“We need teachers!”

A few weeks ago we shared some of the options for educating mission kids abroad.  Today our guest blogger, Debbie Drew, shares her appreciation of the role of teachers, and the need for more of them at mission schools like Kathmandu International Study Centre (KISC).

Sometimes when I am sharing about our need for teachers to teach children like ours, people respond, “I would be willing to come to Nepal, but I’d want to work with the Nepalis not the expats”.  I understand the sentiment; the desire, given the sacrifice of career, salary and closeness to family and friends, to make a difference where it matters most and to be among the neediest.  But that also reflects a limited view of the impact a school like KISC has.  I see it in two ways.

KISC aims to provide excellent education, primarily to the mission community.  It exists to nurture and educate our children.  “Third culture kids” (TCKs) is a term coined to describe children raised in a culture other than their parents’, such as children in the military, business and diplomatic circles as well as overseas mission.  Research has shown some unique traits in these children.

They can connect with many cultures, but can struggle to feel ownership of any.  They become skilled at building connections quickly because they live in a place where friends come and go frequently, but they live with the perpetual grief of missing friends who have moved on.  This way of life can build resilience and flexibility, but TCKs can also feel they don’t know where home is, they can find long-term relationships difficult due to the frequency of transitions and they can struggle to reintegrate back into their passport country.

KISC provides an understanding international community that accepts, understands and supports these children through all they face. All four of our children, each very different in character, absolutely love being part of KISC.

The second impact KISC has is that it enables the parents to work in Nepal.  I could fill a book with the amazing stories of the work people are involved in… kick-starting businesses, anti-trafficking work, supporting the young Nepali church and so on.  If the school wasn’t here, most of the parents wouldn’t be either.  The impact is immeasurable.

I found tears streaming down my face whilst writing this, as I’ve reflected on all God has provided for our children, usually against the odds.  Sometimes I’m tired of the pace of change and uncertainty we’ve been through and worry what the long-term effects on our children will be.  Will we have regrets about the choices we’ve made?  It’s upsetting to see their already small community of friends come and go.  It’s hard not to be distracted with wondering if we will have enough teachers next year.  And I know they miss out on some things by not being in the UK (even though they gain in other areas).

And yet I know that God cares for our children and time and again has provided for them.  I am especially encouraged by their outlook on the world – they are truly global citizens that care passionately about war and peace, justice and the environment because they have seen first-hand the effects on people.  They have learnt that God is with them in the tough times.  And don’t we all have to trust our children into God’s hands whatever our situation?

KISC (and most other mission schools like it) desperately needs staff.  You can find more information on the KISC Facebook page or at www.kisc.edu.np/vacancies.
Debbie is a Trustee of KISC, and together with her husband Chris and their four children, serves as a mission worker in Kathmandu with International Nepal Fellowship.

Education, education, education

Hebron School, India, many years ago

It’s not just Tony Blair*.  Parents everywhere make the education of their children one of their top priorities, and mission workers are no different.  One of the major obstacles to people going in mission is the fear that their children’s education might be compromised as a result of their time overseas, and one of the major causes of attrition is mission workers returning home to get their children into their home country’s education system.

While many parents fall into the simple trap of assuming that education overseas cannot possibly be as good as the state education in their country of origin, the truth is often very different, and here are some of the possibilities you can investigate abroad:

Local schools.  Believe it or not, some countries have excellent schools!  Advantages: it is often cheap or even free, children engage with the language, history and culture of their country of residence, and make local friends.  Disadvantages: the final qualification may not be internationally recognised.

British schools abroad.  There are many schools overseas which follow the English curriculum.  Advantages: children stay within the English curriculum, facilitating UK schooling during home assignment and entry into the UK university system.  They make friends from within their home culture (though some of them may have a much higher socio-economic status than mission kids, leading to potential discontent).  Disadvantages: high fees, though many schools can be persuaded to grant bursaries as mission kids broaden the social profile of their school.

Find a list at http://www.expatandoffshore.com/british-schools-abroad/

International schools.  Most large cities have a number of private schools teaching in English, and some of them achieve very high standards.  Advantages: children engage with the language, history and culture of their country of residence while learning in English, and make international friends (though some of them may have a much higher socio-economic status than mission kids, leading to potential discontent).  Disadvantages: high fees, though many schools can be persuaded to grant bursaries as mission kids broaden the social profile of their school.

Christian schools.  In order to facilitate mission, there are Christian schools in many countries, often with boarding facilities.  Advantages: children are educated within a Christian environment and make international friends.  Disadvantages: many of these schools follow a US –style curriculum which may not be relevant to other nationalities.  If your child is a boarder you have the pain of waving goodbye to them at the start of every term.  More information about locations of Christian schools is available by emailing info@syzygy.org.uk.

Home education.  There are a wide variety of options for home education including online schools and written curricula, many of them Christian.  Advantages: children can stay at home while continuing their education, which may follow the curriculum of their passport country.  Disadvantages: discipline can be a problem, due to confusion between the role of parent and teacher, and one parent may in effect work full-time as a teacher.  Children can also be isolated from others their same age and not develop social skills through interaction.

We realise that educational choices are a minefield, full of pressure, doubt and ‘what ifs’.  Many agencies have a TCK advisor who can help you explore the options more fully.  But for us the key question is: if you can trust God for your ministry, can you trust God for your children’s future?  In conventional thinking, we are very much aware that university, job, security, and income all depend on how well we do at school.  However as Christians we have a different mindset: while we want the best possible education for our children we are very much aware that which doors are opened to them in life depends far more on the grace of God than on their exam results.  And a good education consists not only of grades but in walking closely with God, in the development of character, and in the ability to mix easily with people of different cultures.

*  “Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education” Tony Blair in a speech at Southampton University, 23rd May 2001