Selecting an international school: Tip #3 – Vision: What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Is it consistent with the actual operation of the school?
August 20, 2012
What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well? There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations. How important is finding out about the mission statement and how successfully the international school is working to achieve their mission statement? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at. So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at? Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.
Tip #3 -Vision:
What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Can anyone attest to whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school?
Whether you are a potential parent or teacher at an international school, it is important for you to inquire about the Vision of the school. You might ask yourself “what is this notion called Vision” all about and why would it be a concern. As long as the school is safe and orderly, isn’t that enough?
Vision is the core of the functionality of the school. Many international schools are privately owned and operated as a business with a mission and vision, often that of the owners. Other schools might be government entities or faith-based, both of which will likely have specific purposes for existence. Nonetheless, the vision for a school should be clearly articulated and a driving force for all decisions within the school. Furthermore, the vision should be one that is shared with a wide array of stakeholders from teachers and students to parents and community members. It also should be re-visited each year or two for refining.
Strong, effective vision statements are often succinct and able to be implanted throughout the decision-making process. A common current vision theme might include the concept of “preparing global learners for the 21st century” which can sound appealing to teachers and parents assessing international schools. Don’t we want our children to be prepared for the workforce and the competitive market?
Let’s take a look inside the school’s operation as we examine the concept of 21st century global readiness. Some easy to identify indicators of the use of the Vision for the school might include:
1. Clearly stated on the school website
2. Visible at the school
3. Included in school marketing materials
4. Articulated by school leaders in interviews and meetings
However, the true power of the Vision is embedded in decision-making and is generally harder for a parent or new hire to identify. The following questions (and many more) can reveal if the Vision indeed drives the inner workings of the school:
1. Do enrollment and hiring practices support diversity?
2. How has the curriculum expanded to prepare students for a global future?
3. How is technology financed and integrated in the curriculum and daily operations of the school?
4. Do the instructional strategies reflect on teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving for students and faculty?
5. Are multiple languages spoken at the school?
6. Are teachers trained to use best practices in their instruction?
7. Are there global partnerships for teachers and students to engage in international discussions, projects, exchanges?
8. Is there a sense of shared leadership that enables teachers and students to have leadership roles and develop leadership skills?
9. How does the school’s budget reflect a commitment to preparing 21st century global learners?
10. What achievement expectations do the leaders have for learners?
From that limited list of thoughts, one can recognize that future parents and teachers need to be creative in their inquiry process. Otherwise, the Vision might be more of “the blind leading the blind.”
On International School Community have a topic in the voting section (on the School Information part of each school’s profile page) that specifically addresses whether the school is successfully working towards its vision. The topic is called “School’s realization of its vision.” For example on the American School of Barcelona’s profile page there have been 8 votes submitted so far on this topic:
If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, please submit your votes about your school’s realization of its vision.
Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 950 members. Many of our current members have listed they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s vision statement and whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school.