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Do all international schools offer an international education?

Small changes can create big results. Ask Kaye MacIver and Anita Burgess, who by adjusting their teaching to cater to students struggling with English as a first language they recognised and responded to a major shift taking place in international education. A development they said they would not have identified or appreciated without deeply studying the sector for the past two years through the Master’s in International Education degree programme by King’s College London.

  • King's College London
  • King's College London

“It has made me think; is an adapted curriculum the best [way]?,” Mrs MacIver, Assistant Head of Secondary at the British Vietnamese International School in Hanoi said. Mrs Maclver also said she wants to design a curriculum that works for her students.

“I need to see how I can support them more effectively in the classroom. This is what parents want from our schools.”

Ms Burgess, an English teacher at The British School of Beijing Sanlitun, said she saw a similar issue in her classroom. After undertaking the master’s programme, she is also focussing on how to better teach her students English as an additional language.

“I have changed my every day teaching to include teaching an enhanced set of vocabulary specifically for EAL learners,” Ms Burgess said.

“I now have a greater understanding of their needs.”

The opportunity to study the master’s course is offered exclusively to all Nord Anglia Education employees, regardless if they are part of the teaching staff, as part of ongoing professional development studies. A two-year course, the MA International Education combines theory, evidence and opportunities for participants to share and learn from one another’s experience of working in international schools.

It also encourages them to rethink both the challenges and prospects they face within the context of technological advancements, cultural diversity and globalisation – three key areas that affect the education offering international schools must provide as the demographics and needs of students entering NAE schools change.

Nord Anglia Education chief executive Andrew Fitzmaurice said the response from staff who have completed the course was so positive he decided to enrol himself into the programme as part of the third cohort.

Not only did he want to experience a core part of NAE’s professional development offering, he said he wanted to better understand and appreciate what teachers experience too.

“Any broader understanding of the environment you’re operating in is going to be helpful,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.

Having acquired a large amount of practical experience in his role over the past 16 years, Mr Fitzmaurice said studying topics that delve into how the curricula is designed and what skills will be required by 21st century learners, has helped him consider the rapid growth of the international education sector and what NAE can do to help train teachers to keep pace with it.

“It’s thinking about what we are doing to make sure we not only have the right teachers, but how are we helping to develop them,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.

Jason Ng, a mathematics teacher at the British International School of Boston agrees.   

“The course has made me understand more about the students and families we cater for, whether they are expatriates, locals or globally mobile families,” he said.

Those who apply for the master’s must study alongside their jobs, which includes participation in online readings and activities up to 10 hours a week, as well as webinars that are scheduled together with other staff in similar time zones. Two four-day face-to-face residentials also take place, giving the cohort from various NAE schools and offices the opportunity to meet.

“You can’t deny the benefits of being able to meet and interact with other Nord Anglia employees across the globe. I have been able to learn more about international schools simply by talking to colleagues about their own experiences within the organisation,” Ms Burgess said.

“I met so many inspiring people. People I will always be in contact with,” Mrs MacIver said.

Ms MacIver, Ms Burgess and Mr Ng are part of the first cohort of this International Education master’s programme. The entire group, which achieved a 100 per cent pass rate from the course, will be celebrating their graduation at a ceremony in London this month.

Meanwhile, a third group of students are already into the swing of things, having successfully completed their first semester and their first residentials event at KCL last month.

Also in this cohort with Mr Fitzmaurice is George Ghantous, NAE’s Regional Managing Director for Europe and the Middle East region.

He said the first three months of the course has already helped him to recognise the complexities of a school operation and how to better support school staff — given that the demographics of students and families are changing.

“The experience teachers go through as they embark on an international education career, it’s quite an eye-opener, they need a lot of support,” Mr Ghantous said.

“They may feel homesick for example, so it’s good to pair them with buddies to answer their questions and to try and make them feel at home as much as possible.”