UNIS or USIS: United States International School  –  The Americanisation of Our School

DISCLAIMER: This editorial reflects the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Flame staff. 




Junior Varsity.

Prom King and Queen.

Pep Rallies.

For the first 8 years, I attended UNIS, my meagre comprehension of those terms had been gleaned from cliché American teen movies like High School Musical, Bring it On and Mean Girls. Yet, during my last two years, these North American traditions have become my reality.

I remember last year, having a conversation with two European friends who had recently moved to UNIS. We were talking about how the sports teams were being renamed “Varsity” and “JV” teams when my friend mentioned that it made sense, because UNIS is an American school. The other friend agreed. I was shocked that there were pupils attending UNIS who believed that the United Nations International School was an American school.

When I questioned them about why they thought that UNIS was American, they mentioned that most of the principals and counselors were from the United States as well as many teachers, they talked about Prom, the aforementioned “Varsity” teams, compulsory PSAT tests, ‘Phelix the Phoenix’, and many more reasons which led to their viewpoint.

That made me reflect on the fact that some schools in the US are trying to stop the culture of Prom King and Queens – as it is in effect, a popularity contest. So why is UNIS starting this outdated tradition? In my opinion, the notion of voting for a mock monarchy is not an example of UN principles.

Furthermore, in my experience, UNIS’s gender biased dress codes are mainly enforced by a select number of American staff, rather than by the faculty as a whole. Students also had to sit through advisory lessons on information geared towards applying to North American universities: Naviance, personal statements, SAT’s, even when more than half of the graduating class went to other countries for university.

According to the 2014-15 UNIS annual report, around 40% of faculty are from the USA, with an even higher percentage in leadership roles.

In the 2008-09 report, 14% of teachers were from the USA, meaning in 6 years, there was a 172% growth.

And only 13% of the student population in UNIS are from the USA.

Personally, I have had to deal with explaining my accent to new people that I meet, why my school environment gave me an American accent, rather than having an Australian – or even Vietnamese accent from my parents.

To clarify, this is a personal opinion on UNIS losing its identity as a diverse international community and school and in no way is this an attack on the American culture (or on my excellent teachers from the USA). During my decade at UNIS, I have witnessed the school body losing the unique spirit as seen in UN Day, that made the school truly international. As a United Nations school, we have more responsibility than any other international school to promote diversity and follow UN principles, even in our school traditions. The school frequently brags about the 67 different nationalities that attend our school, so why doesn’t UNIS reflect this multiculturalism in our school life?