Part of the mission at Nanjing International School is to inspire international mindedness. Having been involved in international education for over 20 years international mindedness is something I have devoted much time to promoting. It is also an incredibly elusive term to pin down. Many people will be familiar with E.Hall's Cultural Iceberg Model of Culture (see image) which uses the analogy of the iceberg to explain that culture is a mixture of the external part of culture that is easily visible at the tip of the iceberg, such as clothes, arts, food etc and the internal which is invisible and far larger, values, thought patterns etc.
Equally the works of Geert Hofstede summarised in the You Tube video below are familiar to many as he defines 6 criteria in which he feels cultures differ. These being:
1) How they handle inequality (Power Distance)
2) Dealing with the unknown (Uncertainty avoidance)
3) Dependence on others (Individualism v Collectivism)
4) Gender roles (Masculinity v Femininity)
5) Time perspective (Long to Short term orientation)
6) Dealing with natural drives (Indulgence v Restraint)
The International Baccalaureate Organization in developing its Learner Profile came up with a list of 10 characteristics that they feel represent an internationally minded person. However in the recent review of the Learner Profile (IB learner profile review April 2013) showed that 24% of respondents felt that it was less effective in achieving this ambitious goal.
Given this complexity in understanding cultures what are we actually demanding of ourselves and hoping to inspire in our students when we aim to be internationally minded? How do we ensure that we avoid the pitfalls of only viewing the tip of the iceberg of culture or of viewing international mindedness an alternative term for moral relativism?
Perhaps a more useful approach is to accept that international mindedness is hard to define but that it is something we know when we see it. I'll therefore kick off with a few answers of my own to the statement : I know I'm being internationally minded when.. and hopefully people will use the comments option to add their own. together I'm sure we can can come up with a fascinating list reflecting the internationally diverse selection of people who read this blog.
I know I'm being internationally minded when...
I actively listen to the ideas of others.
I feel slightly uncomfortable with the actions of others and want to understand why I feel uncomfortable.
I question whether a viewpoint I hold is culturally specific.
I am open to exploring new ways of doing things
I try to communicate across language barriers
I accept that people will view my actions differently depending on their cultural backgrounds
I seek to understand the point of view of others even though I may ultimately end up disagreeing with it
I realise how little I know at am excited by how much chance I still have to learn