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Note: Thoughts on internationalisation of the curriculum

VU International News and Reviews No. 16 October 14 2013

October 2013

Much of the discussion on curriculum internationalisation lists issues and demonstrates complexities, but lack precision in discussing what may be attributes of an internationalized curriculum in a SMART way. Underneath is an attempt to add such SMART precision.

The first key question is:

  1. What would make a curriculum fit to produce graduates who are equipped for life, work and/or further study in a globalized world?
    What could be SMART elements distinguishing an international curriculum?
    It would be a curriculum that produces the following learning outcomes:
  1. Check and ensure that the curriculum reflects not only local/national but global state-of-the-art knowledge and understanding in the relevant field/subject/discipline/profession.
  2. Knowledge of the different perceived realities that exist globally in the relevant field/subject/discipline/profession.
    Apart from knowledge, also understanding and ability to adjust activities may be defined.
  3. Command of modern foreign languages (how many, which ones, what level?)
  4. Intercultural communication skills (focused on specific cultures or generally, how many cultures, how deeply?)
  5. ICT competence: if digital literacy is an essential condition for further success, how is it assured? Can the students be relied on to develop it themselves? Is testing sufficient/required? Is training/guidance support necessary?
  6. Knowledge & understanding & personal position towards global sustainability/responsibility? It is an ethical question to what extend a university chooses to make this part of the required learning outcomes.

If these learning outcomes are defined, the next step is to ensure that the curriculum entails the elements to assure that students can achieve these learning outcomes: demanding skills without any support in the curriculum to achieve them is a recipe for failure.

Assuming that an international/intercultural classroom is an important strategy to achieve an internationalized curriculum with internationalized learning outcome, the second key question should be:

  1. What would be needed – in addition to the requirements following from the first question – to achieve an international/intercultural classroom?
  1. In an international classroom, there is a deliberate use of ‘critical intercultural incidents’ to achieve intercultural learning. Gradual building up of advanced intercultural learning through graduate intensification of the use of ‘critical intercultural incidents’.
  2. In an international classroom, teachers are aware of the various learning styles that students from different backgrounds may have; teachers are able to a) handle these differences and b) support/guide students to broader the array of learning styles which they command.
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