‘International adoption must always be the last option’

In practice

Teaching in the International Classroom

We’re not in Kansas anymore

When Dorothy enters a new and grim-looking world in The Wizard of Oz, she says the following, ‘Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore’. Although Rotterdam doesn’t really look like Oz, and we’re not aware of having many wizards on our staff, we can imagine that international students are initially plagued by similar feelings of homesickness, disorientation, and perhaps even despair. But neither are our teachers in Kansas. To cultivate and stimulate the creative possibilities of the international class, it is simply not enough to embrace or diversify ‘intercultural skills’; a well thought through educational strategy is needed.

City to world

In the inspirational course ‘Teaching the International Classroom’, trainer Ginie Servant (EUC) encourages participating teachers and challenges them to really think about international educational interaction, and to discuss this with each other. In addition, she encourages teachers to customise the content of their courses and create new and optimal learning situations for all students in the international class. In one of the most stimulating sessions, she unexpectedly reveals that all academic fields can be considered as city-to-world collaboration projects; these sessions have even led to new interdisciplinary partnerships.

I highly recommend this course to all teachers who recognise the vital importance of creating a ‘truly new Kansas’ in the international class.

Copy Tim de Mey FWB (participant in the first course on ‘Teaching in an International Classroom’.)


Kristen Cheney is an anthropologist and senior lecturer in Children & Youth Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies. When visiting Uganda, she discovered that many children in orphanages still have family or even a parent, so she decided to start a new research programme on this. ‘People often mistakenly think they are doing good by international adoption and/or by setting up or visiting orphanages.’

‘On my last flight to Uganda I met a group of American youths. “Are you going to visit orphanages?” asked the flight attendant. It seems that this is a common reason for travelling to Uganda. The group were indeed going on a Mission trip.’

Western organisations are often happy to participate in these types of volunteer projects; local tour operators pay a lot of money for day trips to orphanages. This has become a self-maintaining, semi-illicit industry which generates significant amounts of money, notes Karen. ‘Orphanages are shooting up everywhere in Uganda and they are rewarded financially by being full. This has stimulated unnecessary separation of children from their families.’ Often a child placed in an orphanage or adoption path could just as well be looked after by family, which is usually a much better option than living in an institute where volunteers and visitors come and go. Developmental delays and attachment problems are often the result of these harmful practices.’

There's work to be done

In collaboration with Nuffic, Kristen organised the 12-day Alternative Care course in Uganda, for regional professionals and ISS alumni. Together, they reviewed the opportunities for implementing alternative care (relationship care, foster care, and domestic adoption). ‘Happily, increasing attention is being paid to the subject, although sometimes people really have to become aware that they are not saving the world by their actions. It’s the child’s interests that must be at the forefront; not the interests of those who want a child. International adoption must always be the last option.’

Copy & Photo Karin Koolen

Anthropologist and senior lecturer: Kristen Cheney: