Monday, 24 October 2011

Culturally Teaching Blog has moved

The interesting blog on inercultural issues has moved to another site:




 Teachers without Borders is an organisation that aims to connects teachrs across the globe, it is free to join and has resources and training that also can be accessed free.  Thie mission states:

Teachers Without Borders connects teachers to information and each other to create local change on a global scale.


Thier web address is :

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Profile of Dr. Darryl Macer - guest speaker on June 1st

This wednesday, guest speaker Dr Darryl Macer will lead a discussion on peace resolution and associated issues through an intercultural lens. All Patana staff are welcome - please contact Deepa Patel (depa) for further information.
Darryl R.J. Macer is Regional Advisor on Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific, in RUSHSAP, UNESCO Bangkok, Thailand.
He is also a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies and Affiliated Professor in Philosophy at Kumamoto University, Japan; and Founding Director, Eubios Ethics Institute.
Born in 1962 in Christchurch, New Zealand, he has a B.Sc (Hons) in Biochemistry from Lincoln College, University of Canterbury, 1983; Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, and Trinity College, University of Cambridge, U.K., 1987; and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from Kumamoto University, Japan in 2009.
He has since worked in UK, New Zealand, Italy, Japan and Thailand; and is a member of many international bioethics committees.  He taught bioethics at the University of Tsukuba, Japan from 1990-2005, prior to joining UNESCO. He has published 10 authored books, 20+ edited books, and 200+ academic papers.
Recent PublicationsA Cross-Cultural Introduction to Bioethics, 2006.
Moral Games for Teaching Bioethics, 2009

Sunday, 15 May 2011

What is Intercultural Education? 10 Pointers

A group of staff at our school who are interested in exploring the significance of intercultural education has met several times this year. In a presentation which I delivered to all academic staff earlier this month, I shared 10 key ideas which have come out of those discussions and my thanks go to all who have continued to contribute to these meetings. Thanks are also extended to Michael Allan (International School of Amsterdam) for sharing some of the resources and ideas which have resulted from his valuable work in this field,

Thursday, 28 April 2011

BaFaBaFa A Culture Simulation

This seems like a brilliant game worth considering. It could be used for example in our curriculum extension week. Check out the link... 

BaFa BaFa contents

Quoting from the company's marketing email:

In BaFa'BaFa' participants come to understand the powerful effects that culture plays in every person's life. It may be used to help participants prepare for living and working in another culture or to learn how to work with people from other departments, disciplines, genders, races, and ages. Here are a few of the ways BaFa'BaFa' has been used in the hundreds of thousands times it has been run around the world:
  • Build awareness of how cultural differences can profoundly impact people in an organization.
  • Motivate participants to rethink their behavior and attitude toward others.
  • Allow participants to examine their own bias and focus on how they perceive differences.
  • Examine how stereotypes are developed, barriers created, and misunderstandings magnified.
  • Identify diversity issues within the organization that must be addressed. BaFa'BaFa' initiates immediate, personal change. This simulation makes participants personally aware of the issues around culture differences. Participants feel the alienation and confusion that comes from being different. BaFa'BaFa' shakes participants out of thinking in stereotypes of anyone who is different. They learn the value of all faces in the workplace in a safe, stimulating environment.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

What Symbols Represent Your Culture? A Lesson Plan

Interculturalism Session Focus - Tutorial Activity by GRRO.pdf Download this file

Matt Jones (Head of Year 10) writes:

In addition to ‘celebrating diversity’, interculturalism in an international school setting should also allow for opportunities to celebrate similarities.

Patana’s IB Psychology students understand the need to consider both ‘emic’ (culturally-specific) and ‘etic’ (universal, cross-cultural) factors when examining cultural norms, differences and similarities. With this in mind, Year 10 students had the opportunity to share ‘symbols’ - personally meaningful aspects of their own cultural identity – with their classmates. It was an opportunity to learn a little more about each other and to exhibit a bit of pride in their own backgrounds. Symbols ranged from national football shirts to soap opera theme tunes: what would you pick as a meaningful representation of your cultural identity?

 All credit to Grant Robertson, Head of Secondary English, for developing this excellent lesson. See the plan below.

Discussion on Ethics

Year 8 used the class novel The Giver as a stimulus to discuss the ethics on genetic modification / selection.
"The Giver" is a science fiction novel set in the future in which the protagonist Jonas's community and climate is controlled by the "Elders".
The hypotheses to debate were: 1) Only intelligent people should have children 
2) Intelligence is increasing
This was a great forum for students to discuss issues from their cultural perspectives and to find out that in many ways people have similar ideas and that if there are differences, those differences should be accepted and respected.

Term 2 Magazine Article

Reflecting on intercultural education here at Bangkok Patana has been a key purpose of our Intercultural Education Committee, and James summarised some of our insights in the school's Term 2 magazine. You can read the text below by downloading the document below.

Interculturalism Article Term 2 JAPE Download this file

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Intercultural Competence – Who Cares?

At the EARCOS Teachers’ Conference (2011) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Michelle and I attended a presentation at by Dr Ettie Zilber with the deliberately provocative title: ‘International Mindedness, Intercultural-competence, or Intercultural Literacy – Who Cares?’ Here are some of the insights and observations we gained from this useful and thought-provoking presentation and discussion.

Image: Some rights reserved by Bernt Rostad
Ettie prefers not to use the word ‘country’ in such discussions and discourages the word ‘international’ as countries/nations are political constructs which, she argues, often do not reveal enough about the culture of a particular person.
The iceberg model of culture
Ettie urges us to look beyond the four F’s (flags, festivals, food, fashion). Schools are at risk of being satisfied that the celebrations of these are somehow enough for addressing intercultural education. She discussed the iceberg theory of culture, distinguishing between ‘visible’ culture and ‘deep’ culture. She noted, too, that there are other metaphors such as the onion with its many layers.
Other than celebrations of the more visible and surface elements of culture, for many educators intercultural education is not their highest priority. Acknowledging this, it is important to engage colleagues. More than simply raising the profile of intercultural education, it is important to facilitate intercultural education amongst staff. On this matter, it is essential to include locally-hired staff (and not only teaching staff) who often have to contend with a dramatic change of culture between home and school.
Defining culture
Ettie moved on to some of the definitions and characteristics of culture, and these are useful pointers. Culture is:
  • the way we think, feel, act and plan our future
  • based on our personal history and social history
  • learned, not genetically inherited (although Ettie raised the possibility that the two main gender ‘cultures’ have some genetic basis)
  • pervasive
  • the total of things people learn
  • shared patterns of behaviour
  • shared rules for behaviour
  • how you see and interpret your world
  • standards of behaviour

Image: Some rights reserved by jack dorsey
Asking questions of people’s culture
It is important to ask other people about their culture(s). This can be difficult, however, because we risk offence. Despite this, Ettie says it is important to foster a community in which it is OK to ask these questions, but also one that knows how to do so without causing offence.
In pairs, we asked each other a question: What is the origin of your name(s)? This is an excellent activity and when conducted with adults certainly led to interesting cultural references, allowing participants to learn lots about each other. It is an easy activity as it is non-threatening (unlike, say, discussions of money and relationships). It holds huge potential for initiating discussions amongst students but Ettie recommends encouraging the students to do the ground work first, perhaps as homework – skype their grand parents, etc. This will get families talking at home about their culture which is itself a vital aspect of meaningful intercultural education.
Third Culture Kids or TCKs
It is important for ‘third culture kids’ to be able to tell a story about their lives, and such explorations of their cultural heritage allow this. Questions like this can be part of what Ettie called ‘roots projects’ which she argues are enormously valuable learning opportunities.
Bird s do not see the sky, nor fish the water, not unless the bird is plucked out of the sky and the fish is taken out of water. (Thai Proverb via Chamnongsri Hanchanlash, Thai Poet, 2004).
What happens when you go and/or live in a different culture? Ettie noted that there is a big difference between youngsters making such moves and adults doing the same, since adults already carry a lot of culture with them. The child is a bit more confused as their identity has not yet been formed in the same way during their formative, developmental years.
Third Culture Interstitial
“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen”. Ettie put forward the argument that TCKs might be “colour blind” – they do not perceive cultural or ethnic differences the same way that others more heavily attached to a ‘home’ culture do, although I have to say that I think this is very debatable … my experiences tell me that children do become acutely aware of such differences, regardless of cultural inheritance.
Ettie extended her argument by asking whether TCKs really understand the concept of the ‘other’. Do they ask each other questions about their culture? She says that the answer to this is ‘not often’ and that if they do in fact learn to ask these questions, they’ll understand each other better. A further question: Do they really know enough about their own culture?
Ettie then posed questions about staff within an International School. Do the faculty become inter-culturally competent? Do the faculty ask each other questions about their culture? Again, she says, the answer is ‘not often’, but it could be very healthy to do so in terms of mutual understanding. Ultimately, do our international schools facilitate these deep discussions?
Misunderstandings in cross-cultural communication often begins with a misunderstanding of ourselves.
Yamada 1997

Image: Some rights reserved by Keo 101
Do we confuse intercultural literacy/competence, international mindedness and global citizenship?
In exploring the differences, Ettie suggests an exercise that interested staff might undertake. In groups they could answer these questions and look for commonality and difference amongst answers:
  • What do interculturally literate persons look like? What do they do? How do they think?
  • What do internationally minded persons look like? What do they do? How do they think?
  • What do global citizens look like? What do they do? How do they think?
A really useful exercise within a school is to ask students (for example in Theory of Knowledge classes) to define ‘culture’.
What do we mean by ‘cultural literacy’? Simply, can we read others? It is, for example, not always easy to interpret people’s responses in terms of gestures, facial expressions or body language if they are from other cultures.
What is an internationally-minded person?
(Note the influence of CIS here):
  • She has the knowledge , multilingual and technology skills required to succeed in a global economy;
  • She has the attitudes and skulls of intercultural competency and understanding of the ‘other’
  • She has an understanding of world issues, empathy and caring towards people different from themselves
  • She has an attitude of caring and advocacy
From many such definitions, Ettie worries that the notion of intercultural literacy is lacking. We really need to push this.
Ettie’s view: Maybe this needs a teacher grassroots movement to push this agenda. A bottom up approach, rather than trying to impose intercultural initiatives from a top-down direction.

Image: Some rights reserved by dierk schaefer
Plenary Discussion
Ettie confirmed that there is a lot of really good stuff out there on intercultural training. I referenced the work of the American Peace Corps on this theme.
We should avoid discussions being led exclusively by opinion and give staff concrete research articles to review.
Ettie pointed out how intercultural competence is deeply embedded both in the new CIS standards and in the IB diploma, and commented that there will be increasing focus on all of this within international education.
Malcolm Mackenzie argues that International Schools could serve as a bridge between cultures but we definitely have to get staff on board – Ettie warns that it could be a ‘hard sell’. One strategy which she suggests here is for advocates to apply for professional development to be a cross-cultural trainer.

Image: Some rights reserved by avlxyz
Notion from Gerritz (2004): Give students transportable ‘gifts’.
So, on to some more ways forward … Give our students an enthusiasm for internationalism. Create world citizens through service learning, geography and history, particularly current history. Measure their progress on their understandings/attitudes toward internationalism. Use surveys to test  people to see if there is improvement in people’s intercultural competence.
Finally it is worth noting that Ettie referenced the following articles in her presentation:
Betts, Bambi (2007) ‘The Challenge of Global Citizenship in our Schools’ The International Educator
Mackenzie, Malcolm (1998) ‘Going, Going, Gone .. Global!’ in McHayden and Thompson (eds) International Education: Principles and Practice [London: Kogan Page]

James Penstone

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Axis Of Hope – Encouraging Conflict Resolution Skills

Today at Earcos Teachers’ Conference 2011, I attended an excellent pre-conference workshop hosted by Prof. Carl Hobart, founder of the non-profit organisation Axis of Hope. This organisation actively encourages young people to develop conflict negotiation skills through relevant and carefully managed role-play exercises. The ultimate aim is to equip students with the skills and motivation to prevent conflict through the local to global scale, both now and later in life.
The Axis of Hope website explains the approach here, and this quote reveals how the role-play method also helps to promote intercultural competence amongst young people:
Axis of Hope uses its unique case study approach to bring matters of international importance right into the classroom. These case studies have been thoughtfully constructed so as to avoid biases or prejudices and present only the facts. Furthermore, they are designed to promote interactive learning so that each case study includes … six different perspectives of the conflict allowing students to see through the different lenses of those involved. These perspectives are what allow our students to empathize with the involved parties as well as adopt a position and stance from which they can then negotiate.
This video at a little over 5 minutes explains the Axis of Hope approach more, and rings true to the potential which this approach holds (as I saw it today) in terms of global citizenship, lifelong learning and international mindedness:

This was a refreshing and stimulating workshop in which we started on a typical course schedule which Carl has shared with countless groups of students throughout the world. We ended by reflecting on the potential which such workshops could hold in our own schools and reflecting on the valuable experiences offered by the annual trips led by Carl and his team to Rwanda.
Here are ten of my reflections and notes from the course (with an emphasis on the theme of intercultural education):
1) Icebreaker activities really can work when preparing to listen to the viewpoints of others – Carl suggested we seek out engaging icebreaker activities from the Outward bound website. I couldn’t find these specifically, but did find these (including these focused on interculturalism) and also this useful list on a MS Word document.
2) Quizzes based on current world events can help open up useful discussions that are accessible and engaging for students.
3) Intercultural competence requires strong listening skills, and simulating conflict resolution certainly promotes these.
4) Paired introductions (in which two people are given 10 minutes to learn about each other and then introduce the other to the rest of the group) is a really good ice breaker in itself, but the same concept could also be applied to finding out about and introducing another person’s cultural heritages.
5) The ‘preventive diplomacy’ which Carl advocates requires well developed media literacy. The workshop gave practical examples of this – find a world issue that involves a number of international stakeholders, such as news items concerning Arab-Israeli conflict, and access the same issue as reported on by a variety of news agencies within the different stakeholder countries and regions. Use this to identify and explore bias, so gaining a fuller appreciation of different cultural viewpoints.
6) Another participant used the phrase ‘supernationalism’ to refer to a globalised, connected ‘flat’ world without borders.
7) Carl used the phrase G.Q. as in Global Quotient in terms of a person’s international-mindedness and global awareness, something which can be explored through quizzes (as above).
8) While such role-plays do require the student to develop a useful historical awareness of the case-study in question, the broader emphasis is on developing interpersonal skills above learning curricular content.
9) Carl advises that when we commit to community-focused service, such as improving a road in a Rwandan village, we should do it as part of a team and be humble about it. Don’t take pictures of the event, don’t seek credit. Walk away and focus meaning on the collaborative experience itself.
10) Carl and participants gave these book recommendations:
James Penstone

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Blog: Culturally Teaching

This is an impressive blog which carries the tagline ‘Education across Cultures’. Well worth following, it provides a lot of experience-related ideas and links to some useful resources on intercultural education.


Quoting from their ‘About page’:

Isn’t it interesting that we all grow up learning a culture? And even more interesting, that school is one of the places where we learn it?

We at CulturallyTeaching are fascinated by this connection between education and culture. A favorite elementary school teacher, a student’s interaction with her host mother, even a photo of a school lunch – these stories communicate culture!

Our mission is simple:

1. Document stories about education across cultures

2. Help others become more cross-culturally effective


Here is a sample of popular blog posts:

Sleeping in School - A Cultural Thing?
What Do Bread, Brot and Education Have in Common?
"Checking" Assumptions in the Classroom

I particularly enjoyed this post:


Visit CulturallyTeaching here.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Article–The Cross Cultural Classroom


Hosted on the NY Times’ Lesson Plans Blog, this article called The Cross-Cultural Classroom provides a good overview of some of the issues faced by educators seeking to harness intercultural opportunities within their schools. In particular, Christina Sunnarah focuses on the need for the teacher to develop her own cultural competence in order to better understand her students, and therefore “be as effective as possible with the students” she works with. Her school occupies a unique position culturally, as she explains here, but the ideas resonate well for those of us interested in intercultural education in general.

Here are two quotes:

To be able to know others, especially diverse others, one must know the self. So the growth of a culturally competent educator starts there. We must look within for a deeper understanding of who we are before we can adequately address the needs of our students.

Schools don’t exist in vacuums; they are situated within communities. Community involvement helps me understand the socio-cultural backgrounds of my students’ lives and build bridges between the home and school. This exposure helps challenge my own perspectives and biases.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Iceberg Model Of Culture

Cultural Iceberg opengecko

Image: Creative Commons License (details and further references here)

The idea of culture as an iceberg reminds us that only a smaller proportion of cultural aspects are more ‘visible’ and therefore more obvious than many other facets of culture which, while far less tangible and visible, are just as essential to our understanding of how cultures work. In fact, the sub-surface aspects shown above will directly influence those on the ‘tip’ of the iceberg. For example, religious beliefs influence holiday customs and notions of beauty influence the arts.

In terms of intercultural education at an International School such as ours, the relevance of this analogy is that we need to take care to focus our learning opportunities on the less visible aspects if it is to be genuinely meaningful. That is not to say that celebrating and learning about the more obvious aspects of culture (such as the three Fs - food, flags, and festivals) is not important – far from it. However, without embracing the important stuff beneath the surface, there is a risk that learning events claiming to raise intercultural understanding do not go deep enough on their own.

To quote from an article I have recently written for our Term 2 magazine:

Visible and obvious cultural aspects – such as clothing, flags, food, performing and visual arts - are often essential to culture and are well worth celebrating, as happens during International Day and other school festivals. However, there are also many cultural aspects of any community which may not be so visible. We need to continually provide our students with chances to reflect on the many beliefs, values, assumptions and expectations which they and those around them hold. Similarly, we should explore various attitudes towards gender, age, social status, time, space and more. What notions of beauty, courtesy, friendship and ‘self’ do we hold? And how do these reflect our own cultural heritages?

To facilitate deep reflection on these vital but less tangible aspects of culture we need to embed such opportunities across the full range of age groups and learning activities, both curricular and extra-curricular.

The iceberg analogy of culture is very common. Below are some links to sites that explain the concept further and in some cases offer a related activity.

  • An alternative version of the iceberg on a pdf file can be found here. A simplified but nicely animated version is here. Another pdf version here divides the aspects in to three parts (doing, thinking and feeling)
  • An exercise asking you to identify where different cultural aspects might be located on the iceberg is here.
  • A good summary of the concept as applied to a school’s planning of a Year 4 unit on understanding other cultures is here. There is a useful point  on turning the iceberg upside down.
  • This impressive cross-cultural training guide by the Peace Corps gives an iceberg activity on page 10 – click here.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

UNESCO Guidelines on Intercultural Education


A 43 page document, with a clear emphasis on the notion of human rights and the role that intercultural education has to play with promoting and guaranteeing human rights.

The preface reads as follows:

The Member States of UNESCO’s governing body have requested the
Organization to continue to “strengthen initiatives in the development of
materials for education and intercultural and interfaith understanding”*. At
the same time the World Programme for Human Rights Education as a UN initiative, coordinated jointly by UNESCO and the OHCHR, lays emphasis on the need for tolerance and respect of all peoples in the world through the inclusion of human rights principles in the school and the curriculum.

These Guidelines have been prepared as a contribution to the understanding of the issues around intercultural education. They draw together the key standard-setting instruments and the results of numerous conferences, in particular, the Expert Meeting held at UNESCO Headquarters in March 2006, in order to present those concepts and issues which may be used to guide future activities and policy making in this area.

The document reflects UNESCO’s unique role as international standard setter and convenor of diverse cultural and ideological perspectives. It is hoped that it will serve as a valuable practical resource for teachers and learners, curriculum developers, policy makers and community members alike, and all those who wish to promote Intercultural Education in interests of peace and understanding.

Hosted by UNESCO.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Culture - The Space between the Bars, the Silence between the Notes by Paul Poore


Image: Some rights reserved by tanakawho

Paul Poore, Director of Harare International School, is a preeminent thinker and leader regarding interculturalism in education. Click below to access an excellent speech which he dlivered as the Association for the Advancement of International Education's Distinguished Lecture in 2005. 

Culture - The Space between the Bars, the Silence between the Notes by Paul Poore

[Hosted on]

Presentation by Deepa: Building Acceptance, Bridging Differences

On 20th November last year, Deepa hosted a 'job-alike workshop' addressing issues of how to effectively incorporate intercultural education into a school's curriculum and ethos. Here, at the end of this post, is the presentation which she developed to start valuable discussion with.

As a result of the productive discussion which followed from this, the following documents were collectively arrived at by the attendees:

1) Definitions of Interculturalism

2) Interculturalism - DEPA - BTN - Lesson Plan Tutorial Programme 1

3) Interculturalism - DEPA - BTN - Lesson Plan Tutorial Programme 2


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Geert Hofstede and Cultural Dimensions

Thanks to Darren for passing this website on. Geert Hofstede has contributed a huge amount of reserach and ideas to the field of interculturalism, and his name is often referenced in contemporary research. Hofstede's work has been used to develop audits and training resources for helping organisations improve their intercultural literacy, as is evident from the website below.

image developed by ITIM International.

Together with his son, Gert, they share some relevant information on their own website which is here:


East is East and West is West by George Walker

Thanks to Jane for passing on this valuable article by George Walker hosted on the IB Positions Papers blog. You can access the direct link to the article by clicking the image below.



This position paper addresses the long-standing criticism that the International Baccalaureate (IB) is too closely associated with Western values and, despite its title, does not enable students to see the world from a truly international perspective. Considering evidence from different authorities, it analyses the IB learner profile and asks how appropriate it is for the cultures of East Asia. The paper concludes that the learner profile does indeed reflect the strong Western humanist foundations of the IB, but accepts that the organization’s successful growth (not least in its Asia-
Pacific region) makes sudden change unlikely and undesirable. Instead, it recommends that the learner profile be reviewed regularly and used as a focus for internal debate on this issue. It also proposes that some limited regional variation be encouraged in order gradually to seize “the great opportunity for the creation of new thought by a new combination of truths” (Tagore 1961: 222).