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The Nurtured Mind: The International Educational Initiative

 

History

            During a visit to Sakhalin, Russia, in 1991, Dr. Lorraine Miller-Nara, currently Principal of the TEDA International School in Tianjin, China, was asked by the local and regional Boards of Education to assist in the creation of a totally new curriculum to be used to create a completely new school:  the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk International School.  They asked that high academic standards be maintained while, at the same time, their children receive an English language education with a global perspective and high moral standards.  On her return to Japan she consulted with several other educators, who then formed the International Education Instituted, Inc. (IEI), a not-for-profit educational corporation.

Before actually building the curriculum, the members of IEI sought to identify what precisely was needed in education.  Two fundamental questions were asked.  The first question was:  What is the essence of the human being and what is his relation to the world?  We believe that the human reality is fundamentally spiritual in nature.  IEI defines human spirituality as the moral and self-conscious part of the universal energetic, unifying and generative power that drives the universe.   Each individual is comparable to a mine of precious jewels, each possessing unlimited potential.  As the essence of the human being is spiritual, this potential is a spiritual endowment that is transformed into discrete human powers and qualities through the process of education.  Thus, a holistic approach to education, one that focuses on educating the intellectual, physical, volitional, emotional and moral aspects of the human being, is essential.  Further, all human beings, indeed all living things, are connected in a complex network of relationships that contemporary philosophers call "deep ecology."  Every human being is endowed with some capacity to understand himself and the world.

The second question related to pedagogy: What is the best way to teach this spiritual being about himself and his world?  Research has revealed that learners who are actively involved in their learning in the form of discussions, hands-on activities and cooperative projects, retain much more of the subject being studied than students who only listen to lectures.   Hence most instruction is activity-based and encourages creativity and independent investigation.  It is also modular.  The standard educational definition of "module" is:   "A unit of education or instruction with a relatively  high teacher-to-student ratio, in which a single topic or a small section of a broad topic is studied for a given period of time."  However, since the human being is an integrated structure, and the world is also an integrated structure, knowledge of this world must reflect this integration.  Thus the modular concept in the IEI Curriculum goes beyond the study of just one topic.  Each module is unified in all its essential aspects, and all modules are interrelated.  Since our planet is globalizing in every essential compartment, a global perspective is necessary. Training or re-training of teachers is required in order to assist in the conceptual changes necessary to be able to fully implement this curriculum.

The IEI curriculum gives in-depth and ongoing attention to the development of global consciousness and responsibility.  It does so by means of eight essential components (strands).

Essential components (strands):

1

 Moral/Ethical

 Foundation of values-based education

2

 Language

 Listening/Speaking/Writing/Reading (in that order)

3

 Esthetics/Arts

 Right brain development

4

 Socialization

 A cooperative approach to learning and problem-solving

5

 Humanities

 Global, intercultural education

6

 Natural Sciences/Math

 Most globally developed at this point

7

 Physical Development

 Useful, practical health and physical education

8

 Crafts and Professions

 Including the ennobling household arts 

Performance Goals for Educators:

 Teach all courses with a global perspective.

 Help individuals develop the ability to search for knowledge, evaluate it, and decide how to put it to use in meaningful ways.

 Develop responsible, ethical individuals who possess the ability to think clearly, logically, morally and independently as participating members of a society, with the ability to work in international situations.

 Develop in each student an understanding and appreciation of cultural, social, scientific, economic, political and religious ideas and practices worldwide, and to nurture the concept of unity in diversity.

 Develop critical thinking skills and cooperative strategies that help train students in the principles of consultation so that they will be enabled to analyze their environment and use this knowledge to develop solutions to the challenges they identify.

 Provide physical and health education to enable students to live energetic, wholesome and productive lives, and contribute to the worthy use of leisure time.

 Provide the opportunity for each student to develop and to appreciate ethical global and cultural values, and prepare students to study or work in international settings, while not losing the love for and the appreciation of their own cultural experience.

 Provide a program of student activities designed to develop competent, self-directed and responsible social interaction in a cooperative, respectful atmosphere.

 Develop in each student the interests, skills and attitudes which foster life-long study for their continued intellectual, physical and spiritual development.

 Develop in each student a mastery of good communication and learning skills.

 Assist students in setting and achieving realistic academic and professional goals.

 Provide a cooperative structure of education where individual expression of ideas and opinions has its proper place.

Student Outcomes:

 Express opinions, attitudes and feelings that take into consideration the welfare of local, regional and global communities.

 Apply a variety of critical thinking, problem-solving and consultation skills to solve problems, make decisions and evaluate the reasonability and morality of results.

 Demonstrate a willingness to consider and appreciate different ideas and cultures, and accept people impartially regardless of sex, race, nationality, locality, cultural background, or religion.

  Communicate effectively in a variety of forms and situations.

  Act consciously and take responsibility for behavior, actions and decisions.

 Demonstrate a love for self and others through caring, cooperative and service-oriented behavior.

 Method Overview

        The IEI curriculum presents all subjects from a global perspective, uses a modular, integrated approach combined with a holistic orientation incorporating mental, physical, and spiritual aspects.  It includes and stresses the integration of knowledge, skills, spiritual development, moral training and the ethic of service. 

        Periods in the history of human advancement form the flexible perimeters of each module, with all modules interrelated.  Subjects are not studied in isolated environments, but are taught in such a manner that the students can see the relationships among the various disciplines.  In this way, knowledge and skills are reinforced in all classes and students are able to construct a view of the world where events, experiences, knowledge and human advancement are interrelated.

        Social Studies serve as the academic core to which the content of the curriculum is related.  The history of human development is the general background for the study of all subjects, including language arts, mathematics, science, fine arts, and moral education.  The social, economic, political, and spiritual evolutionary processes experienced by the human race in arriving at its present maturity are studied (1) to learn how past achievements have contributed to the present, (2) to learn from past mistakes and (3) to acquire a consciousness of the unity and continuity of the human race.  The methods of education employed in this modular structure train students in the use of critical thinking and research skills.

        In addition to individual study and research projects, students frequently work in pairs and small groups.  Cooperative learning activities, which facilitate the development of a variety of social skills, such as working with others, group decision making, and interpersonal communications, are also used.  Group activities, as well as individual events, are used to measure learning achievements on both the group and individual levels.

        The use of current technology is closely incorporated into development of learning skills, providing tools with which to assist individual and group learning and research, as well as in the implementation of service projects.  Collaboration with the University of Arizona, located in Tucson, will expand the resources available for use by the students, provide mentors, and development assistance of community service projects. 

Sites and Results of IEI Curriculum Use

        The IEI curriculum is easily adapted to any educational environment.  It was first used in the newly created Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk International School (YSIS) in Sakhalin, Russia, in 1991.  The first graduating class of YSIS held its commencement in May of 1999.  Of the 44 original students who started the program in the 5th grade, 19 students remained with the program through graduation.  Many students left the island due to the economic difficulties in Russia.  A few others moved to other programs that did not charge tuition.  Of the 19 students who graduated, all were accepted at the college or university of their choice.  This included one student who elected to go to university in Japan (Keio University), one to Sheffield University in Great Britain, two to universities in Australia, one to the University of Hawaii, one to the University of Alaska, and four others to various colleges and universities in the continental U.S.   One of the students in this last group was asked to take a test for the President's Scholarship to Deserving Students from the NIS.   This included taking the Michigan Test for English and writing a 500-1000 word essay on what the student wanted to major in and why she thought it was important to her future and to the world.  She scored one of the highest scores ever recorded on the Michigan Test for English, and was awarded a full scholarship (books, tuition and monthly stipend) to study International Relations at Michigan State University.  The remaining nine students gained admission to prominent universities in Russia, with at least two students saying that they wanted to study law and governance as that was what Russia needed more than anything else at this time.

        When these students were in the 8th grade, 24 of them were asked to come as representatives of Sakhalin, Russia, to a UN sponsored conference in Denmark.  They were invited to take part in a mock UN general assembly meeting run by youth from all over Europe.  The YSIS students were selected by the media to be the general spokespersons for the gathering because of their command of English, their outgoing and gregarious nature, their grasp of the problems facing the world, and their ability to communicate clearly the processes needed to solve them.  In interviews, the students said that they thought it was normal for them to think and speak that way.  That was what they did all the time at their school. Education experts from England, Holland, and Denmark visited the school and thoroughly investigated the pedagogy and the teaching methodology behind the curriculum. They concluded that "this style of teaching, the way the curriculum relates all the subjects to each other, the way the content-based immersion approach to education involves the students in the critical thinking processes, mark this curriculum as being on the cutting edge of the very best of education." 

        The IEI curriculum is currently being adapted for use at the Townsend International School in the Czech Republic; the Ocean of Light School in Tonga (South Pacific); in Rural Learning Centers in Malaysia; and was used at the Daystar International School in Japan.  Portions of the curriculum are in use in both remedial and advanced learning centers in the People's Republic of China, Germany, and Mexico.

Awards and Honors 

        In 1999, the IEI curriculum was awarded the top prize for educational innovation by the Federal Ministry of Education for Russia.  It was highly praised by the Ministry of Education for the Czech Republic and is under consideration for becoming the Republic's standard curriculum.

 

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