Update with CIS: The Courage of Conversations
Jun 23, 2020 —
Dear friends in education across the world,
The courage of conversations. The willingness to be disturbed. Turning to one another. There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. (M. Wheatly)
I had an incredibly enriching and productive conversation with Jane Larsson, the Executive Director of the Council of International School, on Saturday. While petitioning to an institution may sound adversarial, the meeting was the extreme opposite. It was grounded on the spirit of collaboration, partnership, and 'turning to each other'. We thanked Jane and CIS for genuinely listening to our petition and engaging us in the process, the only one amongst many other international education accreditation agencies. CIS has been reflective in their own process during their internal meetings with the CIS Board and the Global Team. They are also deeply inspired by the questions we asked, and the groundwork we are all doing, individually and collectively through AIELOC, Diversity Collaborative, and the school-based movements across the world. Nunana, who is a part of the CIS Team, has also provided an in-house learning amongst the CIS leaders, so do the open letters published by Safaa, Rachel, Omotoyosi, and Doline - letters that have humanised and contextualised racism in international education.
Based on what we've learned from Jane during our conversation is that the Council of International Schools has had reflections during their internal meetings on what CIS can do, what data they have from member schools, and the plans they need to develop and lead change. They also recognise the need for time to educate themselves. They are also mindful of the complexities of the changes from the institutional level and within member schools. Therefore, CIS has committed to developing an intentional process. Our proposal in the petition is on accreditation, which will only impact schools that go through CIS accreditations, and not universities. Therefore the changes we are proposing will only impact a little more than half of the CIS member schools. What CIS is thinking is to look into the council's Mission and Vision, Code of Ethics, and Membership Standards. They also recognise the need for review of CIS's definition of Global Citizenship. These are 'purpose and direction' of CIS that will have greater leverage and impact, larger and all-encompassing than accreditation, which is more than what we petitioned for. This is a positive response that brings optimism and hope for systemic change!
Please see Jane's email below with regards to the updates to the processes that CIS is beginning to take:
Good morning Joel and colleagues,
At CIS, we’re now organizing a Board Committee to focus on how we can purposefully address racial inequalities in international education systems and structures, beginning with CIS – internally – and as a membership association for almost 1,400 universities and schools in 122 countries. The Board will meet this week to discuss formation of the committee, which will include members, CIS staff and Board members, and we will strive to achieve diversity on the committee. One point of clarification related to our membership numbers and accredited school numbers - CIS is an international accrediting body for schools – but not for universities. Our schools and universities apply to become members and follow different processes to become members, some of which Joel has cited below. Our numbers as of today: Schools: 759 (507 have achieved CIS International Accreditation; 88 currently working towards CIS International Accreditation), and Universities: 617
I’ll be sure to provide an update on our progress once the Board meets next week. Thanks again Joel, for the time you took to meet with me and provide perspective on the potential actions CIS can take. I learned a lot from our discussion. Meanwhile, I hope everyone stays as well and healthy as possible as we do our best to ensure the continuity of education under the varying regulations associated with controlling the coronavirus, and, as we learn about and take on deep and broad challenges to address racial inequality. We will do our very best, I can promise you this.
Jane, on behalf of the thousands of educators and school leaders in schools and the broader international education organisations, thank you for your partnership and leadership; and to the Council of International School's deep dive into the structural and systemic racial inequity in international education. We also look forward to rolling up our sleeves to do the work in our own contexts, in many ways we can. One of the ways individuals and teams can begin: A Hopeful Case for Teacher Leadership and Confronting Bias in Education
This is a statement from an article entitled, Dear White People Now You Know and You Can't Pretend You Don't: You'll never fully understand, but at the very least, stand. Speaking up is political and staying silent is political. Everything is political, and if it isn’t to you then your privilege is showing. And so we will continue to do work for standing up, in our own ways and contexts, fuelled by our powers and privileges, be it racially, economically, politically, socio-culturally in international education, with all its layers, complexities, and intersectionalities.
Let us keep telling our stories and taking actions for racial equity. So we will not declare victory in our petition yet, because our victory is in the work that we will all do together for a diverse, equitable, inclusive, just, and anti-racist world.
With deep appreciation and respect,
Keep fighting for people power!
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