Dr Jonathan Young I Blog | 22.01.18

International Schools and The European Far Right: Foreign to a Social Reality?

 In June of 2016, The Pew Research Centre released their findings of a multi-nation survey which reported that ‘Euroskepticism’ was on the rise across Europe (Stokes, 2016). Pew found that a median of just 51% across 10 European Union countries surveyed had a favourable view of the European Union (Stokes, 2016). Supporters of ‘Euroskeptic’ parties in France, Italy, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom were much less likely to have a favourable view of the European Union (Stokes, 2016). This lack of faith in Europe manifested itself in the United Kingdom in June of the same year when the people voted to leave the European Union in a nation-wide referendum. The ‘Leave’ campaign ran on a platform of controlling immigration into the United Kingdom. In the week following the BREXIT vote, the numbers of hate crimes increased in the UK. Europe’s far right parties rejoiced in the UK’s vote to leave the EU, hailing it as a victory for their own anti-immigration stances and vowing to push for similar referendums in France, Denmark and the Netherlands (Chrisafis, 2016). In the autumn of 2016, the Home Secretary of the UK announced plans to force companies to disclose how many foreign workers they employ. Members of Parliament have called for dental checks to determine the age of refugees before they are admitted entry into the UK. These are unsettling developments which flirt with bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Europe is facing demanding and difficult times. Politically, there is upheaval and division. People fear what they do not know and their ignorance is changing the political landscape in Europe. Nations are fearing each other out of this ignorance. The overt prejudice of immigrant populations from entering certain countries is likely to threaten the ‘security’ of us all. However, the ability to cooperatively and peacefully live together is one of the best characteristics of the human species.

As of 2013, there were 6,400 international schools teaching 3.2 million students worldwide (Brummitt and Keeling 2013: 27). Research predicts that globally there will be 10,000 international schools by 2020 (Brummitt and Keeling 2013: 28). In 2008 there were 1,205 international schools in Europe (Brummitt and Keeling 2013: 27). International schools attempt to advance the idea that embracing diversity leads to social cohesion. These schools expose young people to a complex world and a successful student will develop a complex understanding of it (Pearce 2013: 78). This makes the role of international schools in promoting cultural understanding and prosocial behaviour more important than ever. International schools have a social and educational responsibility to transform pedagogy and curriculum to promote values of social justice, equity and supporting students to become ‘righteous and good’ (Faas et al 2014: 306; Soutter 2014: 532). There is a need for international schools to create opportunities for interchange between and among their culturally and linguistically diverse students (Langford 2013: 105). Educators have a moral obligation to educate young people about issues which affect all of us, so that they can function in our globalised, socially diverse and multi-cultural world. Perhaps now more than ever in Europe, international schools need to be seen as examples of places where people from various cultures and backgrounds can be ‘taught’ to get along, empathise with and take care of one another.


Brummitt, N. and Keeling, A. (2013) “Charting the Growth of International Schools”, in R. Pearce (ed.), International Education and Schools: Moving Beyond the First Forty Years. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 25-36.

Chrisafis, A. (2016) European Far Right Hails BREXIT Vote https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/24/european-far-right-hails-britains-brexit-vote-marine-le-pen, (Accessed 3 September 2016).

Faas, D., Hajisoteriou, C. and Anegelides, P. (2014) Intercultural Education in Europe: Policies, Practices and Trends, British Educational Research Journal, 40 (2), 300-318.

Langford, M. (2013) Book Review: Internationalizing Teacher Education in the United States, Journal of Research in International Education, 12, 103-107.

Pearce, R. (2013) “Student Diversity: The Core Challenge to International Schools”, in R. Pearce (ed.), International Education in Schools: Moving Beyond the First Forty Years. London: Bloomsbury, pp.61-83.

Soutter, M. (2014) The Moral Work of Teaching and Teacher Education: Preparing and Supporting Practitioners, Journal of Moral Education, 43 (4), 532-534.

Stokes, B. (2016) Euroskepticism Beyond Brexit http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/06/07/euroskepticism-beyond-brexit, (Accessed 25 August 2016).

Jonathan Young - Bio

Dr. Jonathan Young is a native of Canada and has been living and teaching in Brussels since 1999. Jonathan received his Doctorate of Education from the University of Leicester in 2016. His research project focussed on the identities and aspirations of a cohort of young people attending an international school. In particular he considered the importance of ‘international capital’ on their aspirations, self-perceptions and life experiences. He has taught secondary school students in international schools in Ukraine and Belgium over a career spanning 20 years. His research interests include careers guidance and teacher professional development. He is currently Head of Economics at European School IV, Brussels, Belgium.





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