Preparing global citizens

December 2011

 

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New Zealand schools can learn from the success of Hutt International Boys’ School’s internationalisation programme. Education Review talks to DEAN RABBITT.

Gone are the days of New Zealand’s isolation from the rest of the world. Modern technology and important economic and cultural ties renders New Zealand’s geographic remoteness void. Are Kiwi schools doing enough to prepare our students to become part of a global community?

One school certainly is. Hutt International Boys’ School (HIBS) in Upper Hutt was founded in 1991 to be internationalist in outlook and character, giving students an international perspective, with a focus on the Pacific Rim.

Early attempts at internationalisation at HIBS focused, like many schools, on bringing overseas students into the school to interact and network with local students. While this did provide some degree of interaction, friendship development and knowledge sharing, HIBS director of internationalisation Dean Rabbitt developed a wider vision for internationalisation, one that focused on our local New Zealand students, preparing them for their role in the world.

The vision started by investigating the diverse nature of the local community and school body, to recognise, accept and celebrate differences as a means of preparing local students for their future when they travel or work overseas, work in New Zealand for an overseas company or company with international links, or work with people from overseas (who, at the time, represented a growing proportion of our community).

HIBS provides students with knowledge, understanding and empathy of other cultures, enabling them to work together, communicate and perform on the global stage. Internationalisation develops in students a ‘global awareness’ – an international orientation in knowledge and attitude, a respect ensuring acceptance, and tolerance for differences in people, places, customs, religions, languages and traditions.

Students at HIBS, across all year levels (years 7 to 13), are encouraged through both curricular and co-curricular initiatives to focus on the world, New Zealand’s role in it, and develop responsible international thinking. An established programme, including compulsory study of a foreign language from years 7 to 10 is in place, with measurable outcomes reported to parents. Internationalisation is recognised like all curricular subjects with a ‘First in internationalisation’ awarded in each year level at the annual prize-giving.

Curricular and co-curricular topics are evaluated annually with input from heads of departments, and the current international climate dictates relevance. Each year, a theme is set for the HIBS essay competition which is then linked where possible to the curriculum and the topic of debate at the annual HIBS Model United Nations event.

Students are offered opportunities to coordinate and lead activities and also develop leadership skills and responsibility by representing countries at regional Model United Nations and Junior Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM), and by being selected for the annual International Service trip to the Pacific. These students then report back to the student body and champion internationalisation within HIBS.

At a recent school assembly attended by the outgoing Governor-General and his wife, His Excellency Anand Satyanand acknowledged the many successes of HIBS, and made special mention of the unique and necessary internationalisation programme which contributes to the social and global awareness of graduates.

Rabbitt’s desire is for all students nationally to internationalise. “With the nature of e-communication and global trade and exchange, all New Zealanders can benefit from a deeper understanding of our trade partners, new members in our communities, tourists, those of different cultures, heritage or religion for business and social opportunities both at home and abroad.”

While many schools share Rabbitt’s vision, many could learn from the success of HIBS’ internationalisation programme to produce students prepared for the realities of an increasingly global society.