IB School Leadership: International Mindedness

International Mindedness

International-mindedness lies at the very heart of the IB Mission which aims to develop young people "who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect ...who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right."

International-mindedness is referenced throughout the IB Standards and Practices, the checklist for both IB authorization and five year evaluation.The development of international-mindedness in a school is an ongoing process involving the whole learning community.

This page identifies the key issues involved and provides you with activities which help you explore international mindedness(and one of its key concepts - intercultural understanding). This website contains many other pages and activities to explore IM (they are referenced in links at the end of this page).

Key issues

As Diploma Programme Coordinator you need to ensure that the school collects evidence against the following IB standards and practices.

  • The school develops and promotes international-mindedness and all attributes of the IB learner profile across the school community. (Standard A4)
  • The written curriculum promotes students’ awareness of individual, local, national and world issues. (Standard C2:7)
  • The written curriculum provides opportunities for reflection on human commonality, diversity and multiple perspectives. (Standard C2:8)
  • Teaching and learning addresses human commonality, diversity and multiple perspectives. (Standard C3: 6)
  • Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students learning in a language(s) other than mother tongue. (Standard C3: 7)



Comments on the PPT

1. Title page

2. A key IB concept: some would say that it is the most distinctive concept within the IB.

  • The IB's definition of international-mindedness has evolved and matured. The 2009 definition largely equated it to global and intercultural understanding. Today the IB definition has incorporated two more dimensions, namely global engagement and multilingualism. These three dimensions are embedded in the IB Learner Profile. An internationally minded learner is one who is a competent communicator, open-minded and knowledgeable. The IB recognizes that their original definition of international mindedness arises out of 'western knowledge' and they are mindful of the influence of non-Western linguistic, humanistic, scientific, mathematical and artistic cultures.

3. Definitions - an opportunity to discuss the meaning of 'international mindedness' and explore how you exhibit this in what you do in your school. How might these quotations challenge your understanding and what you do?

4. Being internationally-minded - this slide clarifies the three concepts contained within 'international mindedness'. Ensure that everyone is clear about the meaning of each term (see below). Consider how you as a school embody these three concepts.

  • Global engagement: a commitment to address humanity's greatest challenges in the classroom and beyond. IB students and teachers should be encouraged to explore both global and local issues. The IB aims to empower people to be active learners who are committed to service within the community. Click here to access an IB community blog on global awareness.
  • Intercultural Understanding : The IB encourages students to appreciate critically their own perspective (beliefs, values, experiences and ways of knowing) as well as the perspectives of others. Intercultural understanding is about exploring human commonality, diversity and interconnection.
  • Multilingualism: All IB students have to learn a language because learning to communicate in a variety of ways in more than one language is central to intercultural understanding.

5. Multilingualism - This is the concept which is sometimes left out of peoples' understanding of international mindedness.  It is therefore important to explore the role of language in forming identity and articulating culture.

6. Intercultural Understanding - which is most challenging, exploring our commonality, diversity or inter-connectedness? Why?

7. Global Engagement - ask, how does the world 'engagement' (as in global engagement) challenge our understanding? How are we globally engaged? To what extent are we making a difference to the world and making it a better and more peaceful place (IB Mission)? What more could we do?

8. Reflection on identity - ask people to identify words that (a) encourage them, (b) challenge them.

9. Discovering, thinking, acting - explore how international mindedness is both a mindset and a way of living using the stimulus on this slide.

10. IM in your subject - discuss and add your own top tips.

Template documents

International Mindedness Action Plan

  • Use the indicators from Programme standards and practices (see above in the key issues section on this page) to access how well you are embedding international mindedness in your school.
  • Create an action plan to improve the development of international mindedness in your school. Make sure you consider all three aspects: intercultural understanding, global engagement and multilingualism.

Activities to use with staff

Exploring International Mindedness

Defining international mindedness

In groups of 5-10.

Consider the following facets of ‘international-mindedness’. Organize the statements into a Diamond 9 with the most important aspect being at the top.

  • Being open to different outlooks and world views
  • Ability to understand different cultural contexts ands viewpoints
  • Being able to take yourself away from the center of what is right and acceptable.
  • Demonstrating respect for others
  • Not to narrow minded
  • Multilingual
  • Knowing where you stand in relation to cultural relativism – being able to substantiate your cultural position
  • Ability to work in diverse teams
  • A declining sense of egocentricity
  • Ability to adjust communication
  • Adapts to different cultures
  • The oneness of humanity
  • Aware of own culture
  • A critical examination of oneself and one’s traditions
  • Concern and ability to think what it might be like to be in the shoes of a different person.
  • Being globally engaged – a commitment to address humanity’s greatest 21st century challenges
  • Examine the ideas of others that challenge their own beliefs
  • Go beyond mere tolerance and acceptance
  • Enjoy the complexity of ambiguity
  • Nonetheless reach rational conclusions


  • On what criteria did you decide which statements to include in the 9 and which to leave out?
  • How did you order your statements?
  • What conclusions did you reach in your discussion?

Exploring intercultural understanding

I use the following activity and video as a way of opening up a discussion about identity and culture. What are the 'single stories' that we tell ourselves? What are other peoples' single stories? How does this help us understand that people with their differences can also be right?

The danger of the single story

  • Listen to this TED Talk in which the Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie warns that we risk culturally misunderstanding people when we forget that everyone's lives and identities are composed of many overlapping stories.
  • How does Chimamanda Adichie describe herself?
  • As you listen select the most powerful thing she says and share in plenary with your group.
  • As you listen pick out essentialist and non-essentialist understandings of culture.

Click here if you would like to access the transcript to this TED Talk.

A good follow-on reflection is to show Our DNA story.

It’s easy to think there are more things dividing us than uniting us. But we actually have much more in common with other nationalities than you’d think.  To celebrate diversity in the world momondo (http://momon.do/Lets.Open.Our.World) presents The DNA Journey: a journey into who we are and how we are all connected as a global family. They asked 67 people from all over the world to take a DNA test, and it turns out they have much more in common with other nationalities than they would ever have thought.

  • Watch The DNA Journey.
  • Use the  See, Think, Wonder routine for exploring the film:
  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about what you see?
  • What do you wonder? What questions do you want to ask?


Key documents

The IB have commissioned a number of research and position papers into international mindedness. Due to copyright protection I cannot provide you with a direct link to them. However, if you copy and paste the following information into a search engine you will easily access them.

  • Promoting International Mindedness in Our Schools, Davy, I., IB, 2005.

  • Research summary: Conceptualizing and assessing international-mindedness (IM): An exploratory study,Paloma Castro, Ulla Lundgren and Jane Woodin, 2013, IB. 

  • 21st century international mindedness: An exploratory study of its conceptualisation and assessment Michael Singh & Jing Qi, IB, (2013).

  • Teacher thinking on developing informed and engaged students for a globally connected world, Merry M Merryfield, Tami Augustine, Moonsun Choi, Jason Harshman and Melinda McClimans, IB (2012).

  • Learning stories and global engagement pieces on the IB Online Curriculum Centre. Your IB Coordinator will be able to access these in the list of general IB publications.


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