New View EDU Episode 24: International Perspectives on the Independent School Landscape

Available October 4

Find New View EDU on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, and many other podcast apps.

In an increasingly connected world, what can school leaders learn from their counterparts across the globe? The events of the past few years have affected schools in every country, not just the U.S., and have highlighted the fact that when it comes to our hopes, dreams, and challenges in education, we’re probably more alike than we are different. On this episode of New View EDU, two dynamic leaders from the international independent school community share their perspectives on the past, present, and future of our schools.

Kelly Borg and Maddy HewittHost Tim Fish is joined by Maddy Hewitt (right), executive director of the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools (NESA), and Kelly Borg (left), associate chief executive for teaching and learning at the Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales in Australia. Together, they discuss how world events such as the pandemic, global political instability, climate change, and a youth mental health crisis have fundamentally impacted education in different parts of the world—as well as what school leaders can do, and are doing right now, to create strong futures for their students and communities.

Observing that the pandemic ushered in a transition from valuing independence as school communities, to relying on our interdependence as a larger community, Kelly and Maddy share stories about how conditions like lockdowns, variable internet access, and other challenges manifested among schools in South Asia and Australia. They each draw on themes of relationship and connection that emerged during the pandemic, and illuminate how schools that may historically have operated in a more isolated space began to draw strength and inspiration from others during this moment of crisis. 

Yet while in many ways the shift to a more interdependent, connected educational community strengthened relational bonds, both Maddy and Kelly point out that there were real costs to the students and their immediate communities that are still in need of repair. The effects of not only the pandemic, but all manner of significant global upheaval, have taken a toll on student mental health and well-being. While Kelly reports a significant uptick in the number of students opting into remote learning options after the pandemic—a trend she ties to factors such as student agency, bullying, and mental health—she also notes that the majority of students experienced more negative social-emotional impacts from remote learning. And while she’s encouraged by the capacity of young people to recognize and talk about issues with mental health and well-being in ways that surpass previous generations, Kelly raises concerns about helping them re-engage with learning after a significant period of disruption, especially in the final years of high school. In a time when students are more globally and politically informed than ever before, thanks to the rise of social media, she sees the capacity for deep caring and future thinking, alongside rising anxiety and apathy toward existing educational systems.

Maddy points to both the positives and negatives of a constantly connected, internet-driven culture for students, and how the global awareness and connectivity Kelly has observed may be a double-edged sword. Citing the need for more, and deeper, research into how well-being is affected by different technological advances, Maddy makes the case for a more cautious and informed set of choices around digital citizenship. She points out that all of the challenges we face are challenges that will require global cooperation, through the lens of orienting our choices toward increased well-being and flourishing for every individual, community, state, and nation around the world. Maddy holds up the OECD Compass Framework as an example of a systems-thinking approach that can be used by school leaders everywhere to underpin learning design and decision-making that interweave academic literacies, global connectivity, and social-emotional wellness.

The future of schools across the globe, as highlighted by these two guests, is one of cooperation, collective wisdom, new curricular approaches, and human fulfillment. How our school communities will get there remains to be seen, but it’s certain that we’ll be better off if we undertake the journey together as interdependent, not just independent, schools.

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim, Maddy, and Kelly explore in this episode include:

  • What is the relationship between independence and interdependence in our schools? 
  • How have the events of the past few years played out in schools across the globe? What are the effects educators are seeing among students, and how are they responding to those effects?
  • What are the hot trends in learning design among international schools? What books, thought leaders, curricula, or systems are schools turning to in overhauling education for the future?
  • What are the pitfalls and the silver linings of a global mindset in education? How can globalization both improve and impair our progress?

Episode Highlights

  • “We've learned that we can work at pace, and that perfect is the enemy of good. Is that the saying? You know, where, where we go, OK, well, it's not quite right but we've got to do it by tomorrow. So we're going to do it like this. And so having the confidence to say, you know what, it's not laminated, it's not framed with a purple border. It's not, it's not beautiful. In fact, it's not even close to pretty, but we are going to do it. And it will work.” (17:54)
  • “You know, repurposing education at this time, ensuring the education is fit for purpose, which is always to ensure human flourishing and human development. It's been that forever, but we're no longer living in the industrial age. We're living in the post-industrial age where we're no longer building a society for consuming things. We're building a society for preserving and sustaining and regenerating things.” (22:11)
  • “We've had such massive interruption to our ways of life and the opportunity to reflect on that move from education as serving a really pragmatic, even economic purpose, to being fundamentally intrinsic, you know, being about human fulfillment. We've only got to look around the world to see that so many of the issues we're facing right now, in this moment, they require international cooperation.” (25:25)
  • “We need to weave into a modern learning design, to modern curriculums, we need to weave in those other pieces that are going to allow students to flourish. And that includes social-emotional awareness. And that includes inclusion and understanding intercultural realities and working for a culture where there is belonging for all on the planet, because we are interconnected and we all need to flourish in order for the planet to flourish and for, you know, humans to develop well and also to have economies that flourish, and there need to be new regenerative economies.” (32:30)
  • “I really hope that education continues to traverse down this path of getting back to its intrinsic purpose around human fulfillment, around well-being, and that we continue to move away from this focus on ‘how good is this student,’ to ‘how is this student good?’ ” (46:14)

Resource List

Full Transcript

  • Read the full transcript here.

About Our Guests

Kelly Borg loves working with teams of purpose-driven people. She does that every day in her current role as associate chief executive for teaching and learning at the Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales in Australia (AISNSW). The purpose of her work is to lift learning in NSW independent schools in partnership with teachers and leaders. Kelly has a background as a teacher in Queensland, New South Wales, and the United Kingdom and has worked to design and deliver learning for teachers and leaders across the K-12 curriculum.

Maddy Hewitt is the executive director of the Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools. Maddy was the director and a founding member of The KAUST School, which serves King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a research university community in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. She has previously served in four other international schools: The International School of Tanganyika-Dar es Salaam, Taipei American School, Cairo American College, and the American International School of Johannesburg. Maddy believes in leadership that is "transformative, unifying, and social" and that embraces a growth mindset of reflection, adaptability, and "learning forward toward success" with others.