Reflections from ISS President Liz Duffy

October 2017

Students Create Book to Celebrate Their Community

collage_ISR.jpgLast fall as I was preparing for my first trip to visit Independent Schools Riau (ISR), an ISS managed school in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, I got a few tour books on Indonesia out of the library. I couldn’t find more than a paragraph about Pekanbaru in any of the tour books and none were particularly encouraging.

It turns out that the students at ISR had seen the same tour books, and didn’t think they had done justice to the community they had come to call home. So, being young idealists and burgeoning global citizens, they decided to do something about it.

With the 8th graders serving as editors and every other grade contributing information on the area, the ISR students created a Lovely Planet Tour Book about Pekanbaru, called Life in the Jungle, featuring the history, food, fauna, flora, culture, and landmarks of the region. Their problem wasn’t that they didn’t have enough material to fill a paragraph, it’s that they had so much information that they wanted to share that they had to carefully choose what to include and exclude.

isr_TigerThe Lovely Planet wasn’t ISR’s first foray into book publishing.  In 2015, the second graders at the then ISR Duri campus wrote, illustrated and published a book called, Little Blue and the Tricky Tiger, which is an Indonesian adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood and features a boy named Little Blue who ventures in to the Sumatran Jungle and encounters a cunning tiger.  The book reflects Sumatran culture, and while written in English, it also includes a Bahasan translation so that local Indonesia students can enjoy the book as well. Little Blue and the Tricky Tiger is available for sale on Amazon and proceeds go to a fund to protect Indonesian tigers.

To me, both books epitomize what we hope for all students at international schools: that they will so immerse themselves in the local culture, that they will understand deeply both our common humanity and our distinct differences and want to celebrate and share their discoveries and appreciation with others.

I recently took The Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI®) for a foundation board on which I sit.  The IDI® helps individuals and institutions identify where on the Intercultural Development Continuum they want to be, where they are, and given the gap between the two, how they can continue the developmental journey toward greater intercultural sensitivity and collaboration by developing the knowledge, skills and orientation for interacting across cultures. The continuum begins with the monocultural mindsets of Denial and Polarization, transitions through Minimization, and then culminates in the intercultural mindsets of Acceptance and Adaptation.   

While to my knowledge none of the ISR students have taken the IDI®, I suspect that they are well on their way towards the Adaptation mindset, and thus as adults they will be able to navigate well cultural commonalities and differences wherever their life journeys take them on our lovely planet.