In the world of higher education around the world, internalization has been a big topic. According to last year’s EAIE Barometer, a research done collectively by Europe’s leading research company, Ecorys, and EAIE to study the state of internalization in Europe, the main factors are as follows:
– Strategic partnerships
– Improved recruitment and services for international students
– Boost quality of international courses
What’s important to note is that while much discourse on internationalization have happened, the same cannot be said on preparing students to thrive in this new-age global higher education environment.
The stepped up efforts to recruit international students is something to be lauded. That said, it is in fact international students that lack the global outlook and curiosity to discover new cultures. As a result, it is not unusual that international students remain relatively segregated within their own communities as they lack confidence and language ability to take part in discussions and activities.
Domestic students – students from the host country – would need to play their part as well to take full advantage of this new opportunities. That would mean domestic students need to genuinely engage their new foreign friends to make them feel welcomed and at home. As one can imagine, it’s a big step for anyone to uproot and live in a new country. Therefore, any assistance and warm hospitality from those in host countries would certainly be welcomed and helpful to ease the onboarding journey of international students.
Students play a crucial role to potentially impact the university’s international climate in a meaningful way. Domestic and international students must have an open mind to learn other cultures, be proficient in multiple languages, engage in meaningful discourse with professors and classmates on global issues, as well as be confident enough to showcase their unique culture and viewpoints.
More important than just being international, students must be internationally-minded. Though we have seen increased efforts and initiatives to prepare students with a more global outlook, there are only few noteworthy large scale programs, apart from the International Baccalaureate, or IB.
The IB program was rolled out in the 1960s to a select group of international schools as a diploma that inculcated international understanding. It has since grown into a worldwide network of more than 4,000 schools across 147 countries, moving close to 150,000 students through to higher education annually.
Contrary to popular belief, IB programs are not only found at elite international schools; in fact, more than half of the schools with IB programs are public schools, with close to 70% of IB students continuing to pursue varsities in their home country.
The IB has long been seen as setting the go-to international standard for quality international education. Numerous research indicates a growing demand for IB graduates – with higher chances of IB students pursuing higher education and graduating, as well as having a smoother transition to university and a stronger interest in research. That said, many secondary schools also claim stellar academic preparation programs. What then makes the IB program stand out?
IB is particularly unique in that its program is built not only for academic excellence, but also building skills sets for the 21st century global student. The key skills to effectively succeed in today’s connected world includes the following – having an international outlook, social responsibility, strong ability to draw patterns and connections across multiple disciplines.
Be it a student at an international school in Taipei, or public school in a small town in Australia, IB students exhibit similarly strong traits like:
– Keen interest to learn other cultures and places
– Studied at an international syllabus thereby challenging them to take on different perspectives
– Proficiency in minimum two languages
– Understand how knowledge can evolve across cultures
– Comprehend how local issues may have a global impact
IB programs alone cannot be simply attributed for the success of high quality and global students at international universities. For the most part, students who embark on IB programs generally come from diverse backgrounds, interests, cultures and experiences. IB students love exploring the world around them and possess a strong desire to embrace new cultures and learn and grow from the global society around them.
What the IB program does well is in formalizing a working structure that offers the necessary guidance, assistance and support to nurture these students to become well-demonstrated and academically-strong students. This structure embraces challenges and diversity to allow students to solve problems creatively by incorporating wide intercultural perspectives alongside mastery of subject matter and communications.
Globally, however, not every student have access or opportunities to an IB education, for which they would succeed in such an international setting given proper preparation.
With that, schools should see this as a great opportunity to embrace and assimilate systems, policies, procedures and practices in place to promote a well-rounded international education program. This should take on a holistic viewpoint and start from the grass roots; from admissions right through to academic processes & grading systems to reflect a truly global program for the 21st century student. Only in this way, can we truly say that efforts can make for an internationally-minded, student of the world.