How do we nurture Global Citizens?

What are the “typical traits” of successful leaders? Leaders are usually strong communicators who have the ability to connect and align their goals and passions with others, are positive and have empathy, are naturally curious, wanting to learn whenever the opportunity allows, have strong focused goals and are confident individuals, with strong problem solving skills (source:

Nurturing our students as Global Citizens
Nurturing our students as Global Citizens

Besides guiding and developing in their students technical or functional knowledge, educational institutions also strive to develop the associated traits of a successful leader, to ensure that their students are prepared  and to “future ready” them. At ISS International School (ISS), nurturing our students to be global citizens is our way of preparing our students for the future. Many of the traits of a successful leader are akin to being a successful global citizen, with a global citizen also displaying additional skills – being globally and cross-culturally aware and having the ability to contribute and work towards community improvements, i.e., to have a strong spirit of community service and a willingness to give back to society.

  • Globally aware individuals who have a strong sense of community service

“I have certainly become more aware of how the world works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically, and environmentally,” shares Dhruv, ISS Alumni (2017). “Every class I took at ISS, the teachers involved made us aware of world news, and we had many discussions about various world issues during each lesson. This process exposed us to what is happening around the world and eventually, all of us in my graduating class took an interest in global activities. It has now become almost second nature for me personally, and, as an undergraduate now, I find myself questioning, analysing, and balancing my opinion with what is taking place around the world. This has benefitted me as the assignments that I deliver show depth and a wider perspective.”

Our students preparing for Model United Nations (MUN), which exposes them to global issues and raises cultural awareness!

Proud parents Paul and Avis also share that it fills them with delight to see the way their daughter Grace, a High School student, thinks and analyses issues now, even on issues that would never have interested her in the past! “She is thinking, questioning, and creating her own questions about topics and drawing parallels between what she has learnt at school and current affairs”, shares Paul. Avis adds that recent discussions at the dinner table revolved around Grace’s school work on Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, and showed her thinking and analysing parallels to the recent political events in the United Kingdom and the United States. This has certainly created lively and enjoyable discussions around the family dinner table!

At ISS, we believe in learning how to learn. We strive to develop our students’ ‘Approaches to Learning’ (ATL) skills, which are thinking, communication, self-management, research, and social skills; skills that are typically associated with a successful global citizen. In the Middle School, weekly ‘Developing ATL (D-ATL)’ sessions help our Middle School students cultivate and develop these life skills that will not only help them academically and personally, but also help them thrive successfully in any path that they eventually choose to embark on. As both Mr. Michael Taylor, our Middle School Principal, and Dr. Dharshini Jeremiah, our Middle School Student Coordinator and Science Teacher, share, ”ATLs underpin all Middle Years Programme subject areas, and we would like to see students actively learn, use and apply their knowledge of different ATLs in their school and personal lives. These ATLs are linked to their personal well-being and academic success within the MYP programme and beyond. ATLs reinforce the personalised nature of learning and provide students with the independence necessary to be more effective learners.”

Involving our students in community service through volunteer work at the Food Bank
Involving our students in community service through volunteer work at the Food Bank

Systems have been put in place to ensure that school events and lesson plans incorporate our active global citizenship philosophy. From getting our students involved with community and local celebrations and activities, to contributing to the community through initiatives like the Singapore Food Bank, to ensuring that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and the action steps that our students can take are integrated within our learning environment in the lessons taught, and projects that our students work on, are just some of the varied ways that we create our future global citizens. “Through regular collection and campaigning through student action, we have been able to make large donations to the Food Bank several times throughout the year. Many of our students from all 3 school sections have also taken the time to volunteer at the Food Bank, sorting food at the warehouse, ready for distribution to those in need.” Ms. Michelle Jasinska, Global Citizenship Coordinator (Paterson campus), Grade 5 Teacher.

Middle School Students performing at Spore General Hospital to spread cheer to the sick.
Middle School Students performing at Singapore General Hospital to spread cheer to the sick

Mr. Bruno Lebon, our Middle School Drama & French Acquisition Teacher, adds: “Our Middle School students perform at charity events: performing for the sick at hospitals in Singapore and at the Eurasian Christmas charity lunch. In their Unit of Inquiry, “Performing to Heal”, such performances give our students practical examples and activities to develop student wellness and service learning outcomes. It highlights the transformative power of performance to “heal” both performer and audience alike. Our students also benefit from understanding that they can play their part by sharing happiness with the underprivileged or infirm through performance.”


High School students on a field trip to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Centre to learn about the Singapore Master Plan

“I am acutely aware that the world inherited by my students will be fundamentally different to the one that I grew up in. As such, it is my responsibility as a teacher to ensure my students develop lifelong learning habits, creativity, and compassion needed to address emerging challenges at local, regional, and global levels.” Mr. Michael Dixon, Global Citizenship Coordinator (Preston campus) and Geography Teacher. Therefore, in Mr. Dixon’s Geography classes, his students inquire into topics such as climate change and are challenged to come up with solutions to fight climate change in their home countries. Another topic that they researched into was human trafficking. Researching local case studies and engaging with local experts, who came to school to present information, made this issue even more real and pressing for our students.

The e-waste initiative undertaken by our Grade 12 students equally shows an understanding of global issues. Students understand the impact that improper disposal of e-waste has on our environment, and the fact that most people simply do not know what to do with their e-waste. As a result, our Grade 12 students from the Graduating Class of 2018 took it upon themselves to write a proposal to the National Environment Agency of Singapore (NEA) to make ISS an e-waste disposal point, to join the ongoing e-waste recycling efforts in Singapore. This effort has been further strengthened by the current year’s Grade 12 Environmental Science and Society (ESS) class. To ensure that the entire school community at ISS is well educated on e-waste and proper e-waste disposal methods, they created an E-Waste Awareness Week! 

Spreading awareness for responsible e-waste disposal at our campuses

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Our students developed a video, posters and flyers, and gave talks at school assemblies to spread awareness of this problem amongst teachers and students alike at both the Paterson and Preston campuses. An e-waste display was also developed in order to educate us on what kinds of e-waste can be disposed of here at school. An online game (Kahoot!) was created to enable our students to have fun learning how to responsibly dispose of e-waste. Finally, a month-long e-waste competition was also initiated amongst the Kampongs in the High School!  “Let us spread the word, and all of us can help by sharing the locations of these recycling bins with your friends, families and neighbours so that the bins will be filled with e-waste and recycled appropriately.” Jason, Grade 12 ISS Student. What a principled, caring show of global citizenship from our Grade 12 ESS students and thanks to our ESS teacher, Mr. Whitehead for guiding the students.

An awareness of the world, coupled with a strong sense of wanting to give back to society, is core to ISS’s curriculum. At ISS, such service projects are part of the ‘Creativity, Activity, Service’ (CAS) requirement in the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. The underlying philosophy is that education should extend beyond the intellectual to include the development of socially responsible attitudes as well as thoughtful and appropriate actions. “Our activities are authentic,” Mr. Wesley Whitehead, Science and Environmental Systems & Societies Teacher, and Service as Action and Creativity, Activity, Service Coordinator at the High School. “When our students want to do something bigger than themselves, ISS nurtures and empowers them to do so.”

Our students hard at work at various Week Without Walls (WWW) Trips

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This is why each year, our Grade 6 to 11 students are all involved in a ‘Week Without Walls’ expedition to various countries in the region (Borneo, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam) to help communities who are less fortunate than us. Our students not only contribute their efforts to building infrastructures like basketball courts, bus shelters, flower beds, marine biodiversity rocks, etc., they have also cleared land in one of the villages they visited to plant fruit trees so that the people of this village can have a sustainable livelihood from these fruit trees. Through these trips, learning experiences that encourage each student to realise their fullest potential and to further prepare them as future global ready citizens, equipped with empathy and leadership skills.

“The volunteer work in Hoi An changed my perspective and made me think about the future of the world. At the village, we planted trees, gave raincoats to the children, and built toilets. The tree planting taught me how hard it is to plant trees and how we must protect the trees as they also take very long to grow! We also gave the raincoats we brought to the children. When we did that, they all smiled and looked so happy to have the raincoats so I was very glad.

Students participate in cultural exchanges and embrace the spirit of community service through the Week Without Walls(WWW) trips

It made me want to do more things to make them happy. What was most surprising to me however, was the lack of toilets! For me, it is only natural to have a clean toilet in my house, but the villagers didn’t, so I’m glad we were able to help to build toilets for them.” Nanako, ISS Student

“The Week Without Walls trip to Sedili Besar taught me to recognise and consider the ethics of our choices and actions. The visit to the Rohingya Refugee School and learning the refugees’ story, made the choice of what is right or wrong very real personally. It made me wonder why people can’t just get along, share, and agree on things. It was disappointing to learn about the mass amounts of violence inflicted for greed, disguised under a banner of fairness.” Ewan, ISS Student

Through these trips, learning experiences that encourage each student to realise their fullest potential, and to further prepare them as future global citizens, equipped with empathy and leadership skills are certainly achieved.


  • Being cross-culturally aware and having the ability to collaborate with others

ISS is home to students from over 50 nationalities, and it is because of this multicultural diversity and the inclusive academic philosophy practised at ISS that our students are more culturally aware and accepting of others.

Part of being a multinational, multicultural community is embracing other cultures and their traditions
Part of being a multinational, multicultural community is embracing other cultures and their traditions

“ISS has helped me become really open-minded and learn about other cultures. It has given me the chance to explore other ways of learning as well as help me meet lots of interesting people from different backgrounds. My favourite thing about ISS is the diversity. My old school in Spain didn’t have much diversity, so I liked the change when I joined ISS. My years in ISS have broadened my horizons more than I thought they would, and I have been able to learn a lot at school as well as through my friends. I have been able to experience a truly international environment, and I have met great people from all over the world, which has helped me become more open-minded and gain knowledge about other cultures.” Olivia, ex-ISS Student.

“I have become a more open-minded, cosmopolitan, and better person and I attribute this to my experience at ISS. Not only did it give me an opportunity to approach education in a totally different manner from Russia, and acquire English in the process, I also got to make many good friends from different cultures, nationalities and backgrounds. I am very grateful for the breadth of experience I’ve gained.” Dmitri, ISS Alumni (1997).

As Ms. Judith Larue, our Visual Arts Teacher shares, ”the basic tenets of respectability, collegiality and civility towards other people is really strong amongst the students in our school.”

  • Students who encapsulate the qualities of a successful leader and a global citizen

All academic and pastoral support plans are strongly guided by sound academic strategies. The focus on an inclusive education with differentiated learning approaches for each and every student, developed in an inquiry based, multidisciplinary learning environment that is vertically integrated across all grade levels is well entrenched. It is this firm foundation, built and established over the years, that has facilitated ISS’ success in nurturing strong global citizens.

Learning with multicultural peers

ISS taught my son the love of learning. He has been educated to be an independent thinker who can think critically and creatively while being open to listening to and learning from the perspectives of his classmates and others. The intellectual stimulation and the chance to be in an international environment that ISS has provided has really helped my son. With the bonds he has forged with his multinational peers, he has grown to become an effective team player, who will be able to work with anyone in the future. I am thankful that my son had the chance to study in ISS, for the great education they have provided and the friends he met along the way.” Kosuke, ex-ISS Parent.

“Our son has been given a wealth of opportunities at ISS over the years to become self confident, gain social skills, and develop skills in effectively organising as well as presenting himself. He learnt to use his mind under the tutelage of capable teachers, and has learnt to be discerning as well as inquiring. He has discovered his gifts, passions, and even life direction at ISS. I want to reaffirm that ISS is a caring and flexible community, committed to the best care and success of their students.” Jean, ISS Parent.

“The school is constantly reviewing what it is doing well and what can be improved. It ensures that teachers are aware of best practice, which is continually evolving. Parents can rest assured that their pedagogy is at the highest level.” Monica, ISS Parent.

ISS is one of Singapore’s longest established three programme IB schools. We firmly believe in our students’ potential and we are passionate and committed to helping each and every one of them reach their full potential. Our community is proud of its rich diversity, its students’ achievements and the unique learning environment in which individuals develop the right skills necessary to navigate the ever-changing demands of life and our globalised world.

We firmly believe that each and every child can be successful, and we continue to be part of the journey that helps all our students realise their best potential.

If you’d like to find out how ISS can support your child/ children, please contact our Admissions Team or call them at 6475 4188.