Leading schools interculturally
by Ann Straub, CIS International Advisor

International schools by mission, serve diverse communities, and in turn, strive to prepare students for their place in a diverse world. How are our school leaders modelling perspectives to address this diversity? This very pursuit is the foundation of your missions, the essence of your dialogues, whether in the board room with trustees seeking exemplary education for students, with teachers developing effective learning strategies, or in personal conversations with parents and students about their hopes for the future.

Dimmock and Walker wrote, “In a globalising world, recognition of the influence of societal culture and cross-cultural similarities and differences becomes more, rather than less, important.”

How do you build a strong school culture focused on the development of interculturally competent global citizens? As a leader, you know the importance of successfully navigating the complexity that comes with leadership of a diverse international community. What are the hidden - but critical - aspects of school leadership that can strengthen your effectiveness? Do you have the skills to lead your school interculturally?

As with any successful initiative, the whole community must be behind it. Building a shared understanding of what international education is, and what global citizenship looks like in practice, is essential. And as an educational leader, your own perspectives and understandings must also be developed so that we can model the attributes and behaviours of global citizenship that we are striving to develop in our students.

Leaders who successfully manage conversations and foster relationships in a diverse cultural community use specific skills developed over time. They understand there can be multiple pathways to a decision. They work intentionally to achieve shared understanding and listen to multiple perspectives along the way. 

  • How can you become more aware of cultural difference?
  • Would you recognize intercultural learning when it happens in your community?
  • How can you develop your own perception skills most effectively?

At CIS, we hold global citizenship at our core when working with schools throughout the world. The development of interculturally competent global citizens begins with a commitment from you as a school’s leader to develop intercultural leadership skills and to strategically craft the development of global citizenship in your school.


A majority of the issues we discuss with schools can be attributed to cultural differences

Jane Larsson, CIS Executive Director


To this end, I helped develop an interactive online course, Leading Schools Interculturally along with Dr Eeqbal Hassim, Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Graduate School of Education. The learning modules were designed by the award-winning Chang School at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. You can now take part in a process to explore and evaluate the leadership skills necessary to enable a meaningful international education.

Three modules have been developed to support school leaders to view intercultural relationships, connections and processes in their schools as a given, not just an aspirational end goal. CIS views leading schools interculturally as leadership that supports individuals and groups within the school community to recognize, manage, and navigate the intricacies and outcomes of these relationships, connections and processes.

By the end of all three modules, you will be able to:

  • Identify successful leadership of intercultural learning.
  • Identify intercultural leadership capabilities in yourself and others.
  • Integrate intercultural leadership into a distributed leadership approach.
  • Apply intercultural leadership knowledge and skills and in your own school context.
  • Create a strategic action plan to develop global citizenship in your school.
  • Connect intercultural leadership to CIS International Accreditation standards.

The leadership team at your school can complete the course together to enhance your professional learning and help your school take action based on what you discover. You can also take this course individually as part of your own professional learning. If your school is ready to begin the CIS International Accreditation cycle or the CIS Global Citizenship Certification process, this course will serve as an ideal companion resource. Facilitation and mentoring by a CIS International Advisor are available upon request as an add-on service. For additional Information you may send your inquiries to globalcitizenship@cois.org.