International schools in Nepal Are they really international?


Dr. Mana Prasad Wagley

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It is very good to see the signboards of many private schools in Kathmandu as they coin the term “international” to introduce themselves. Thanks to the founder principals for making their school international at least in the signboards. Unfortunately, these signboards can easily cheat parents by misguiding them about the schools. The question here is: are they really international schools? Do they know the meaning of international schools at all? Most of the founder principals or the founders of these private schools are Master degree holders. They should know the meaning of their own school before they give the name. These days, there are much protests going on against the English names of Nepali schools. Now, we have to teach lessons to these so-called international schools of Nepal about what an international school is. One can have business of his/her own and our government has allowed them to do business in education too. In the name of private businesses, the schools have been so immoral that they think they can do anything they like. The government is also of the same lame thought. Neither does it monitor nor does it think about anything before giving them the approval. One irony to mention here is important. Recently, the Higher Secondary Education Board constituted a task force to monitor the schools it has given affiliation to. At the time of giving affiliation, it compromises the criteria mentioned in the regulations and conducts such drama of monitoring schools and gives reports like “these schools do not fulfill this and this criteria…etc..” Does not this sound ridiculous? 

Now let us turn again on international schools. As mentioned in the glossary of international education, international schools refer to as “Schools offering a curriculum different from the national curriculum of the country in which they are located, and that, as a deliberate policy, attract students temporarily residing in a foreign nation to be educated together— often characterized by a commitment to international education philosophy.” If we analyze this definition and try to associate it with our international schools there will be no match. Similarly the Wikipedia defines “An International School is loosely defined as a school that promotes international education, in an international environment, either by adopting an international curriculum such as that of the InternationalBaccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge International Examinations, or by following a national curriculum different from that of the country the school is located in”. These two definitions look similar and they emphasize running the institutions with a curriculum different from the local one. Let us look at another example. At a conference of international librarians in Italy in 2009, they came up with many criteria for an international school. Some of them are “transferability of the student’s education across international schools, a moving population (higher than in state schools or public schools), multinational and multilingual student body, an international curriculum, international accreditation, a transient and multinational teacher population, non-selective student enrollment, and usually English or bilingual as the language of instruction”. In our so called international schools only one criterion is met i.e., teaching in English. 

Not everyone agrees with what others say. Frank Anderson, Superintendent Emeritus of Colegio Internacional de Carabobo in Venezuela believes, “It’s not where the students come from, but how the educational program is delivered; if the school’s mission is to deliver an international education through a curriculum such as the IB and to produce global citizens then it’s an international school.” Although he does not agree with all the criteria, his focus is also on international curricula. Supporting this view Connie Buford, Regional Educational officer for the Office of Overseas Schools at the U.S. State Department argues, “As obvious as it may seem, the exact definition of an international school is really hard to pin down.” He further says that many schools are using an international curriculum even if they’re not using the standardized one like IB or Cambridge; if they are teaching international culture, history and perspectives that can make them international.

Coming back to our own private schools again, the most important question is: How international are they in the context of curricula, students, accreditation, and assessment procedures? It may be equally true that they try to prepare their students at par to the international standard. But, the question here again arises: “Which international context are they talking about?” Are they following the standard of TIMMS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Studies) or PISA (Program in International Student Assessment) or Cambridge or IB or what? If our schools make efforts to meet those criteria and proceed towards internationalization of their education then only will it be pertinent to claim their schools as international. An equally important fact is that the MoE of our country should allow them to do that before they claim themselves international.

Talking international is easier than doing it. Teaching in English medium alone cannot make a school international. 

Dr. Wagley is an Educationist

(Source: The Himalayantimes)