ISB's Spirit of Intercultural Thinking: A Strength Worth Celebrating


The International School of Beijing (ISB) is proud to represent a global community, one that illustrates the profound impact of cultural diversity in shaping forward-thinking, inclusive educational environments. At ISB, the commitment to global thinking is not just a component of our educational principles but something we continuously strive to achieve. We are working to integrate this commitment into every aspect of our community, from curriculum design to daily interactions, highlighting the essential role of global thinking at international schools in preparing students to thrive in a diverse world.


The World at ISB

ISB’s community is a reflection of the world, with students, families, and staff hailing from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds and experiences. It fosters an environment where global thinking is not just encouraged but lived, preparing our students to navigate the opportunities of an interconnected world with empathy, understanding, and a broadened perspective. 

Here is a snapshot of some of the cultures our community brings together:

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Kathlyn Paananen, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader at ISB, shares that cultural diversity and global thinking at international schools goes deeper than languages spoken, what passport a student holds, or what ethnicity they might appear to be from an outside perspective.  

“I see what our students are going through, especially as third-culture kids. At ISB, we want to be a place where unique individuals feel safe, valued, and appreciated. We want them to feel affirmed with who they are, but also be respectful, curious, and open for the identities that are different from theirs in a respectful, responsible way.”

A common saying in the world of DEIJ is, “It’s more than food, fun, and flags.” As Kathlyn shares, global thinking at international schools is not about treating other cultures as a costume, a fad, or a decoration. Truly embracing what it means to be a globally minded person is to have respect and empathy for the diversity of human experiences, backgrounds, family values, and cultures that may be different from your own.

“We can bring in these beautiful ways of thinking even at our youngest ages into the classroom, and it helps develop a different frame of mind around things because the world's problems are really complex. If we are only thinking of it through a narrow view, then we will not be able to solve these complex problems that our children will encounter when they leave us. We need all of our best thinking, but if we are told this is the only way to do things, then we are limiting ourselves and the opportunities for bigger, beautiful ideas.”


DEI Commitment at ISB

The establishment of a dedicated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) role and the crafting of a DEI Commitment Statement are testaments to ISB's dedication to these principles. These steps underscore our belief that a truly global education goes beyond academic excellence to include a deep respect and value for diversity in all its forms. 

The Anti-Bias, Anti-Racism (ABAR) Committee's initiatives to educate and promote equity are pivotal in creating a culture where every member of our community feels valued, heard, and respected. The purpose is to enhance our school's own racial literacy, which means understanding of race and bias and discrimination and how it might manifest in our school and our relationships with one another, and educating ourselves and our community around that and advancing our policies and practices to be an institution that addresses systemic racism. These efforts reflect our understanding that global thinking at international schools requires an active, ongoing commitment to inclusivity and equity.

“When we ask our families what they want their children to learn from someone who may be different from them, so many say they hope they learn to respect diversity, and collaborate and learn from others. We hope ISB is a place where all feel welcome to share their ideas, culture, and make space for our unique identities to do our best learning, ” says Kathlyn.

The ABAR Committee plays a pivotal role in these efforts, leading initiatives to educate the community on issues of race and bias and to promote equity. From implicit bias training for recruiting to adopting the "Speak Up at School" protocol, the committee's work is integral to fostering a culture of respect and understanding. 

This work is essential to create an environment where all our students feel safe, welcome, and understood. ISB is committed to this endeavor, understanding that it is our goal to be better and do better, and that we are working to create an academic environment that is safe and welcoming for all.

The International School of Beijing has implemented a comprehensive range of measures to address Identity Based Harm, including:

  • Conducted all-school assemblies and training sessions on bias, race, and advocacy.
  • Adopted specific codes of conduct for students regarding racial slurs and microaggressions.
  • Communicated extensively with parents through emails, meetings, and coffees.
  • Facilitated sessions on cultural appropriation vs. appreciation and digital citizenship.
  • Introduced mentoring lessons on race and social-cultural competency for middle school students.
  • Conducted bus monitor training on implicit bias and responding to identity-based harm.
  • Collaborating with consultants specialized in DEI Leadership Professional Learning, restorative justice, and bystander training.
  • Integrating identity-based harm into child safeguarding policies and committee work.
  • Implemented implicit-bias training for senior leaders and ongoing training for all staff.
  • Audited libraries for positive representation and educated on topics of race and bias.
  • Reviewing curriculum for representation and identity-affirming connections.
  • Improving practices to address implicit bias in recruiting and hiring processes.
  • Piloting Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessments to enhance our intercultural skills to create a more inclusive school climate.
  • Became members of the Association for International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) for specialized training and sharing DEI best practices.


Nurturing Global Citizens Through Intercultural Knowledge and Skills

Recognizing the importance of intercultural skills in fostering global citizenship and global thinking at international schools, ISB integrates cultural competency lessons into our curriculum and celebrates a diverse array of holidays and awareness months. Our careful selection of resources and books reflects our commitment to presenting a multitude of perspectives, enabling students to engage with and appreciate the diversity of the world around them. These educational strategies are crucial for developing global citizens who are not only aware of but also engaged with the world’s diverse cultures and perspectives. 

Essence of a Global Mindset at International Schools

At ISB, global thinking extends beyond conventional definitions, advocating for a deeper, more inclusive approach to understanding global citizenship. This approach challenges us to embrace diversity in all its forms, recognizing the value and richness it brings to our collective experience. By encouraging our students to explore diverse identities and perspectives, we foster a community that celebrates the complexity and interconnectedness of our world.

International schools like ISB are at the forefront of preparing students for a future characterized by diversity and change. Our commitment to global thinking at international schools underscores the importance of creating educational environments where students are not only academically prepared but also equipped to navigate and contribute to a diverse and complex world. Through our dedication to this mission, ISB exemplifies the vital role that international schools play in cultivating global citizens ready to make a positive impact in the world.

Find Your Dragon Spirit at ISB

Explore learning opportunities outside of the four walls of a classroom at ISB. Join the ISB community and experience an education where learning happens at every opportunity.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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