Dialogue opens doors for Nuffic’s international skills model
International skills enable students to learn, live, and work in different intercultural and international contexts. Nuffic has developed an international skills model which brings these skills into focus. This model can be used in all sectors of education in the Netherlands, including vocational education and training, for example, and potentially also in the education systems of other countries.
Learning from each other Nuffic researcher, Anne Rosier, on the model: ‘Our model is based on a vision for internationalisation that spans the entire education sector, and involved looking at the different needs of education professionals. But we didn’t make a distinction between different activities or sectors of education. To enable this distinction to be made, we conducted follow-up research, in which student development was key. Now, we want to make the skills model even more practical. After all, a model like this is never finished because vocational education and the world around us are constantly changing’.
A review of the literature and interviews with education professionals produced a skills model in which international skills are explained on the basis of three closely linked components: intercultural skills, international dimension, and personal development. ‘But internationalisation for internationalisation’s sake doesn’t work’, says Rosier. ‘Multiple factors such as context, learning environment and students’ learning needs play a role in international experiences.’ That’s why Nuffic also sees its model as a tool for promoting dialogue around the subject both within the vocational programmes themselves and between teachers and students.
Insights Rosier believes that dialogue is crucial. ‘We asked schools how they use the model and this produced some surprising insights! Uses ranged from a conversation starter to get teachers interested, through an instructional model for teaching teams providing student support to the school-wide integration of internationalisation into curricula. Dialogue plays a role everywhere’. The skills model provides guidance in this context, so, according to Rosier, ‘internationalisation doesn’t just become something that you have to do’.
International coordinator, Peter Stolk, from mboRijnland in Leiden agrees. ‘We disseminated Nuffic’s model internally but we weren’t sure what to do with it.’ So he talked to HR about how the skills model could be incorporated into teachers’ job profiles. ‘This is still in the starting blocks, but as a vocational school we believe it’s important that every teacher develops international skills. This is essential given the multicultural makeup of our students and the ever more international nature of the jobs market. Discussing this model with teachers gives them a greater insight into what is meant by international skills and they understand better how they can use these skills with their students’, says Peter Stolk.
Its aim is that teachers learn to think more about how they can acquire these skills, both for their students and for themselves. ‘I sometimes miss the intercultural dimension in the classroom. Clearly, the focus on professional conduct is important but learning about the culture and history of a country in advance provides more context and helps students deal more effectively with certain professional situations later on when they’re doing a placement abroad. And learning to show understanding is all part of this, too. In Y-junction, for example, the Erasmus KA-2 project of our Motor Mechanics programme, teachers learn about cultural differences and different approaches to teaching from Finnish, German, and Spanish colleagues. And now they’re even creating a learning package from this’, says Stolk. For him, this proves that the Nuffic model adds value to the international placement programme.
The international coordinator also encourages teacher placements. ‘They help teachers to look beyond their subject. It all starts with teachers from abroad who come to us on an exchange. They pave the way for internationalisation because, by talking to them and working with them, our lecturers become interested in how their subject is taught in other countries and how they do things abroad. In other words, they develop international skills.’
Anne Rosier also sees the potential for vocational education providers in other countries to use the Nuffic model. eTwinning, the learning community in Europe, is an example. In eTwinning teachers work online together and organise activities for their students. They have an active role, interact, be open-minded, and respect each other. ‘Because the debate around international skills in education is under way in many countries: it’s important for every student in the world! The world around us is changing, and focusing on the development of international skills makes vocational education students better prepared for the workplace.’