We have embedded a core module into our primary teacher education programme to allow students the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge of international education settings.
We want to help students to develop transferable skills and develop their understanding of international pedagogies and curricula such as the International Baccalaureate. We hope that this experience will help transform their practice as well as develop them as a person.
The MA (Hons) Education is a 4-year professional degree programme that allows students to qualify as primary teachers. Throughout the programme, students undergo professional teaching placements in Scottish primary schools. In their second year, they have the opportunity to undertake an international placement for either 6 or 8 weeks.
Over the years we have built relationships with many partner organisations, and students have taught across the world including Australia, China, Sri Lanka and Malawi. In addition to this, we promote Erasmus funding and send students to various European countries for an 8-week internship with partner schools.
So, what are the lessons we have learned about facilitating an international experience among students who previously haven't had the opportunity for an international experience?
We have seen our numbers for outward international experience rise year on year with provisional figures for next year suggesting that 50% of students may undertake an international placement.
Evaluations from students consistently said that this placement can be life-changing both personally and professionally. Some students have stated that it made them decide to pursue their career in international schools. For other students, it has either been their first time abroad on their own or their first time abroad.
One student, who had two children, took her family on the internship with her. She wanted her children to experience living and learning in another culture and enrolled them into the school in Spain where she was teaching. Two years on and they are now living and working full-time in southern Spain – life changing indeed.
Year on year, students comment on how this has developed their confidence, maturity and communication skills. Some comments from students reflecting on their time abroad:
'My international experience was the highlight of my four years at Dundee.' Teaching in an international school, Spain
'I have come back from France a changed person. It has actually made me a happier person.' Teaching in a primary school, France.
'My placement was the most amazing experience ever. I have learnt so much about myself and about the sort of teacher I want to be. Living with a host family really helped me develop my German' Teaching in an international school, Germany.
'This was the most challenging thing I have ever done. It was hard but I have learnt so much about myself and I feel so much more confident now' Volunteering for a community outreach project, Sri Lanka.
The development of the students' international placement has also had a big impact on myself and my colleagues. My increased knowledge of Erasmus+ led me to put in a successful International Credit Mobility bid (a first for the University of Dundee) and prompted me to build new partnerships with institutions to promote staff outward international mobility. This in turn has led to an increase in incoming students coming to Dundee to do a placement in Scottish schools. Developing internationalisation placements for student teachers has not only impacted on them, but also on the whole school and beyond.
Susan Buckman, Lecturer of Education, School of Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee