'Education research not relevant for us,' international schools say

Very little research addresses the issues relevant to overseas schools, they say

Adi Bloom

chinese calligraphy

International schools are forced to draw on academic research that is not intended for them, overseas schools have said.

There is little research that deals directly with the classroom issues that these schools face, according to Ahmed Hussain, senior director of academics at Wellington College, China. 

For example, little research is tailored to pupils who are being educated bilingually, Dr Hussain said.

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He said: “We’re a growing body of schools. We’re a very large entity. And yet we’re drawing on research that’s not for us. 

“In a bilingual school, how do you help children acquire English and Chinese at the same time? What conditions in the classroom work best for that? The answer is that no one really knows.”

For example, his pupils must learn to draw up quadratic equations with equal fluency in English and in Chinese characters. But there is no research indicating how best to teach them to do this.

He argued that international schools can create and drive their own teaching, learning and research agenda. “The word we use is ‘agency’,” he said. “We want the people in front of the children to be driving the professional-development agenda.

“Let’s shape initial teacher-training as well.”

Dr Hussain was speaking at the annual conference of the Council of British International Schools (Cobis) last month. 

Cobis recently announced that several of its schools – among them Wellington College in China – will be offering initial teacher training courses

Fiona Rogers, director of professional development and research at Cobis, said that her organisation supports the pursuit and sharing of any high-quality research that would contribute to the development of international education. 

“Many international schools are increasingly involved in research and evidence-based enquiry,” she said. “There is a tremendous opportunity for international schools to be sharing that growing body of research from an international context.”

She added that she expected the Cobis training schools to help disseminate some of that research. 

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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