Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Justice (DEIJ) in International Schools

ISS EDUlearn AMA Podcast Season 1 Episode 3 

The ISS EDUlearn AMA Podcast is brought to you by the ISS EDUlearn® team. These episodes aim to bring you expert opinions on some of the hottest topics in international education. This week’s episode showcases Dominique Dalais, Fandy Diney, and Joel Llaban, as we we explore the important terms of reference in DEIJ, how administrators can do better in future, the frustrations of the white male systems in international schools and what kind of change we should look out for in the DEIJ arena.

Hello. Welcome, everyone. Welcome to episode three of ISS EDUlearn ask me anything where you ask the questions. We go and find the answers. I am Mike, your favorite educator interviewer. I am here with Dr. Dana Watts, my co-host, who is a director of Learning and Research and director of learning, research and outreach for ISS. 

Who do you have with us? Dana? Hey, Mike. We have Fandy and Dominique with us today. They were our recent facilitators from our ISS EDUlearn course titled Nurturing and Building Your DEIJ community. This webinar series focused on creating systems and structures to develop safe and inclusive community for all of our stakeholders. All right. Thank you for that. 

Q: Welcome, Dom. Welcome to Fandy. We have a couple guests with us today. Do feel free to just come off the mic if you have any questions. I’m going to start it off. And here we go. My first question would be what it does DEIJ Council consist of? Dom, would you like to go first?

A: Yeah. So I’ve sort of spoken to quite a few different international schools about committees, groups, but also councils as well. 

And in my previous school, obviously to coordinator. And we decided to call our group of people council. And the council that we had at our previous school was consisted of a variety of people tried to make the council as diverse as possible so that we could have a lot of different perspectives from teachers, from administration, from non-teaching staff as well. 

And the council in that context was elevated to, sort of some sort of higher sort of place in the school organization where we could eventually have links with networks similar to affinity groups, and then we could start to affect policy. and that was the idea to start to create a within the Dei Council, we sought to create a charter and efficient for Dei within the school. 

And these were people who actually put in the work and had the energy and time to sort of do this work. And it consisted of the CEO as well as the head of HR. But then just regular teachers and other staff members who who were committed to this work and would turn up to meetings and so forth. And from from that, we then had separate committees with focus on like communication websites, putting together as many workshops and so forth, and it sort of grew from there. 

And so for my previous school, the council was, was, a good term that we used.

Q: Okay. It looks like you recommend everyone should have one of these councils. And I see that I jump right into it. I didn’t really say or describe what DEIJ is, so maybe this next question is for you. Fandy. The idea of course, is diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. 

But I just wanted you to share, if there are any, some important terms of reference for the DEIJ that we should all be remembering or referencing.

A: Yeah. Hi. Thanks for that question. That is the thing. Because one of the things that I like to say to the schools is as part of building the shared language is part of like going into those terms and defining those terms for you, for yourself and for your context. 

Right. And, and I know that have been said before, but I reiterate it because in the process of going through them, then you can you can build out a common understanding of where it is from, from my point of view and the way that I approach it, diversity and inclusion is I always put identity first. So that’s why the I day continuum starts with an I day inquiry into the into the self. 

And because understanding identity is the base. And I think I mentioned that during the during our workshop, our, our webinar and diversity to me is a given. Right. Because what we we’ve done is, is a process where we find it everywhere. I don’t think we have to do anything because it’s already there. What we have to do is actually bring down the barriers, right? 

Like bring down the fences as a white net because as I as I heard today in I podcast, talent is already given. So I there is a plethora of human identities and conditions. What we have to do is look into our structure, into our systems and structures, like, what are we not learning? And I think because of that diversity, international discourse is important. 

And then when we go to equity, to meet equalities, to dream. I don’t know if you’ve been to community vision, but to me, equality is the dream that through that a diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice, we can we can achieve that sort of like over when everybody can we could say they’re equal. But for that we need to to to try to do things for everyone to have their need. 

For me, inclusion and belonging are one item. I know that traditionally we have focused on inclusion in the arts in ways special education needs. But building I don’t separate aside. As I said, everything is interconnected, right? And I always take inclusion and belonging because when you include me or you bring people in, whether you hold your space for different things, you can’t just like bring them in, right? 



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So that’s for me. They are one item. And justice is to recognize that we are in a system that privileged some in others the privileges. So in certain ways of thinking or approaching the world and, and is building that critical consciousness towards each other and, and making sure that we don’t contribute to system so harm. So in a nutshell, that’s a sorry love and that’s what it is for me. 

Q: Thank you for that. Perfect. Dana, did you have something you want to add or I’m wondering? I love that, Fandy. Thank you. And I’m wondering if within the international schools, like how can an administrator or a teacher better understand their role in the past and how and how to do better in the future? Because because we’ve been part of a system that we may not have been aware was was harming others. 

So either one of you want to take a stab at that one? Can I just ask something, Dana? Yeah, well, it’s a little bit in that line, but I am sometimes frustrated with international schools because I think the very fact that we call international school and then are people, I would assume, administrator and everybody kind of excuse themselves that we already are in the diversity because we have people, you know, and they always get to me, we have people that come from these nationalities and that nationalities. 

Everybody’s up to talking about how many countries are in our school. But when you came to ask, what do you learn about this country that is actually your host country? We don’t really have? And then even if we do have people that are coming from the country that is hosting the school, they are all the time into a jobs that are actually really cool because and then everyone, if there’s more of them why that is, is that okay. 

A: So the people here and I will give the example in our school, for example, it’s in South Africa, then you already have a historical part of apartheid where a black person and a colored person, and this is terminology that we use here. I suppose to be not having good jobs. They claim now you have this child who is going to be from South Africa, from anywhere else, but they only see their color people in that job that is cleaning or something. 

So and then I get frustrated. I wonder if there is a way or an organization that will start holding international schools. I mean, recently Acer that is based in Africa for many years, and then every board member and the majority of them are white. Now how I how I feel like it is a we are into the imperialism a subtle thing that when they they came here they did, they did. 

They said everyone did their money, then they go and then because they are paid and in international like they are international higher, then their salary is different. And now it doesn’t feel like we are perpetuating the very thing that we are trying to get on to the equality. But I’m just feeling, is there any organization that will come up or hold accountable any one of the schools that are international, based in countries where or because international higher paid more? 

I mean, I’m just expressing my frustration and to see is there anything we can do because it’s kind of business as well. And that is as we industry for 50 years, there is an this conference that is about to happen. And I usually look the people that are on the head of organizing these are white Canadian or Americans. 

Now, you mean to tell me that in this continent of Africa, there is nobody who can actually hold it? Humanity. So that that that that frustrates me. I hope you I’m with you there just I we do I actually go to work in Africa, and I want to recognize the huge progress that we have done and just the amount of years, because in 2008, when I was working in Africa and, you know, it sounds much different now today in September than it did when I was working there. 

So we get in there and the difficulty would be in anyone can correct me because obviously how it works in every context. These natural schools always say like, well, we are beholden by the values of every national regulations. But the reality is that there is a there is a space for them, and we have to come to terms with the history of international schools. 

And I am a little bit harsh on this because people sometimes need to hear it. The history of international school or schools is is cemented in the values of colonization. Right? And when they initially started these schools, there were people from outside, coming to these countries and there living their lives as it was lived in their back in their countries without any regard for the context of the people in and in these communities. 

Obviously, now does know the kind of schools that we have. So mix in your question with George’s frustration, which is which is how do we get teachers, administrators, leaders, and every single person in in a school community to recognize systems of harm, right. So again, is is starting with what what you know, and I don’t think nowadays anyone can have the skills that they they know know that they don’t know the harms of curing and that these systems are unequal. 

Q: So it’s just pointing at these conversations and going back to the values. Why do they want teachers with, native speakers? Because we sell the dominance of English language. And how do we have hold those characteristics of an English speaker as the standard, say, instead of all the languages or even multilingualism? Yes. When we when we have a deficit view. 

A: I think I mentioned this during the workshop, a deficit view of a student who’s learning English is coming from that for those values of of dominance. Yeah, I pass on to them. Yeah. I’ve just written a comment, just reflecting on George’s frustrations. And I, you know, I think a lot of us have been in education and international school for a long time, and there have been like especially over the last two years, more international organizations connecting, talking, collaborating and trying to come together. 

Because I think that the issue that has been in the past with separate sort of organized nations is you do a little bit here, a little bit there, but not everyone’s doing same work. You need the whole driving force together so that there can be more pressure on particular schools like you mentioned. And then that’s when you can see a little bit more change. 

And I think it’s building. It’s building. There’s a lot more connections. And you can see this happening and you want everybody here. You can see, I mean connecting on social media is really good because that’s where you get a lot of information now as well. Is us really do collaborate a lot with a lot of these organizations. So find out more. 

Share that information. And also what I advise is join a lot of the what’s happening as much as you can. There’s a lot of free sessions like this. For example, where you can find out information and connect up, because often a lot of people that I find who are coming into international schools don’t don’t understand or don’t know what sort of happening in the wider world. 

And a lot of people are finding out positive things that are happening because I really believe they are happening, and there’s going to be change. You’ve got to get on on top of that. But one of the most important things is leaders within schools who are often white male, need to also get on board, and so that the people who you need to sort of connect with all of this, with even it might, it might be very difficult for you and so might ask question, get them to get on board, get them to find out the information because it needs to be internal. 

It needs to be leaders within within schools. Look at their own identity and their own history and their own understanding of what’s happening. And then hopefully that will sort of disseminate within your own school. So I’m sure after your during this, this session here, there’ll be a lot of links where you can sort of connect. There we go. 

You can connect. Thanks. Where you can connect and just find loads of information, lots of different organizations. I think it’s really important to do that because if you don’t do this and get on board, then nothing’s going to happen. You sort of feel stuck in your own little corner and frustrated, and there’s a lot of people out there who you can collaborate with and can help you personally and also within your own school system. 

I think there are a lot more people asking the questions, and that’s what is driving change. And a lot of us are really more aware, especially people who have been minoritized, racialized and gendered in we Asking the questions, I met a teacher who said, oh, I didn’t know I could speak up. I didn’t know I had that power. 

And next time when I move in schools, I’m not going to just have the approach that I’m not going to say that I’m a black man, that I’m a gay woman. I’m just going to ask the question, how do you support a teacher like me? So these things are changing, and the more we ask those questions, I think, yeah, things have gone up. 

Q: Hopefully get going. Thank you for that. I do have a question. And this is for either the facilitators or the guests. And my question is Georgette Erne spoke on this, but everyone is kind of looking for a change in the Dei arena. So I just wanted to know from everyone what is that change, one thing that you’re looking for, and maybe Sandy and Dom could speak more on it, as if there’s something that’s already there, or something that we can implement in the future. 

A: Big question. It’s a big question. I think, I’ll just speak briefly, but I think everybody has their own personal perspective on what changes they want. And when you think of Dei, because it’s a huge area and there’s a lot of different areas which you can sort of delve into. One of the things that I would highly recommend is within each school, look at the context of the school, look at the country you’re in, look at what is important to change, because you’re not going to be able to change everything straightaway. 

 And you can get these very, very big highs where you’re doing a lot and things are happening, and then you get these really big lows where you don’t see that change happening. Admin is moving on to something else and you get frustrated. So, you know, focus if you’re doing this work within your school and have those conversations in your school, more and more schools are getting on board. 

And it can be quite scary at times, but you really need to sort of step forward if you really want something to happen and change. Thank you for that. we have a guest, Anisha. You had something that you wanted to add? I had a question. I was I can wait until everyone speaks to your question if you’d want me to do that. 

Okay. Yeah. So I, I am a teacher that has really high expectations for this. So my, my vision is, is is big. Like I want I as you know I it during the webinar I talked about the whole school approach. Right. And why. Because to me I want to be able to bring humanity to the classroom, into the schools, into the spaces. 

Right. And I am an advocate of holistic education, being your authentic self and being able to provide students with, with, with the, with the things that they need to thrive according to their own, you know, their own needs. And when I think of a student, for example, that has mobility barriers or things like that, and we have like, the school trips and stuff like that, and it breaks my heart that, that, that, that kind of students can now learn from being with each other, from going to another culture and this kind of questions that we don’t ask because of our biases. 

Right. And so that’s what I would like to, to have an international education that is bringing down barriers so people can actually thrive as students can actually thrive. And I know it’s a big, big dream. And I’m not asking a student at all, but I am slowly, making, I think, little things that can motivate us towards that. 

And I think, like Dr. Dominique mentioned, when the topic moves on to something, having a vision like that really refocus is why are we in in education and why are we saying that we are an inclusive school? Why are we saying that we are an international school? Yeah. So that’s my big my big dream. Beautifully said. And then he said, you want to go now? 

Q: Sure. Thank you. I had a question. I’m, I think fairly new to the international school arena. I’ve, I think at my first job, 2013, which is kind of new from the people that I’ve met, at any rate. my question is, do any of these organizations, the operating bodies, the schools, all of you in leadership, do you reach forward to the higher education, organizations? 

Because a lot of the English language, a lot of the colonization or or all of the the ways that we’ve been doing business are because our children, my children go to international school, are looking for higher education opportunities in local the global North. Right. Are any of the schools working with the higher education communities to kind of. And I’m not even sure exactly what I’m asking, but I’ll say the English language proficiency, the curriculum. 

A: What what is it that they’re the AP exams, the S.A.T., the act, all of these kinds of things. And also the parent communities are looking for a particular education to get their students into these colleges. So I was wondering if that’s being looked at at all in any of these organizations, your schools or anything like that? I’m particularly with the diplomatic community, and I know that that is a very big push. 

Is I want my kids to go to XYZ school, right. So I want their teacher to look a certain way. I want them to sound a certain way, and I want a very particular curriculum. And I’m working within the embassies to say things are changing in the States. Things are changing in the UK. We need to trickle that down. 

They need to send a message to the higher universities. You know, that maybe some of these things you need to to not hammer in and also back to the community. So what are what do you guys see in that way? I mean I know like internally our classroom. So what do you see going like past once these kids graduate I hope I ask that correctly, but obviously I don’t have the answer. 

But from what I know, the, the spaces that, that I, that I move universities particularly I, I don’t know about the U.S. context, but in at least in Europe, we have the, in Sudan and the race Equality Charter and there are movements with, decolonizing education, University of in the UK and different other things. So this is something that is happening as well in universities. 

And I think because of the pandemic and missing students and universities having to try to reach out to other students, getting them back, etcetera, whatever their motivations, I think they’re more willing to cater for, for these kind of needs. So it’s a big, big topic in universities, at least from from what I see. And I connecting to advanced AG, which I’m also working with now. 

And, and within our schools, I know at least at least one person. I can’t say I know no, I know two people as career guidance counselors that also focus on digital in terms of like connecting, career options for, for this kind of students through to trying to see everything to the lens of equity, educating parents, parents about like, what their options have. 

So I do not see major emphasis in that yet, but I know that separately, the universities have the motivation and the schools to. So it’s sort of like how to session that and link it up. I don’t know if anyone can share anything about what they know from the work they do. Do you thinking about like, kids being prepared to go to different universities and having some experiences in the international schools and then being prepared to move on because a lot of kids in international schools move from one country to another, not necessarily sort of prepared for, different culture expectations and so forth. 

So I was thinking reaching out to higher education, saying this is like just kind of like you’re saying my pipe dream saying we don’t need you to have a particular sounding your English needs to be in this way. Your teachers don’t need to be in this way. You don’t have to learn from we want international schools to be what they need to be international. 

And we were accepting all of those credentials, all of their experiences, as equally valid as anyone else’s, and tell the parents that as well. That’s why I was thinking of like, working with the higher education back to the international schools, saying, you don’t need this. A native English language speaker teacher to get you where you need to be. 

In our accepted into our university, there isn’t necessarily a line that you have to draw that way, and then that, you know, that kind of takes some of that pressure off of the communities. The parents saying, I want my kids to go to these schools, they need to go to these schools. I need this person to get them into these schools. 

At least I know in my community, that’s always the conversation. Is this end game of university. And I don’t know if that’s what you guys hear as well. I have some experience in university counseling, and I’m currently based in China, and I’ve been working for the past 15 years, and I’ve worked in many countries in Africa, counseling students through different contexts. 

To answer your question, a lot has happened in the past 2 to 3 years, Covid being a major catalyst, the recognition of this kind of discrimination that was happening in higher education as well is the starting point. If you notice, lots, lots and lots of universities have now gone test optional, especially for English language testing requirement is unfortunately for some countries it’s a visa requirement that you need to have an English language testing done. 

So I think in terms of progress made, yes, the understanding with higher education organizations has somehow happened. But now the next stage is talking to countries, heads of countries. It’s a long process. It’s not a simple solution. The other thing is you ask the question, what are organizations doing about it? Organizations like the IB and I know about the CIS. 

This is particularly looking into this transition link where students don’t feel alienated since they prefer to go to the Global North. But the good news is, I’ve seen a shift in the trend in the past two years. There’s a specific shift in the understanding that educate is not just based on a particular region, that quality is dependent on where you are obtaining that education from. 

People have become more conscious of how much they are investing into their future. What opportunities are available closer to home? I have seen at least, 7 to 8% shift, and this is something I’m going to talk about in the upcoming forum. And this upcoming forum for guidance and college counseling is the shift from looking into universities in the global, not to more Asia specific education opportunities available to students and also my students, the next generation. 

The fact that there is so much emphasis, there’s so much focus on this conversation, on the AG, they have become conscious. It’s no longer the parents. Honestly, you can see the change in and in the future generation. The when the previous question that was asked what what is anybody doing about all the organizations being led by white male patriarchal systems that have been here, students recognize that they don’t laugh about it anymore. 

You know, they find the solution. They’re going to have a conversation. They’re going to see that I am not going to fit in this institution. And this is the reason why they are making this shift. Today. The Hong Kong University, closer to our school, has more applications than any other Western university. And honestly, the Western universities have been reaching out to us saying that. 

Why is there a drop in applications? So this impact will be seen in the next five years? Tremendously. And this is a change which you can see immediate change, immediate impact. I would say positive impact, that people have started looking outside that closed outlook of this is the only option they have expanded their perspective because of these conversations happening. 

So I look at positive changes and this is my input that organizations are working. In fact, for IB, if you go to the website, they have a specific letter which the schools can give to every student graduating from an Ivy school saying that student has completed a higher level or standard level language and literature in English does not have to do the English language test. 

So they give that kind of certification. And now the conversation has to move from universities to other organizations like immigration. And yeah, so the movement has started. Fingers crossed. Thank you so much. That was very helpful. Thank you guys for your questions. Taking a look at the time, I know we’re supposed to be here, but 30 minutes and 30 minutes as and now it has gone. 

So I just want to take this time out to just say what I’ve learned from this is, you know, the change that is going to happen in the community is in, in the inevitable. it’s an it’s one that will take the efforts of all from the top down. So I just want to take this time to say thank you for those who are here and those who are hearing the podcast in the future. 

Thank you for joining us. Today will be on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Google Podcasts. This is episode three. We are out. Until next time. Thanks, Mike. Bye bye everyone.