George Walker's position paper entitled East is East and West is West outlines 4 major area where Western and Eastern values may differ:
- The group and the individual: here the IB Learner Profile is very concerned with individual attributes that promote active participation in learning (inquiry, communication and risk-taking) and personal responsibility (thinkers, knowledgeable, balanced, reflective, principled, open-minded). Only the attribute of caring really involves other people. Certainly there is a different balance between independence (Western) and interdependence (Eastern) in the Learner Profile.
- Respect for authority: having lived and worked in Europe, North America and Asia there is clearly a difference in relationships with and respect for teachers. The IB Learner Profile refers to all in the school community being learners, teachers, administrators and students. This might not sit so comfortably with Eastern views of teachers.
- A holistic view: Eastern cultures are more likely to see the whole picture and to view issues in shades of grey instead of the black and white approach of the West. One Learner Profile attribute that alludes to this holistic view is balanced.
- Taking risks - this is probably the one attribute where there is the greatest difference between Eastern and Western values. While we can see risk-taking as being something positive, many cultures would view it as negative and irresponsible.
At the end of all this, I'm not at all sure which word would be a better one to substitute for risk-takers, however I do agree that the IB promotes more Western values and attitudes than Eastern and that if the IB is really to promote international mindedness these issues will need to be addressed.
Photo Credit: Weather Vane by Leo Reynolds