Andy Homden has spent most of his professional life working in international schools around the world. Here he reflects on the rapid growth of international K-12 education and the influence UWA has had on his work. When I started the M.Ed course at UWA in 1990, my career had been somewhat unusual, taking me from a city comprehensive in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK to a large secondary international school in Hong Kong and then to Guildford Grammar School in the Swan Valley. I taught history, coached sport, and loved my work.
The context of teaching
In the process, I had become a convert to the idea of teaching and its importance, but I was aware that I was ready to learn more. A teaching life needs constant reflection to make sense of how students learn best. There are so many variables which are constantly changing, and as soon as I started at UWA’s Faculty of Education, I was conscious of a special kind of privilege. Being back on campus, albeit on a part time basis, was stimulus in itself – and what a setting UWA was: breathtakingly beautiful, more outdoors than in, and exuding ideas.
A demanding course
However, reinventing myself as a student was more difficult than anticipated. Course tutors David Carter and Keith Punch were demanding. They did not flinch from communicating the standards expected to a group of experienced teachers, and telling us when our work was not up to scratch. Didn’t they know that I had had to rush down from the Swan Valley after a day in the classroom and on the sports pitch with the kids? However, our group got the hang of it, and it was important work. To David I owe what grasp I have of curriculum design and to Keith, a sociologist, any insight into the cultural and social context of education. I was indebted to both for a growing understanding of educational change as a process. However, as we worked our way through each unit, I had no idea of how important their “big ideas”, which have remained to me to this day, were going to become in my life.
Education and globalisation
Having taught in Hong Kong I found the idea of returning to the international scene appealing. In the early 90s the children of expatriate professionals in the developing world were relatively small in number. Embassies (normally British and American) had started a number of primary schools in developing countries, and a few of the American foundations had set up high schools. The Brits normally went home to board after primary school, and the Aussies either went to the American international high schools, or returned home, again to board. However, all that was about to change. The number of expat children expanded rapidly through the 90s as the pace of globalisation accelerated and schools grew in response.
My first job on leaving Perth was as Head of Secondary at the British International School in Jakarta, which was just about to commit to a programme of expansion, build a new campus and open a secondary section. Everything that I had learned at UWA under David and Keith was immediately relevant in the multicultural context of a growing international school. I was particularly grateful to Keith for his ongoing guidance, advice and visits as he continued to supervise my dissertation from a distance.
The rapid growth of International education
The new British school in Jakarta was in the vanguard of a surge of international education, with which I was to be closely involved for the next 25 years. As they grew in number, international schools began to offer a wider range of curricula. The various levels of the International Baccalaureate now serve the needs of many. Although the British and American style of international programmes still predominate, there is an increasing number of influential Australian International schools. Canadian, Indian, New Zealand, Russian, Chinese and Singaporean international schools have all followed. Australian expertise has been heavily involved with the design and build of several projects with which I was involved – Leighton Engineering in Kuala Lumpur and the Melbourne Office of Beca Carter in Jakarta. I have also been very lucky to have worked with Early Years designers, Prue and John Walsh, from Queensland, who installed play areas in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Istanbul.
Growth has quickened and is still accelerating. In May 2015, research conducted by the International Schools Consulting Group revealed that, for the first time, the number of students in international schools has exceeded four million, accommodated by more than seven thousand schools. The children, however, attending modern international schools today, are by no means all expatriate – quite the reverse. Recent growth has largely come about because governments around the world – for example, in Malaysia – now allow their own citizens to attend international schools. This trend looks set to continue, a development that is of significance not only for the countries themselves, but also for universities like UWA as they seek to attract the brightest and the best from international schools– and send out teachers to work in them.
Andy trained in the UK, took his Masters at UWA in the early 90s, and has worked in international education for most of his career. He is now CEO of Consilium Education, an international educational consultancy which also publishes International Teacher Magazine (www.consiliumeducation.com/itm).
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