“No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive” – Mahatma Gahndi
The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) states that intercultural awareness is concerned with “developing students’ attitudes, knowledge and skills as they learn about their own and others’ social, national and ethnic cultures. By encouraging students to consider multiple perspectives, intercultural awareness not only fosters understanding and respect, but may also lead to empathy.” Further, the IB mission statement calls for students across the world to understand that “other people, with their differences, can also be right.” Thus, learning about ourselves and others is clearly a vital aim of the IB Middle Years Programme.
What are we doing to make that happen at Fairfield Middle School? Well, as a school that seeks to prepare all of its students for what Thomas Friedman calls the “flat world,” we take this mission quite seriously. As we prepare your child for the jobs of the future, we infuse our classroom experiences with 21st century skills like collaboration and teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, and the use of technology.
The greatest opportunities we provide for your child to develop intercultural awareness take place during classroom experiences and during service towards others. More succinctly, intercultural awareness is borne from the pursuit of lifelong learning and lifelong serving.
In the classroom, students engage in the study of their own culture, as well as the culture of others. In language classes, health activities, debates of political issues, discussions of literature, experiments in science, real-world math applications, problem solving through the use of technology, and the creation of art, students learn about their culture and how it fits into the world around them. They learn that their choices affect others, and that human ingenuity leads to creations which have both positive and negative impacts.
Learning to speak another language gives students another method for developing intercultural awareness. Language provides access to another culture. We learn about other cultures by studying their core beliefs, as seen in their history, their traditions, and their leisure activities. We also learn about ourselves and others by travelling abroad. When we enter into an unfamiliar culture, we also learn about how we interact with something that is different from ourselves. We examine what we value within our own culture. Because travelling abroad can be cost prohibitive, you really don’t need to leave your own backyard to learn about other cultures. We can take part in simple activities such as shopping in a Latino, Asian, or Indian market. We can explore world news outlets like cnn.com, bbc.co.uk, or france24.com.