Int’l schools : A student’s perspective
Yasmine Deswandhy ; The writer was a student at the British International School from 2003 to 2012 and is now in 11th grade at Deerfield Academy, Massachusetts, USA
International schools have recently been a controversial topic in our community. The initial purpose of establishing international schools in Indonesia was to provide an international standard of education for the children of diplomats, expatriates and other foreign workers.
However, these international schools soon invited Indonesian children, in a limited number, to attend. I was one of the few Indonesian kids to join an international school in 2003.
Recently, international schools have been judged on whether or not they are appropriate for young Indonesian children to attend.
What I intend to do is not to be biased toward the defense of international schools, their teachers, education styles and students, but to share my personal experiences and contribute insight on how being educated at an international school has affected me.
When I first moved to an international school I was only 5 years old. After previously attending a local kindergarten, I was only aware of local customs and behaviors.
I only understood that Indonesians are forgiving, as long as one acknowledges one’s mistakes and promises not to repeat one’s actions.
On my first day at school, I forgot to bring my hat for recess. Hoping to be excused just for this one day, I was shocked that my British teacher asked me to stay indoors even when I said that I would bring my hat the following day.
Confused, I stepped back into my air-conditioned classroom, away from the sun. When I got home that night I even went to tell my father about the events that happened at school. I was still both disappointed and perplexed.
After I told my father of the events that occurred that day, he simply responded that from now on I would never forget to bring a hat to school. I was not only in an international school to learn a new language, but also to understand a new culture.
This event was my first glimpse of another culture’s customs. I started to understand both Indonesian as well as British customs, which allowed me to understand different people better.
I spoke English at school and spoke Indonesian at home with my parents. The ability to differentiate between varying cultures is an advantage that attending an international school provides.
In addition, when I was 10, I voluntarily taught in a remote village in West Sumatra for a few days. As I was proud of what I had done, I told my teacher about it. Approvingly, my teacher praised and appreciated my initiative to do community service.
I wrote for the school magazine about my experiences and was also asked to share my newfound involvement in community service and my teaching in West Sumatra with the school.
The main purpose was to inspire others to do the same. This is another value of international schools: They value encouraging students to help disadvantaged kids.
If one would want to study further in the United States or in Europe, from my experience it would be much more difficult coming from a local school than an international school.
It is not impossible because achieving a global perspective is definitely attainable.
Even going through an international school did not allow immediate adaptation for me, but instead led to steady modification.
After nine years in an international school, I moved to a boarding school in the US for which my initial reaction was shock. I had always told myself that I would be very well prepared because of my numerous years of education at an international school.
However, upon starting school ,the boarding school proved to be more difficult than it seemed, both socially and academically.
International schools allow early exposure to different cultures, which made it easier for me to form relationships with my peers at the boarding school.
Since I joined my international school at a time where there were few Indonesians in it, I was forced to befriend people who were either foreign or half-Indonesian.
This situation made me adapt to many different cultures quickly, especially British culture. My ability to familiarize myself with foreigners at a young age proved to help me in the following years.
There was no language barrier, which meant that I not only understood the language, but also that I had the ability to have flowing conversations with my peers.
At my boarding school, classes were relatively small, usually consisting of only 12 students, which pushed students to discuss and be vocal about their opinions at all times. To give a brief example, in English class we would have to independently read 20 pages of new material for class the following day.
Upon arriving in class, we would discuss what we thought about the text with the majority of the class, pitching ideas and arguing against the opinions of others. In total, our teacher would probably only allocate himself- or herself 10 minutes to discuss the writing. These discussions were dominated by the
The reason that I bring this up is that from my understanding, international schools do not work like this and neither do local schools. However, my classes at my international school still pushed me to talk more in class and taught me to work independently, helping me get a head start in unfamiliar conditions.
From what I know, classes at local schools are much bigger than at international schools, which would give fewer opportunities for students to speak up.
Thus, this offers another advantage for adapting to the new environment of an American boarding school.
Being a student at an international school has, as my international school put it, truly provided a bridge to the world.. ●