​On the importance of school communications…

Posted on 25th Aug 2021 in School News, South Korea, International Schools, International Education

Vanessa Allepuz reports on Busan Foreign School’s response to a crisis

February 2020  marks the date where the first Covid case was reported in the Republic of Korea. What we thought of as a local issue in China quickly became an incident of global proportions. At the time, it was hard to foresee the consequences, especially in how they would affect international schools with families coming from different parts of the world.

One thing is clear, whether, with students, parents, teachers, or other school support staff, the importance of honest, clear, and timely communication is vital. Schools that were able to recognize this early in the pandemic, such as Busan Foreign School, were able to build trust. This was essential to guide, help, and comfort our families through the unknown.

It is no secret that families see international schools not only as providers of education but as a place where they can connect, create relationships, and feel at home outside of their home. Parents wish to know how their children are progressing socially and academically. Furthermore, they want to know what is going on in their lives at school. At Busan Foreign School, we believe that sharing this information helps create stronger links between teachers and parents, but most importantly, creates an environment of collaboration where the learning that happens at home is as important as the one that happens at school, where the conversations that happen at school can be perpetuated at home. We believe this helps recognize and accept diversity and sets a foundation of common respect.

International schools are also expected to provide the platforms that allow parents to connect with their children’s teachers, and with each other. Furthermore, there is an expectation for schools to share relevant information to their lives in a foreign country as expats, information that will help them navigate through the challenges inherent to cultural differences, understanding of their new environment, and allow them to become sensitive to their host country. Fortunately, most of the time, information is readily available, and all you need to do is help families find it. A strong parent organization can also help new families get settled and navigate through these challenges.

The Republic of Korea has been widely praised for the way it handled the Covid-19 outbreak. As a foreign school based in Busan, we were able to welcome students to school under our hybrid and face-to-face operating models for most of the time. However, this was done under a strictly safety-controlled environment which meant visitors on campus, including parents, were limited if not nilled. As a school, we had to step up and find new ways to make our parents participants in our student’s lives. On the other side, we noticed that the amount of student-produced work increased. It is difficult to pinpoint the root cause of this, but one could say students were forced to become more independent. Making visible to parents the work that was produced by students became a priority and a great way to preserve our school community and celebrate student accomplishments. We found social media to be a great platform that enabled us to connect and celebrate.

In order for communication to be efficient, it needs to be consistent, timely, and clear. Consistent means that the content of messages shared from different departments of the school are aligned and do not contradict each other or acknowledge differences. Timely makes sure messages are sent with enough notice for our community to prepare. Communication is clear when the person receiving the message understands it as it was meant. As an international school with parents whose mother tongue is not always English, we find that the choice of simple and straightforward language helps.

We are lucky to live in a world where modern technology allows for seamless information sharing. There are many tools available that can ensure messages get across and safely pushed to parents in their language of choice. More and more emails become obsolete, and communication modes that are more prone for a young parent-base used to manage their lives in their mobile phones replace them.

At Busan Foreign School, we use a combination of platforms, and we make sure each platform has a specific communication function. We are sensitive to our user’s needs and their lifestyles but also to the importance of simplifying and consolidating. It is a fine balance, but when you get it right, it brings great benefits.

This article first appeared in the 2021/22 edition of John Catt's Guide to International Schools, which you can read here: