Angeline Aow currently divides her time between her work as Curriculum Coordinator at Berlin International School and as an advisor to the Council of International Schools, a member body for more than 820 schools and 585 universities.
At CIS, Aow focuses on inclusion through diversity, equity and anti-racism, designing and delivering support materials to help schools become more inclusive. “We need to redesign schools to serve everyone,” says Aow.
But appetite for change among school leaders is mixed.
“It’s a bit polarized at the moment,” he says. “So on the one hand, you see a lot of uptake and uplift and a lot of engagement. And on the other end you see some resistance and denial or just a complete lack of knowledge.
“I think it’s in large part because there’s no escaping the fact that historically many people of color or with marginalized identities — who have always been undervalued — are in leadership positions in schools,” adds Aow.
This claim is supported by recent CIS research which found that three times more men than women are principals of international schools, and leadership teams are overrepresented by white people from Western countries.
“Historically, not many people of color or people with marginalized identities hold leadership positions in schools”
Aow designs and delivers professional development programs to help schools transform at both staff and student levels Inclusion Foundation workshops.
These online lessons help schools understand the basics. “If you want to get into this work and do it, these are the main concepts you need to consider and that’s how you can get started,” explains Aow.
Another element of this work is protective support. “In the past, I think protection has had more of a reputation for protection against sexual abuse, when in fact there are forms of harm in many ways, including racism, homophobia, transphobia,” she says.
In 2022, Aow co-authored the book To become a fully inclusive schooland her work is gaining more and more recognition in the industry. She was named as the “Eruptor” of 2022 ISC research and as one of the PIE’s Top 50 votes of 2023, European edition.
Aow’s commitment to international education and promoting inclusivity stems in part from her own experience with education systems. She was born in Malaysia before moving to Australia as a child. “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against and not served by the school system,” says Aow.
She later trained as a primary school teacher and was enrolled in the Australian state education system. “I thought it was a really bad time in my career to be somewhere where you would go and then stay at that school forever,” she says, explaining that she started looking for positions abroad.
Her first international position was at the Nanjing International School in China, where she began teaching the International Baccalaureate Foundation Years program.
“It was something that really aligned with my values and beliefs about teaching and learning,” she says, adding that this interest went on to shape her career trajectory.
“With a foundation in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, I have always worked and conducted teacher training on various topics such as promoting an international mindset that includes elements of intercultural understanding, promoting multilingualism and also developing global citizenship,” she said. he says.
“The work I did there, which was consolidated over the years, naturally led to a greater focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.”
For Aow, overhauling the school system involves redefining our understanding of a successful graduate, which for many usually ends with a student enrolling in university.
“I believe it’s not the final path for everyone,” he says. Instead, schools should focus on “promoting active citizens who will be able to have the skills to live a fulfilling life”. This includes cultivating a mindset of valuing diversity and inclusiveness – not instead of, but just as much as having disciplinary knowledge.
“The German proverb says that you can be a knowledge giant but an implementation dwarf,” he says. “So someone who might be good at a pub quiz, but someone who won’t be good at actually dealing with the challenges that society presents to us today.
“The ultimate goal is to try to cultivate ethical people who will contribute positively to the world.”