International Schools as a Vehicle for Equity and Access

DEIJ Speaker Series

with Nunana Nyomi

#CEESAreport by Vlatka Butkovic

The suggestively calm and informative approach by Nunana Nyomi to the difficult topics of economic equity, racial diversity and acceptance of various groups (both with students and staff) in international schools makes yet another fantastic workshop organised by the DEIJ group for CEESA region.

Special thanks to Sherri Spelic and Meredith Klein who are dedicating so much of their time to organise the work of the DEIJ group for CEESA and who have made these workshops possible!

During two 90-minute workshops held on January 23, and again on January 30, 2023, important issues were addressed and openly discussed:

  •  What would make international schools more accessible?
  • What barriers need to be removed in order to achieve economic equity in international schools?
  • Who does you school serve?
  • Present situation with tuition fees and the possible solution that may be provided by a different approach to tuitions
  • Commitment to social justice and courage to be the voice for a positive shift in your school
  • National and ethnical (non-)diversity in the composition of educators and leadership
  • Has the curriculum adapted to prepare global citizens (vs. preparing them for “white” culture)?

Nunana led through these topics with an encouraging voice, helping everyone at the workshop to openly share their experience, discuss their views, the situations they come across, and challenges they face daily. Working collaboratively in breakout rooms, as well as on polls and shared google slides, the conclusions that were reached showed that this group was rather coherent in its views and saw similar potential solutions for the circumstances in their schools; the circumstances that need to be addressed, challenged and, hopefully, changed.

The voice of all the conversations was nothing but positive and determined that change can be made, boosted by Nunana’s examples of successful changes implemented in US higher education.

Does your school have any commitment to economic justice?

58% of the workshop attendees responded to the poll with a No. From the very beginning, it was obvious that economic equity is a burning issue. The discussion was then moved to the breakout rooms, where attendees were asked to share ideas on what responsibilities they think their school should have towards economic inequity. They agreed that one of the first steps that schools could take would be different approach to scholarships. Although schools already provide them, they are still not enough, do not ensure that economically challenged students can pay for school trips and some other costs that happen during the year, and, in the end, the schools remain elitist.

International Schools Centred on Global Citizenship and International Mindedness

International Education educates a far more international population, and that was noted as another issue that requires greater attention. It was interesting to see that regardless of the international mindedness of the schools, and the agenda to be connected with local communities, still around 30% of the school staff come from the USA, 16% come from Canada, and 12% come from the UK. Other statistics that Nunana shared were also striking:

  • There are 2.2 times more teachers from Western than from non-western countries.
  • There is also a striking number of white (49%) and non-white teachers (source provided by the Speaker: International Schools Services ISS).
  • There are 3 times more leadership team members from western than from non-western countries, and 74% of them are white.

“The international school culture in which we were raised is generally synonymous with “white” culture—the assimilation of it and consequent “othering” of everything non-white. We are realising increasingly how our global education systems were founded on colonial values, on Western dominance and, inevitably, White Supremacy and racism, specifically anti- Blackness.”

Xoai David and Clara Reynolds, Founders of the Organization to Decolonize International Schools

Why Does It Matter?

Let’s share some of the comments in the chat during the workshops, that will best illustrate the value of this workshop – and all the work DEIJ group has been doing for the CEESA region.

“Bringing these articles and ideas to my school’s DEIJ committee for ideas and future projects.”

“Take away: we need to have ‘economic equity’ language and conversation.”

“I could have asked the leadership to allow local staff children into after school activities, on behalf of the local employees.”

“Start discussions about opening our school services (library, gym) to the local community or to find a way to be more financially equitable to local staff.”

“Be brave to have hard conversations about this. Thank you for the very thought provoking session today.”

“Our school spends 10% of its annual revenue to help support the Tuition Reduction Program for talented students with needs to attend the school. The tuition reduction program is intended to provide outstanding local students with a proven record of scholarship and citizenship, who can prove a financial need, the opportunity to attend and enrich our school.”

“I wonder if it’s possible to decrease the importance of English and maybe increase importance of non-verbal reasoning… If that would help the economic equity for the scholarship seekers…”

“The cutoff for the scholarship is the English level, but in my country English doesn’t come for free.”
“I wonder how challenging it was for folks to answer the question regarding a school’s responsibility. I definitely struggled.”

Some additional resources shared by the speaker inclusion-budget/ schools

Read articles written by Nunana Nyomi perpetuates-structural-racism-and-anti-racism-is-the-solution

“Inequality dampens investment, and hence growth, by fuelling economic, financial, and political instability” IMF, 2015

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