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Lusaka International Community School – global citizenship, local impact

| April 10, 2017 | 0 Comments


Lusaka International Community School (LICS), situated in the suburb of Roma, serves the local and international community across the capital city of Zambia.

LICS, founded in 1993, has upheld and advanced the clearly defined commitment of intent to maximise student potential and deliver an education focused on the full development of each individual. If you have read this far, then you will be forgiven for thinking that you have read just such an introduction of founding and commitment before, and that this is a cut-and-paste statement which could be made by any independent school across southern Africa, or indeed the globe. At LICS, however, we feel confident that we have developed a far-reaching modern philosophy on education that is significant in its impact beyond the classroom, the sports field and the stage.

An integrated emphasis on internationalism

LICS is proudly, fully accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS)1 and, as such, is committed to the clearly defined accreditation protocols defined by the council. At LICS, we believe that to remain relevant in a deeply challenging age, schools need to reflect constantly on their missions and their values, continually assess and evaluate their offerings, and remain “ahead of the game” in thought and action.

The core of CIS accreditation is threefold: schools must be mission-driven and vision-led, focused on student learning and well-being, and committed to internationalism/interculturalism to foster global citizenship. It is with regard to the third ingredient of the mix that we as a school have made huge strides over the past few years. At LICS, we consciously embrace an unwavering responsibility to embed in our students a global social and environmental consciousness, along with regular curricular pursuits.

LICS about far more than the “five Fs”

Over the past five years, the LICS student roll has increased to over 660 students – a growth of over 50%. Our expansion epitomises a truly international cross-section, with over 49 nationalities represented – all of whom we saw proudly representing their national dress and flags at our recent international parade of nations. The amazing breadth of nationalities and cultures at LICS creates a rich, stimulating and incredibly interesting school environment and, without doubt, makes for a truly lip-smacking experience at our international food day. Beyond food days, national fashion days and flag days, as a school we also celebrate the various national days of our representative communities as they occur throughout the year. This is a pattern found across the globe in various international school settings, where the “five Fs” are generally celebrated; food, flags, festivals, fashion and famous people. However, at LICS, we believe that there is much more required in responsibly developing in our students the internationalmindedness, global citizenship and sentient kindheartedness we wish to exemplify.

Foundational programmes focus on intercultural learning

We embrace cultural diversity and intercultural learning (IL) as part of our Global Citizenship Education (GCE) programme. As a foundation element of our Education Outreach Programme (EOP), we continue to develop this curricular imperative, having made a presentation and led discussions on intercultural learning in our EOP at the CIS 2016 Symposium on Intercultural Learning at King’s College, London.2 The concepts and consideration of GCE and IL are growing in prevalence in education systems across the globe. As mentioned, at the forefront of our commitment to developing cultural competencies is the LICS-EOP, which was launched in 2013. It is a platform through which LICS students engage with the various communities in and around Lusaka, both as a vehicle for service learning and to develop students’ understanding of local communities’ social and cultural complexities and challenges. This sets the foundation for our students as they begin to understand global issues and the diversity of cultures and beliefs of the peoples of the world.

LICS-EOP a core part of the curriculum

The LICS-EOP is managed by a dedicated coordinator and sits solidly on three foundational pillars that give rise to the formulation, planning and implementation of community-based projects and other activities. These are (1) school-to-school projects; (2) community service learning; and (3) culminating community projects. With regard to each of the three pillars, students are encouraged to engage with particularly vulnerable communities, and are guided through the various phases of project management – from conceptualisation and initiation through to project delivery and review. For enhanced student engagement towards service learning and to foster the promotion of critical thinking, planning and analysis, students in Key Stage 3 (years 7, 8 and 9) are afforded a one-hour period per week. For LICS, the starting point for developing cultural intelligence is engaging with and embracing our local communities, and our EOP provides a relevant platform for meaningful engagement.

A rich and valuable, yet unanticipated, outcome of the class community projects was the intercultural learning we found occurring naturally and spontaneously in the class groups during EOP planning sessions. These student interactions have created a new common ground, defined by a new set of expectations beyond academics, sport and arts. The cultural soup of an international school environment is soon broken down into its basic ingredients, where values and beliefs never fully articulated before are exposed, examined and explored in a safe, managed and defined situation.

The shared values that emerge are not surprising, and reflect a warmhearted and giving approach to life. Fertile ground for the birth of such shared values and beliefs has been class projects such as “Help a Friend in Need – Support for a Child with Cerebral Palsy” – a project through which Year 9 students worked closely as a group to delve into the issues and myths associated with cerebral palsy to identify workable support solutions.

In another example, the Year 8 class, having visited and seen first-hand the challenges in at-risk schools, committed to improving learning materials in a local poorly resourced school and developed closer interaction with students in that school. The interactions have proven to be insightful experiences, with LICS students valuing and appreciating not only their privileged positions in life but also their responsibility to help others.

Environmental issues are also highlighted in the EOP, and Year 7 students contributed to renewable food resources and forest conservation. The project they developed, “Green Acres”, focuses on planting fruit trees at schools and hospitals to provide sustainable food resources at a government hospital and vulnerable local schools. Year 12 seniors address a community issue in their “culminating project” – identifying a challenge, planning solutions, leveraging resources and implementing the change. So successful was their recent mobile library project that the group has extended the project into Year 13.

Supporting sustainable communities

In the primary school, there are a range of service learning community projects and, while they address local community needs, they also engage LICS students with the concepts of service and giving. The highlight of the year for me is seeing the queues of children lining up to see Santa – to give him presents. “Reverse Santa” collects Christmas gifts, which are distributed to hospital and orphanages around Lusaka. A culture of using local resources to improve local communities and people’s livelihoods is typical of LICS students’ work in the communities. Though engagement with communities, students and community members share their own stories, and the shared experiences create a natural, selfyielding environment for real-life learning and improved cultural competence. Embracing local cultural talents and skills, LICS regularly engages local dramatists, dancing groups and storytellers to offer workshops and performances for LICS students, further evolving understanding, respect and understanding.

Global citizenship should be happening in all schools

In an article for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in May 2016,3 Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), based in Paris, France, advised that the next round (in 2018) of the organisation’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) triennial international tests4 should include a measurement of global skills. The test being considered “would look at how well pupils can navigate an increasingly diverse world, with an awareness of different cultures and beliefs”. The inclusion of the additional test looks highly likely. What are we to do as schools to ensure our students are prepared for a world that requires global citizenship? It is more than digital literacy that our children require. They require a depth of cultural savvy and consideration, and we are proud to be ahead of the game at LICS, albeit ever so slightly. LICS Year 5–13 students recently participated in a CIS pilot project on Culture and Learning Preferences. Developed by the International School of Helsinki,5 the student survey completed by 10- to 18-year-olds examines students’ cultural dispositions and learning preferences. It will guide thinking around a school’s learning culture, student cultural acumen and transitions between cultures for globally mobile students, and guide strategies for addressing all of these, and improving teaching and learning.

LICS: where cultural intelligence is key

LICS board and staff members are also actively engaging with the concept of cultural intelligence. All staff and school board members completed the Intercultural Development Inventory6 in January 2017. This online survey is used to determine levels of individual and group cultural dispositions. The outcome data informed a subsequent professional development week geared towards LICS working towards CIS International Certification7 – an award that measures and acknowledges the level at which schools develop and embrace intercultural learning and global citizenship capabilities in students. At LICS, we are committed to our students and, as our vision states, “maximising the potential of future world citizens.” By acknowledging their place in the world and their future, which requires a well-defined global perspective and the requisite skills to engage with the world, it seems we are on the right track. 

Martin van der Linde is principal at Lusaka International Community School.

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Category: Autumn 2017

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