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Beyond “Interculturalspeak”: The Need for More Critical Approaches to Intercultural Understanding in International Schools

Beyond “Interculturalspeak”: The Need for More Critical Approaches to Intercultural Understanding in International Schools
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Author(s): Jacob Huckle (University of Bath, UK)
Copyright: 2024
Pages: 28
Source title: Handbook of Research on Critical Issues and Global Trends in International Education
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Megel R. Barker (TASIS England, UK), Robyn Conrad Hansen (Northern Arizona University, USA)and Liam Hammer (International School of Lusaka, Zambia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8795-2.ch008



This chapter critiques the way in which the concept of intercultural understanding is conceived in many international schools. It takes the international baccalaureate (IB) as a case study of the dominant approach to intercultural understanding and analyses IB documents to identify five key problematic assumptions that underpin this approach. A broader contextualisation locates these assumptions within a liberal multiculturalist paradigm in which intercultural matters are approached in simplistic and acritical ways, an orientation characterised by Dervin as ‘interculturalspeak'. The chapter then draws upon theories of Adrian Holliday to argue that such an approach is inadequate given the inequities and power asymmetries present in many international schools, as revealed by recent ethnographic studies. It is argued that international schools should adopt a more critical and reflexive approach to intercultural understanding in which students can engage with rich cultural complexities and challenge the inequitable power hierarchies related to culture(s) within their schools.

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