Tag Archives: international schools

Identity and the Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience

TCK Image for blog post

How would you identify yourself if you grew up in several different places? This is the first in a series of posts about the TCK experience. Third Culture Kids spend part of their childhood outside their parent or home culture. In this post, I’ll take a look at how young adults who grew up as TCKs, understand their identity construction.

“I moved to three different schools and in each one I actively changed my identity. Not to fit in, but to make the transition easier.”

 

We identify ourselves in a way that is complex and fluid. We like to take comfort in the security of defining ourselves and others in absolutes; but it’s really not easy to pin down essentialist ideas. We are multifaceted and don’t always fit into confined pigeonholes. We change over time and in different social environments. The way that we now exist as part of a globalised world, adds layers of complexity to identity construction.

“… identities are never unified and, in late modern times, increasingly fragmented and fractured; never singular but multiply across different, often intersecting and antagonistic, discourses, practices and positions.”

Stuart Hall

I interviewed three young adults who have migrated across nations and cultures as children- A Danish national, an Australian and a Dutch citizen of mixed Dutch and Mexican ethnicity. They grew up as Third Culture Kids (TCKs), young people who followed their parents as they worked in different countries. I wondered how these former TCKs, now adults, identity themselves. Did they change themselves as they changed their perception of ‘home’?

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.23.41 PM

Pablo Picasso: Girl before a Mirror

The interviewees made it clear that defining themselves is complicated. “It’s not simple”, a former TCK stated, “I would be a completely different person if I had grown up in one place”. And when asked if it is more difficult to work out your identity as a TCK, the interviewees answered yes, “It’s harder than the average person. I know what I’m not and I know what I am, but it’s not so clear-cut” and “I’ve changed a lot in different countries”. The TCK adults agreed that they created their own identity and this self-construction occurred in different contexts, “I moved to three different schools and in each one I actively changed my identity. Not to fit in, but to make the transition easier.”

 

I was also interested in how their identity relates to nations. In 1916, Dewey stated that the late 19th Century emphasis on nationalism and nation building passed onto education. This tendency has been maintained in education systems, where children are taught to be good national citizens. What about Third Culture Kids who grow up in several nations?

 

“I can still feel Australian but I think a lot of that is just because I held onto it. ”

 

There was an acknowledgement from the interviewees that nation and identity are consciously manipulated, “ Yeah I’m Australian. Not fully Australian… but it is the part of my identity that I wanted to cling onto… I made an effort to make contact with other Australians. I can still feel Australian but I think a lot of that is just because I held onto it”. The Danish TCK adult felt very connected to the nation, attributed to spending a longer significant period of childhood in Denmark, but at the same time questioned the essentialism of national identity, “I still feel like I’m 100% Danish…. I don’t know what it means to be Danish…Are you Danish because you like Danish food? It really depends on where you are from in Denmark”. And when it comes to choosing a passport identity, it’s a pragmatic decision “I have a Dutch passport because it’s easier.”

 

Identity is evidently something that happens discursively, in flux, and can happen in different ways, even while identifying others. We tell stories about ourselves in forming our ever-shifting identity. These narratives are multiple, stitched together and altered in different contexts. For the adult TCKs interviewed, their identities have moved and narratives changed in their many contexts.

References:

Dewey, J. (2004). Democracy and Education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York, N.Y.: Dover Publications.

Hall, S & Du Gay, P. (Eds.). (2015). Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under global citizenship

Are international schools creating global citizens?

There are different interpretations of a global citizen, so what exactly are international schools promising when they claim to be educating for global citizenship? Do international schools want to instill a moral responsibility for global issues or give children of the mobile elite the capital for a head start in a competitive world?

8

The theory of cosmopolitanism underlies the definition of the global citizen. Humans have been debating what a cosmopolitan citizen is since the Hellenistic period. We can agree that the cosmopolitan individual is one who engages meaningfully with different cultures and feels at home in the world. Cosmopolitanism is the ability to balance identity in both the local and public spheres. Yet there are 2 main types of cosmopolitanism being articulated today in the context of neo-liberal globalization. One is an ethical feeling of responsibility and social justice. The other is a pragmatic economic global competence. Which understandings of cosmopolitanism do international schools choose?

concentric-circles

Concentric circles of identity and allegiance as promoted by Professor Martha Nussbaum

image from http://www.rsablogs.org.uk/2013/education/world/

 International schools are usually made up of diverse multicultural student populations, so is that enough to give students cross cultural competence, to make then internationally minded global citizens? Third culture kids have the potential to be global citizens according to both interpretations of cosmopolitanism but it requires more from international school educators. The hegemony of international schools can help children of the mobile elite transition from one country to another. Yet, by supporting this form of global education, students avoid contact with profound difference, simultaneously becoming more global and more isolated (Dolby & Rahman 2008).  Third culture kids travel in a tunnel of privilege. In essence, many are just tourists (Cambridge & Thompson 2001). 

Indeed these children are more open to different cultures. Research shows that exposure to other students and staff from different parts of the world can increase cultural awareness traits and enhance the ability to compromise (Hayden, Rancic & Thompson 2000). However, teaching staff is drawn mainly from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, limiting the exposure to non-western knowledge (Shaklee & Merz 2012).

Regardless of curriculum, international schools need to do more to encourage active global citizenship. Teaching and learning with truly global perspectives (not just western liberal ones) will allow students to see how they can impact the world through their actions. Educators need to gauge if compulsory action such as CAS programs in the IB curriculum actually foster social justice or just tick boxes. Schools could begin to look outside of the teaching staff to educate students for global citizenship (Marshall 2007). It’s up to teachers and school administrators to give students opportunities to become advocates for the world and the issues that it faces.

be the change

image from http://www.voicesofyouth.org/

Non-government organizations promote moral cosmopolitanism and active citizenship. Here are 5 ideas for improving active citizenship at your school:

1. Look at the ladder of youth voice and rubric by Oxfam sociologist, Adam Fletcher. What kind of action does your school initiate?

ladder2011-1

http://www.freechild.org/ladder.htm

2. Organize a school assembly or school project

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/school-projects

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/whole-school/activities-assemblies-and-learning-days

3. Chose a day on the calendar of action for a class or school project

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/global-citizenship/promoting-action/calendar-of-action

4. Become a Fairtrade school.

http://www.fairtrade.org.uk

5. Start a UNICEF club at your school

http://www.unicef.org.au/Educational-Resources/Students.aspx

References:

Cambridge, J. & Thompson, J. (2001) ‘A Big Mac and a Coke’: Internationalism and Globalism as Contexts for International Education’. Centre for the Study of Education in an International Context, University of Bath http://people.bath.ac.uk/edsjcc/intedandglobaldoc.pdf

Dolby, N. & Rahman, A (2008) Research in International Education. Review of Educational Research, 78 (3), 676-726

Hayden, M., Rancic, B. & Thompson, J. (2000) Being international: student and teacher perceptions from international schools. Oxford Review of Education 26 (1) 107-123

Marshall, H. (2007) Global education in perspective: fostering a global dimension in an English secondary school. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37 (3) 355-374

Shaklee, B. & Merz, S. (2012) Intercultural communication competency for international educators, International Schools Journal, 32 (1) 13-20

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized