Asian cities, impermanence and international schools


I recently explored an old colonial building here in Saigon. Tiled corridors, sweeping staircases and Art Deco features. Cool little boutiques and cafés juxtaposed with shady family apartments. And, what can only be described as a whole village in itself on the roof.

Beautiful? Yes. Tragic? Almost certainly.

It is quite soul-destroying inhabiting these cities in this part of the world. It is a perpetual cycle of coming across amazing bits of history only to to find them flattened the next time you go past.

There is a direct relationship between this cultural impermanence and the distinctly impermanent nature of international schools in this region. Though they may physically remain in place for some time, the attempts of their transient teachers to have a genuine affect on their transient students often comes across as fleeting. Students and teachers keep passing through as though on some conveyor belt both oblivious to their surroundings and incapable of shaping them. Never the twain shall meet.

Everybody needs to feel as though they are part of something that lasts. How do we create schools that affect and shape culture? How do we create schools that symbolize cultural strength and wisdom and not exploitation and destruction? How do we attract great teachers to those schools and get them to stop looking for a place where the grass is greener? ‘Cause it ain’t. The grass is green back home.

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