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Keeping the World in Mind

Updated: May 18, 2023

The Application of Inter-Cultural Intelligence (ICI) in International Schools

This article was written by one of KnowledgeWorkx's associates, Armandee Drew, an inter-culturally intelligent educator.

When it comes to evaluating the education we provide to our children in an international school setting, what do we consider? As educators we think through content and curriculum. We deliberate how we teach, how students learn, and we ask the why questions that bring us to deeper philosophical ideas about education.

More and more, we are bringing personal-social-emotional learning strands into the classroom to provide a holistic approach to education. We are making advances in understanding the brain and best learning practices according to biological factors. We are integrating IT and doubling our bandwidth. We are dealing with bullies in person and in cyberspace. We work hard to accommodate a child’s learning style and cognitive level while making sure to strengthen self-esteem. We are truly creating a world, both present and future, by the way we educate. However, is this enough? 240 million people worldwide reside outside their home countries and globalization trends are rising exponentially by 10% each year. Migratory patterns are moving out not only from the western world but from Asia and the Middle East spreading all across the planet.

We are bringing children together from every cultural background, teachers and leaders from every paradigm who see education through different cultural lenses, and placing them together in a foreign cultural context. This reality is changing both their inner and outer landscapes. International Schools are more culturally diverse than ever before. We are not in Kansas any more. The tornado of globalization has hit the world leaving many of us in search of our Oz of identity, belonging and sense of community.

We must think about building global learning communities where the future leaders of the world are taught, trained, and launched into the inter-cultural complexity that will only increase in their lifetime. It is time to think about developing Inter-Cultural Intelligence in our schools.

As International Schools, we have the privilege of joining every child in understanding the world through the most diverse classrooms that have ever been. Understanding ourselves and our world is foundational to an International education yet the competencies involved can be seen as cursory to the traditional skill sets and standards (for example literacy and numeracy) that our students are measured by.

What isn’t so obvious, however, is that many students aren’t achieving their potential because of certain cultural assumptions. We differentiate students according to learning aptitudes and achievement levels, but are we differentiating to cultural dimensions and worldview? What if the lack of classroom participation by many students isn’t due to a lack of understanding or motivation, but a less individualistic upbringing and a value system that shuns speaking one’s own mind before confirming community agreement among the “tribe”?

What if inquiry and critical thinking aren’t happening because certain types of questioning can be unsafe or dishonoring in some cultures? What if parents aren’t partnering due to cultural clashes in direct and indirect communication styles? We can sweep these misunderstandings under the carpet or we can become inter-cultural experts in our schools. Without intentionally diving into the depths of our differences and seeing them as the strengths of our communities, we will miss the opportunity to build the leading peacemakers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.

When we take the time as educators to think deeply and critically about culture we will unlock a treasury of helpful adaptations that will free every cultural learner to thrive. Every international school has the same opportunity to take their diverse population and create a community of learners (including teachers) who see deeper into self and others, can anticipate and adapt to cultural complexity, and feel a sense of identity, belonging, and healthy inter-cultural relationships, wherever they find themselves.

It is time to start seeing Inter-Cultural Intelligence as foundational instead of just an add-on. In doing so, we will send our students into the world as the future leaders who, underlying their expertise, intellectual excellence and emotional intelligence, are the inter-cultural “wizards” who will likely redefine Oz as they together create a new path forward…with the world in mind.

Contact us to learn more about how KnowledgeWorkx can help you develop Inter-Cultural Intelligence in your organization. You can also start your culture learning journey from our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.



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