Exploring International Partnership Schools

Exploring International Partnership Schools


Principal of Longfields Davidson Heights Secondary School, Patsy Agard, along with international business teacher, Cathy Belanger, sign a formal partnership agreement with Osaka Jogakuin High School, Japan


One of the easiest and most effective ways in which students, teachers, and schools can start to reach out internationally and actively engage in global citizenship is to explore a partnership with a school in another country.

Partnerships can range from an informal arrangement between two teachers and their respective classes to a formal signed agreement between schools or school boards, from short-term to long-term, from simple to elaborate, and from being epals to reciprocal student exchanges.
Over the years, many international school partnerships have been formed in the OCDSB. In the International Education Initiatives Survey conducted in October 2011, 18% of elementary and secondary schools indicated they had a partnership with schools in foreign countries, including China, France, Haiti, Italy, Kenya, Spain and Sweden, among others. While 82% of OCDSB schools indicated they had no partnerships, over 52% of schools responded that they would be interested in starting an international school partnership. Obviously, there is a great deal of interest and opportunity to expand the number of partnerships in the OCDSB.


Why a partnership?

  • Students have the chance to learn about the world and engage in life and culture of others in a firsthand experiential way;

  • Students work collaboratively on joint global citizenship tasks, develop cultural competencies, and communicate across cultures;

  • Students use critical thinking skills and are challenged to reflect upon their own society;

  • Teachers develop international professional learning communities and share knowledge about teaching and learning as a means of enhancing their professional development;

  • Administrators are motivated by the experience of seeing students actively engaged and of teachers applying strategies such as differentiated instruction and critical thinking;

  • Parents and the community benefit by sharing in the enthusiasm of the students and staff, and can contribute to the partnership through billeting students or organizing intercultural functions.


Getting Started

Deciding to form an international school partnership requires careful consideration as it involves some extra work on the part of staff and students, and there can be some frustrations when expectations are not met. There can be technical glitches, language hurdles, personality differences, and time zone constraints as well. Nevertheless, talk with the vast majority of principals, teachers, and students who have an international school partnership and they will enthusiastically respond that conquering any of the possible roadblocks is well worth the effort. In some cases, a school partnership evolves from personal or professional connections. Sometimes schools link with international “sister” cities. Alternatively, a partnership develops on the initiative of one teacher keen to find a partner school, but if a school is striving for a longer term relationship that is sustainable over time, it is advisable to involve several people and ideally to form a school committee. Learn more by checking out some of the web links in the info box below.


Nature of partnerships

Strong international school partnerships develop if the students are engaged because they view the partnership as exciting and meaningful, as well as recognizing its link to their curriculum through a specific project. The most common types of international partnerships include a focus on one of the following areas:

  • Second language learning;

  • Curricular enrichment (e.g., art and/or music or cross-curricular themes, such as "equity" or "citizenship");

  • Intercultural study of culture and identity;

  • Special joint projects.


Next Steps

Consider the benefits to students in developing an international partnership, and then explore the many varieties of international partnerships available. Please contact the staff at OCENET who can assist in presenting the many possibilities for our OCDSB schools to pursue an international school partnership.


INFO BOX: Learn more about partnership schools

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