I think there is often pressure in international education to adopt systems that ‘everyone else’ is using. Such imitation leads to a form of legitimacy and, by extension, recognition. However, if we are all doing the same things, then I reckon this shows very little leadership. Here is my thinking:
The first reason is because of the word ‘think’. It is very easy to look around and just do what others are doing. It gives you a sense of validation, among other things, but it is often a cognitive shortcut.
Secondly, if you think of international education as something of an ecosystem, then if we are all offering the same thing then we can’t cater to much diversity in terms of students’ learning needs. It is better – from the perspective of the scope of student needs – to offer different types of education.
Another thing that can undermine leadership in international education is the accreditation process. (I am praying I don’t get struck by lighting writing this here.) It compels schools to fall within the boundaries of a certain framework and, while this is a great source of quality assurance, I can’t help but think we can all come out the other end a bit more beige than when we started. Having said this, I think there is great merit to undergoing accreditation in terms of self improvement but we have to guard against blindly drinking the Koolaide it can represent.
I think our schools, and our leadership, need to dare to be different. I realize no one wants to take risks when it comes to kids – and this is a correct orientation – but sometimes the status quo can be the most dangerous position of all, especially with all the change we see in our world today.
A fantastic mentor taught me that as educators we should give ourselves permission to do things differently as this can can lead to great things. To be extraordinary you either have to do something different than everyone else, or do the same activities differently. Otherwise, you may be good, even very good, but you will only ever be another shade of beige. And life is too short for that, and our kids education is too important.