of CEESA, who recognised the importance  of the topic and the CEESA board of Directors who backed it up.  

Meredith and Sherri proposed to host several workshops over the course of the year for educators in the CEESA region, and it turned out to be one of the most successful projects CEESA region has organised. The sessions  were engaging, eye-opening, honest and inspiring. They consistently attracted a large audience that used these  conversations to exchange experiences and to plan the next steps for their respective school  communities. 

During the first year of the Speaker Series, participants learned from Rosetta Lee, Dr Emily Meadows, Dr Darnell Fine, and Alysa Perreras. This year, the speakers have been Margaret Park, Ceci Gomez-Galvez, Nunana Nyomi, Dr. MaryAnn DeRosa, Shireen Ali-Khan, Kevin Simpson and Angeline Aow

In the next four articles, we’ll walk you through each separate topic from the DEIJ acronym: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and  Justice. The articles will be published a week apart and we hope that it will help you understand the importance of DEIJ  project and its importance for the schools in the CEESA region and that it will, hopefully, inspire you to get involved in the  next school year. 


A survey led by Anne Hilbert, Alejandra Neyra, and their colleagues at the Council of International Schools (CIS) along with  the Diversity Collaborative, George Mason University (GMU), and International Schools Services (ISS) was created with the  purpose for accreditation agencies to collect baseline data in gender equality and cultural diversity from board members,  leadership teams, heads of schools, and teachers in international schools around the world and therefore focused on gender and nationality/citizenship in the mentioned leadership teams, boards etc. The survey was distributed by  accreditation agencies to schools in April and May 2021. The results of the survey may seem familiar (please find the detailed presentation of the survey here)

  • Women are underrepresented in boards and heads of schools, while they are overrepresented among teachers.  
  • The most represented nationalities are the United States of America, Canada and the UK. Western countries are  overrepresented across all stakeholders. 
  • People of white European descent are overrepresented across all stakeholders, even though  78% of schools were not located in Europe or North America. 
  • The largest gap is present in heads of schools, who are three times more likely to be male than female, 8 times more  likely to be from a Western country and 5 times more likely to be white. 

“DEIJ meetings addressed these issues, openly sharing individual experiences and personal views, with a wonderfully  proactive approach to it.”  

Every meeting was concluded with a view of a positive shift and awareness that change starts now and its success  depends on our personal engagement. The speakers presented research and initiatives with lots of additional resources,  discussed them with the attendees and many conversations were obviously continued after the sessions, only to bring new  ideas to the next one. Such collaborative spirit is what CEESA cherishes and is proud of.

Fostering diversity  

A range of strategies and approaches are available which can encourage diversity in schools. Inclusivity, respect and  understanding across different cultures, ethnicities and identities needs to be promoted. The level of diversity in international schools in the CEESA region varies depending on a range of factors, including the location of the school, the  demographics of the local population, and the school’s practices. Therefore, the first step is understanding your school  community, where the need for encouraging diversity should be communicated in such a way that the initiative is  welcomed. Here are some of the ideas shared at the sessions, many of which already exist 

  • Provide culturally responsive pedagogy, bring awareness and promote understanding and respect for different cultures and identities.  Organise teacher and staff training on diversity and inclusion, offer language courses, teach ensure that curriculum in all courses reflects a range of diverse voices, ideas, and perspectives
  • Biases and stereotypes must be addressed, and critical thinking and empathy must be promoted. Celebrate different  perspectives, encourage students to share their own cultures and backgrounds. 
  • There are ways to provide support for students from diverse backgrounds. Recognise the successful practices in your  school and build on them, help the program grow and be the one who uses its elements in your class, too. Encourage the  students to open up about the situations they witness or found themselves in, have honest talks about it in a safe and  inclusive environment.  
  • Does your school offer mentorship or tuition programmes for students of diverse backgrounds? Is there mental health  support and counseling provided for them? Find out and get involved. 

Positive shift  

This has been another year of positive shifts made possible not only because of the healthy foundation CEESA community  built 39 years ago, but because of the critical approach to our living and working environment, the latter seen as a living organism that constantly requires adapting. Now more than ever, through virtual learning  opportunities, and with collaborative work at its best, changes can be initiated, problems challenged on a larger scale and future learning can continue to inspire positive growth.

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