We want our staff and students to develop cultural knowledge and intercultural understanding.
A sister school partnership is great for this. Schools can start the process by auditing the school curriculum to ensure that international content and perspectives are included and embedded in their school policy and practice.
You may find that most overseas schools will have similar intentions. Ways of achieving the goals however are varied and can be the focus of the negotiation when you find the right school to partner with.
We want the sister school partnership to enhance the language learning of our students.
Looking for a sister school in the country that speaks the language that is taught in your school is the obvious choice. However, sister school partnerships shouldn't be the responsibility of languages teachers only. It needs the leadership support and a team approach.
If language is not a key outcome, you may consider the school population mix to decide on the country of the sister school. A sister school partnership can be very powerful in acknowledging the diverse cultures of the students in your school.
We want to provide our students and staff with opportunities to interact with people from other cultures.
Interactions can be virtual and actual. The opportunities are endless, ranging from classroom collaboration, such as pen pal and joint projects; to teacher collaboration through team teaching, class observation, discussion and resource sharing; to reciprocal cultural visits by both teachers and students.
Be clear about what you want to achieve first. The interactions and activities are means to achieve your goals.
We have a staff member who will lead the work.
One staff member is not enough. A team approach with support from the leadership is critical to ensure shared responsibility and sustainability.
We have funding and resources that will support the program.
Great! Funding is not essential during the establishment phase. However, limited funding will limit the range and extent of activities. Some schools budget funds for sister school related activities and engage the community in fundraising to support the program.
You may have to rely heavily on technology. Your partner's ICT capability will be an important factor.
Sister school program will be reflected in the school strategic plan and the Annual Implementation Plan (for government schools).
Excellent! Schools that have the partnership in their Strategic Plan are significantly more likely to have teacher and student activities. For more information, see: Internationalising Education in Victorian Government Schools.
The inclusion of sister school partnership in the school Strategic Plan will demonstrate you commitment to your school community and the overseas partner. Some schools acquire the school council approval at this stage too.
We have thought about what we will do if the partnership doesn't work. We also have an evaluation plan.
You need to be mindful of the fact that partnerships take time and effort to establish and maintain. When facing various issues and challenges, respect and perseverance is the answer.
Documenting and tracking the development of the partnership will make the reporting much easier. A three year stock take and evaluation of the impact of the partnership will also be helpful to reassess the objectives of the partnership.