Where in the World is Kolkata? Can International School Placements Make a Difference to Intercultural Awareness?

Abstract

When an invitation was extended to the University of New England (UNE) to take a group of preservice teachers to an international school in Kolkata for the purpose of professional experience the first reaction of many people was who, what or where is Kolkata? The second reaction was that here was a possible partnership: a school asking us to take students and a university looking for another location for international placements after links with China had dwindled. But why pursue an international placement? In an increasingly globalised society, teachers must be prepared to work in multicultural classrooms with intercultural sensitivity. They also need to provide their students with multicultural understanding and therefore, Wilson (1987) argues, "cross-cultural experiential learning should be a component of every teacher education program (p.519). The understanding gained could contribute to the sustainability of social cohesiveness, firstly in a teacher's own classroom, then, conceivably, nationally. In this paper the author addresses the impact of an international placement on the teaching philosophy and strategies of 14 initial teacher education students. The students were asked to complete three surveys; before, during and after their placement. There were also assessment requirements where students had to reflect on what might lie ahead and later discuss aspects of what they might share and what they had learned, referring to ‘critical incidents' (McAllister, Whiteford, Hill, Thomas and Fitzgerald, 2006).



Author Information
Yvonne Masters, University of New England, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACSET2013
Stream: Education

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