The Impact of School Culture

An updated version of this post has been published on


I recently started writing more about cross-cultural education, and in particular, how this affect family dynamics. This week I have a post on China Source talking more about this.

“In School A, the child was trained that the way to succeed at school is to ask questions of the teacher during class. When this child moved to School B, acting in this way resulted in the child being labelled a rebellious troublemaker. While asking questions is a sign of independent thought prized in School A, in School B it is a sign of questioning the teacher’s authority — which will not be tolerated! This is bewildering and discouraging for the student. It is baffling and infuriating for the parents — if they even discover the root of the problem. What is considered normal and acceptable discipline is different in different cultures. The character qualities prized in students differs. Children learn to adapt, but these cultural misunderstandings and conflicts can leave a lasting impression.”

I also give a few general tips for parents who are dealing with the impact of cross-cultural schooling. Mostly this centres on values – knowing your values as a family, and the values of the school your child attends, and learning how to recognise potential value clashes, and deal with them using a values-based approach.

“Whatever the situation, try to focus on values: what values are the school/teacher operating out of? What values of your own are being infringed on? Keeping a values-focus will help you build understanding instead of grudges — a big temptation when your child’s welfare is involved!”

This is something I plan to write more about in the future, particularly the importance of understanding values.

You can read the full post, titled The Impact of School Culture, on China Source.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with cross-cultural education. What lessons did you learn, and what tips would you offer? What questions do you have, or what support are you looking for?

5 thoughts on “The Impact of School Culture

  1. I think I learned the hard way. Reading your article makes so much sense. So thanks for that. I did stick to my values, though. I couldn‘t handle the fact that kids were separated for Religious Studies in Austria and expressed my views io that! Other things you just have to accept otherwise life becomes full of obstacles and now back in the UK, there are also areas of education that I don‘t agree with. Family values are in fact the only constant!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very insightful article! As a school consultant working in Switzerland, I come across this situation so often! While parents relocating to Switzerland might have a good understanding of the school system, they are often baffled by a school culture that is very alien to them and their children. If parents do not come prepared to understand the different school culture, they might end up rejecting school altogether. Values such as responsibilty, (whose is it? The parents’s, the child’s or the school’s?), the notion of safety and what is considered acceptable behaviour can vary hugely among different cultures even in the Western hemisphere!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, big differences, even when the language is the same. And not understanding that school culture exists, and differs, leads to a lot of confusion and upset. This is true for teachers as well as parents, and even school administration in how they communicate with parents. International schools can have a lot of diversity in their staff, too – different teachers may have different philosophies, and when those differences aren’t understood or aren’t clear there can be a lot of stress at work.


  3. Pingback: Cross-cultural education: advice for parents | MISUNDERSTOOD

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