12 May 2017
As part of my wider studies and reading, I have spent some time over the past month considering the differences in leading schools within an international setting. It is my opinion that it is very much a different beast altogether and this seems to be reflected in an emerging body of research that looks into this very topic. It can be very complex and a challenge to deal with parents, students and teachers that come from a variety of different backgrounds and experiences. This cultural dissonance is combined with frequent turnover of the school community, and in many cases, isolation of leaders who do not have a national framework to rely upon.
It is my view that integral to successful international leadership is not only the ability to manage administratively, but to also demonstrate cultural awareness and sensitivity - engaging with a community hailing from many different cultures, nationalities and backgrounds. Indeed, leaders who recognise cultural differences and adapt, are much more successful in building harmonious relationships which are central to school stability and ultimately, progress. They also may stay in post long enough to see through a number of planning cycles.
It is therefore vital to build a positive school climate through a promotion of shared values, and an ethos that all the community can understand and relate to. This is the essence of what a school stands for and in the case of SIS, is distilled down to our motto ‘Non Mihi, Non, Tibi, Sed Nobis.’ It is only once this shared vision is understood by all, from the Board to the teachers, students and parents that a school can move forward with purpose. Indeed, not only should these values be understood, but they should be modelled by all. Therein lies success – walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
So, after some research, I list below some of the ways in which I feel international leadership is different. It is still a challenge! This international lens does not even consider the founding context, which can make managing change even more interesting.
- Different community expectations towards the purpose and administration of education
- Staff and student turnover affecting stability
- Educational policies of the host nation
- Administrative structures
- Mixed cultures
- Developing international curriculums
- Market competition.