Raising global citizens by celebrating diversity

By Natasha Sim | Parents Avenue’s Writer | Images courtesy of Kinabalu International School

As Malaysians, we definitely know a thing or two about living in a multicultural society. But the idea of celebrating diversity takes on an even larger meaning for students at Kinabalu International School (KIS) which boasts of a student community that comprises over 30 different nationalities.

A reason to show off the school’s diversity culminates into the International Day event at the school. It is easily the biggest event of the year at the school and one that sees every nation and ethnicity represented in the day’s activities.

Principal Ian Gross (centre) and KIS teachers and staff members pose for the camera

According to KIS Principal Ian Gross, the idea behind the annually celebrated International Day is for the school’s community to celebrate the diversity of cultures that exist in the school, whilst showcasing the uniqueness of each individual culture.

Parents Avenue had the wonderful opportunity to experience the celebration on the day itself! What’s more, we got to meet and talk to some of the parents and students involved in making the big day happen.

Nurturing global citizens

The day started with a kaleidoscopic spectacle around the school compound. The colourful parade involved all students, from three years old to eighteen, who donned their national and ethnic costumes especially for the event.

For the students, being out of their daily uniform and getting to dress up is certainly a perk.

More than that, mingling with and recognising others of a different culture helps them build their emotional intelligence and empathy to coexist in a world that is more connected than ever.

“I have best friends from the US, Indonesia and Portugal at KIS and it’s really cool that we can learn about their countries,” said Tony. The Year 5 student is originally from South Korea. 

Meanwhile, another Year 5 student Pik Ern, who’s from Malaysia, feels really good about being able to share a bit of Malaysia with the world, referring to a student body that’s certainly very global.

In the classroom, the Year Five’s are researching different national sports around the world and building a short presentation to convince others why the sport should be played in school. The best part, they actually get to play the sport that they’ve presented!

All of this learning is in line with the school’s vision of nurturing global citizens. It bodes well that students are able to explore multiple perspectives, and be on their way to carry that open-mindedness once they’re out of school.

Parents agree. Joanna Tighe is a mum to Year 12 student Desmond. “I think International Day is great and really represents the school ethos,” she said.

Even at pre-school level, kids are already exposed to different cultures. Gwen Abbott, originally from the US, is mum to a 3.5-year-old and 4-year-old at KIS. In their classroom, the kids sing along to a Brazillian folk song.

Meanwhile, she says that her kids are certainly growing up to be third culture kids, referring to children being raised in a culture that are not of their parents’ original culture.

Bringing communities together

For parents, International Day is also a day where they really get to feel a sense of belonging. The school hall, on this special day, gets transformed into an international food fair.

Stalls representing the Commonwealth nations; China; South Korea; India; Malaysia; UK; France; ASEAN and the United Nations are set up. And each one run by that particular community of the school.

Chairperson of the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Liz Wu says that the parents work really hard, putting in more than a hundred percent in making International Day a success.

“It’s really about bringing the parent community together and giving us a sense of pride to be representing our respective nations,” Liz said.

Representation, of course, is a move forward to making the society we live in a more inclusive space. And to respect and value diversity, is part and parcel of global citizenship no matter your age.

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