…“Inclusion” and “diversity” are terms that grace the mission statement of many International Schools. As such, you would think that if religious practices were suddenly introduced into a school touting these ideals, the various religions of the students and faculty would be represented equally. Not always so! Reviews scattered throughout the ISR web site outline schools that have adopted a religious overtone with a focus on one religion only — the Admin’s. Here are excerpts from the ISR Forum and School Reviews that express concern over this emerging practice in some International Schools:
I work in an international school in Europe. Over the years there’s been a clear shift…. Fellow teachers are including religious viewpoints in their lessons, many of the charities the school supports have religious backgrounds, and every Sunday the school is even used by a Christian church for service, Sunday school, etc. Several of the workshops offered to teachers are also organized by religious-related organizations. I don’t support any of this and it clashes with my view of what an International School should be (i.e. void of religion).
The Director and Principals are preoccupied with their faith and this consumes much of their energy. Staff are obliged to attend Christian “boot camp” in order to be broken down, then rebuilt into better, “more godly” people. There is a monthly “joint fellowship” which all staff are required to attend. Each morning there are staff devotions where teachers relate personal faith-related experiences.
Prayers before staff meetings are mandatory and there are worship services before the start of the year. The staff retreat is similar to a church camp for adults. Most of this isn’t negative; however, it has led to a bumpy transition and there are concerns that a strong Christian would be hired over a strong teacher. All in all I would recommend the school if you are a conservative Christian. The trend has been towards a more conservative atmosphere and there have been quite a few staff members who have left because of a difference of opinion.
…In light of these comments, it can be said that if you accept a position at the Christian Academy of Nepal (a fictitious name for purposes of this Article), it would be foolish to think prayer and observance would not be part of the school day. But even in such a scenario there can be more than meets the eye. One ISR School Review tells how the reviewer never anticipated accepting a position at a faith-based school would allow admin to violate his personal space, confiscate his iPod and check that it contained only Christian music, with consequences for anything but.
…Although we at ISR consider such actions extreme and far from the spirit of International Education, the aforementioned Review does describe a school that contains the word Christian in its title. Still, a number of School Reviews, as in our earlier examples, relate how a non faith-based school brought in a new director who cast a religious overtone onto the school’s atmosphere, then recruited only faith-oriented staff who incorporated religion into their daily lessons and directives.
…ISR supports the practice of all religions. When, however, a single religion is introduced into an International School unannounced by an administrator with an agenda, our position is that this goes against the most basic foundation of an inclusive and diversified education.
Tell us about YOUR experience and position on this topic!