Developing Intercultural Competence to Build a Global Community
With more than 70 nationalities represented among the student body at American School of The Hague, cultivating an environment of belonging and cross-cultural understanding is critical to best serve and support a thriving learning community. This desire to build and sustain a school culture committed to belonging was squarely in focus during a recent multi-day professional development opportunity facilitated by career educator and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner Jacinta Williams.
No stranger to American School of The Hague, Jacinta began her work with the community last year in support of developing intercultural competence.
“Intercultural competence is the capacity to shift one’s own cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural differences and commonalities,” says Jacinta. “What I love about the intercultural competency approach is that the premise is that we all have the ability to grow our capacity to perceive and respond to cultural commonalities and differences, highlighting the importance of a learner’s mindset, a growth mindset.”
The school’s leadership wanted to make this a community-wide learning opportunity, and as part of this collective work Jacinta met with students, employees, and parents through workshops, listening circles and conversations, and even addressed the entire school community during the International Peace Day all-school assembly.
During Jacinta’s final day on campus, all employees joined together for a profound and deeply insightful discussion with the promise of growing an understanding around intercultural competencies and furthering a culture of belonging.
“Countless studies examine how intercultural competence contributes to a culture of belonging for students and adults,” says Jacinta. “When people feel their ways of knowing, being, and doing are seen, heard, and valued, they are more engaged, trust their peers more, respond more adaptively to critical feedback, and have higher overall performance and well-being.”
Further developing intercultural competence is essential in meeting the high calling of the school’s mission – We build a better world as we become better human beings, hear and value every voice, keep every promise. And, a growing body of social research supports this important work.
“The Institute for the Future, a leading organization in social forecasting, has identified the top ten skills for the 21st Century workforce and ranked intercultural competence at number four,” says Jacinta. “Supporting a community to grow its capacity to be interculturally competent on both the individual and organizational level has a significant impact for students both in the short and long-term.”