What makes a school ‘international’? Is it the location? The curriculum? The students and their families? Each of these elements is indeed part of the equation, but for a school to be truly ‘international’, it should promote international-mindedness and the development of global citizens. This is a lofty goal and one best achieved through the combined efforts of the entire school community.

As international school parents, there is a lot we can do to support our schools in this regard, and it extends beyond planning class parties. With thoughtful and intentional planning, we can make a significant contribution in helping our children become global citizens.

What can your parent group do to promote international-mindedness and global citizenship?

  1. Get guidance from the experts. The Council for International Schools (CIS) is a non-profit organization that works with international schools to support high quality international education. They provide guiding documents (accreditation standards) that member schools use for quality assurance. Within these standards, two specifically speak to this effort:


“Students shall benefit from a curriculum and related activities that shall be enhanced by the cultural diversity of both the host country and the school community, hence contributing to the development of global citizenship in students.” 

“The school creates student learning opportunities by effectively using the skills of its own community members and by building partnerships with external agencies such as local businesses and professional organizations.”



  1. Meet with your school’s administration to discuss these standards and brainstorm age-appropriate ideas that meet the unique needs of your school community. Then engage volunteers from your parent Group to get to work!


What does this look like when implemented?

When my children attended elementary school at Frankfurt International School-Wiesbaden our Parent Teacher Group (PTG) used these standards and developed a plan to promote international-mindedness across our school. It included the following:

  1. Establish a Culture Committee within the PTG to organize the work.
  2. Set aside money in the PTG budget to support the activities of the Culture Committee.
  3. Purchase a large world map to display and put pins in places where families were from.
  4. Set up a calendar to feature a different country represented at the school each month. We chose several based on significant holidays for that country. Parents from that country then worked together to plan appropriate activities.
  5. Host monthly Culture Coffees, led by parents, for parents.
  6. Purchase a display case and display board where parents who represented that country could set up displays for the children to see.
  7. Meet with Curriculum Coordinator to identify areas of the curriculum where the cultural background of parents could support teaching and learning.
  8. Conduct culture-related presentations led by parents in selected classrooms.

Sample events included:dsc_0176

  • One of our Muslim moms spoke to the children about Ramadan and Hajj. She brought in clothes for the kids to try on and taught them how to write their names in Arabic.
  • A mom from Sri Lanka created a display about her country. She included a small list of trivia questions for kids to answer and they could enter their completed questions in a lucky draw for a prize.
  • We hosted several Culture Coffees for parents. One of them, hosted by our Irish moms, included information about their country, culture, travel, and of course, Irish coffee!

It is worth noting again, that our plan and the associated activities was the result of the ideas generated by our parent group and reflected the uniqueness and diversity of our community. As every school’s community is different, it is important that it’s uniqueness and diversity is honored. With a little bit of effort and a focused plan, you can engage your stakeholders in valuable work that is aligned with the school’s mission and accreditation standards. This not only promotes international-mindedness in the children, it brings together your parent community to make your school truly, ‘international’. Much more meaningful than a class party, right?