What’s your CQ score?

Last week, at the International School of Nanshan Shenzhen, while waiting for the full administration team to arrive for my presentation, I was helping the team arrange chairs, when the Canadian Principal whispered, “Please stop.” I was puzzled. She whispered again, “You’re our guest. You working will offend our Chinese Principal.” So I sat at the front of the room and watched everyone else set up chairs. I felt uncomfortable, but at the same time I couldn’t help but admire the profoundly respectful culture of China.

This experience provided me with one of many lessons learned while I was in China. I was invited by Dr. Francis Pang, an entrepreneur from Hong Kong who raised his children in Toronto (they attended SAC and BSS). Years ago, he and Frank McKenna developed an agreement between New Brunswick and China. Dr. Pang, a visionary leader with endless energy, opened his first school 15 years ago, and is now opening schools all over China, as well as Cambodia and Dubai. His schools offer a dual diploma and teach the New Brunswick curriculum; his students visit Canada each year; and his teachers and administrators come from China and Canada. More recently, a couple of the schools offer the IB diploma. His commitment is to develop world-class students, and part of his strategy is to get his schools accredited and part of an association. It’s exciting that they are considering CAIS. And CAIS can learn much from them too.

The schools I visited are keen to emulate Canadian ways of teaching. During one presentation, I was asked by a Chinese administrator to provide an example for each skill identified by Tony Wagner in The Global Achievement Gap. This took forever, not only because everything went through a translator, but because the Chinese leadership team took extensive notes and asked follow-up questions. When I asked them why parents choose to send their children to this school, they responded: Chinese parents understand that their children learn best when they enjoy school and are active in the classroom. Sound familiar?

I was reminded of the value of international travel, but now back at home, I can’t help but wonder: can we gain a cross-cultural appreciation without getting on a plane?

David Thomas, professor of international management at Simon Fraser University, and Kerr Inkson, professor at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, offer a solution. They argue that as we become increasingly global, we must be able to deal effectively with others who are culturally different. In their book, Cultural Intelligence: Living and Working Globally, they describe this new competency as Cultural Intelligence, or CQ, which is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds.

CQ consists of three parts:

  • Knowledge of the culture and the fundamental principles of cultural interactions
  • The ability to pay attention in reflective and creative ways to cues in cross-cultural situations (they call this mindfulness)
  • Cross-cultural skills to be competent across a wide range of situations.

The challenge for all of us is to figure out how schools can best develop a CQ in students. When I was a kid, our school held Cultural Fairs where we would all gather in the gym around bristol board research projects and display tables, all focused on different countries. While I have fond memories of long bright ribbons on Ukrainian dance costumes and snacking on cannolis and perogies – in fact, it is one of my detailed memories from grade school! – we can do more to develop cultural intelligence.

Fortunately, research shows that schools can teach strategies to improve cultural perception in order to distinguish behaviours driven by culture from those specific to an individual. According to the Harvard Business Review, CQ strategies are gaining acceptance. You can take a look at a new websitededicated to developing and assessing CQ.

All CAIS schools are dedicated to developing globally-minded students, and I see many examples of both co-curricular and academic programs in my travels across Canada. Kids today are more international in their outlook; our collective challenge is to develop strategies to help them to achieve their goal to change the world.


While in Shenzhen, I was asked by a Canadian reporter to comment on parent complaints about Professional Development Days. I wrote the following:

Hello from Shenzhen,

It is 7:10am, and I’m up on the 21st floor with my door open listening to the city coming to life. (There’s a 12 hour time difference).

Thanks for asking. I am passionate about the need for teachers to be always learning, and PD days/​Pro D days are one of the ways schools can schedule time to ensure this happens. It is critical for our kids and our country.

As a parent, I understand the inconvenience of either having to figure out if one of us could take a day off work or ask my parents to come for the day (thank God for grandparents!). But it is a short-term pain for long-term gain – not just for my kids but for the greater good. The reality is, I also want what’s best for my kids and I expect that teachers are up to date on the latest research in teaching and learning.

The ideal day involves some learning, some reflecting on how to implement, and some collaborating with colleagues. Teaching days are busy days. I remember going non-stop! So you need time – although there’s never enough! – to lift your head and see if there’s a better way to support the students. For example, with the proliferation of on-line resources (see my blog on Bill Gates) teachers need time to access and analyze new teaching and learning methods, then figure out how they work and plan on effective use. There’s a new trend called “Flip teaching” where the “teaching” of the lesson is done at home, using khan academy, for example, and the “homework” is done in class. This is great news for parents who don’t have to struggle with helping their kids or sending them to expensive tutoring companies! The teachers’ work in class will be so valuable in personalizing the learning when the lesson is done at home. There will be great learning happening in those classrooms where the teacher can focus on individual students. So here the short term pain of a PD day, will lead to long term gain for parents and students (sounds cheesy, but I really believe that PD days are critical to the future. What happens to a company that stops investing in Research and Development?)

CAIS schools have to do extra Pro D. They also have to meet a National Standard: Commitment to Continuous Improvement (It is one of 12 National Standards). Many CAIS schools also require additional PD in the late summer and early fall. We run a Leadership Institute in July that is oversubscribed!

But during the year, it is helpful to stop the daily routine and focus on how you can improve your practice.

John Dewey wrote one of my favorite sayings: “If we teach today’s students as we did yesterday’s, we are robbing them of tomorrow.”

Learning takes time. True collaboration takes time.

Funny that I’m writing from Shenzhen, which was a fishing village 30 years ago and today is a thriving city of 17 million. The Chinese are building infrastructure – I see 18 cranes from my balcony – and they are investing heavily in education. I’m here because they are learning our western ways of teaching and learning and want to be accredited by and associated with Canada’s best independent schools.

So even though education is provincially mandated, I take a national look at education. Does Canada want to invest less in education? Lose our top rankings in the PISA tests?

I hope not.

p.s. At Anhui Concord College of Sino-Canada in Wuhu, I had a wonderful translator who told me she read my blog. She wanted me to know that when she walked with her mother, she walked arm-in-arm.

Another Milestone

As you know, if you are reading this, I blog once per week. When I hit “publish” I sometimes wonder if anyone will read what I write. I decided that it didn’t matter, because I have come to like writing once per week. But the truth is, if someone writes or comments, I love the connection. And it motivates me.

Last week I wrote about a milestone in my house – I went from being an okay parent to an embarrassment. I heard from Jim Nelles, Board member of Rothesay Netherwood School, former Board member of CESI and CAIS, former Board Chair of The Country Day School, and, most importantly, father of kids older than mine.

He wrote:

Thought of you today when I read this article. Naturally more to do with college/​university but still interesting content:

EDUCATION   | April 08, 2012

Trying to Find a Measure for How Well Colleges Do


I should also add that I suspect your recent blog on “embarrassing” your children had great resonance with a great many parents. I remember so well how somewhere around the middle school years our children followed a similar path…from big hugs at drop-off to just please don’t embarrass me and “please just let me out of the car and depart as quickly as possible.” I’m sure we could have refined the process to have embodied all the efficiency of a clandestine “special opp’s” unit and they would have been even more pleased. For my part, my wife Louise and I never really said anything to them but instead just let them swim a little “further from the dock” even as we internalized the emotion. That’s why it was such great fun when one day at pick-up my daughter, then in her senior year and final term at The Country Day School, indicated to me that she had forgotten something in her locker. She unconsciously locked her elbow around mine and the two of us proceeded arm in arm down the senior school hallway amongst all her friends to find the forgotten item.  Her own self-confidence had developed to the point where she had come back for hugs even on school grounds. I still never said anything. I didn’t need to.

I wrote:


I love this email – can I cheat on this week’s blog, which I still haven’t done and it is Sunday evening, and tell your story? Including your name???

I just read this to my husband and got a bit teary at the image of you and your daughter arm and arm in a full hallway – it gives me such hope!

And he replied:

Thank you so much for your response Anne-Marie…So neat to have a personal experience connect with people…must be something to this social network stuff! Sure, please feel free to use it as part of this week’s blog in any way you wish if you think its useful content…It’s a real story. If you wish to use my name that’s okay too…As a parent if it offers legitimate hope during some of those trying times then we’re all helping each other.

One final note…Megan has had a great first year at Queens and she too has found a special place in the library 🙂