Sunday, 23 June 2013

Where is the World in World-Class Education?

It is interesting to note that a multitude of school mission and vision statements make reference to some notion of world-class education, and then provide a random list of justifications for how it is pursuing this. It is similarly interesting to note how 21st century learning skills frequently lack a transformative purpose, even though numerous rationales are given about how the world has changed and is continuing to change. Finally, it is interesting to note that even international schools may have no clear focus on what it means to provide a global education.

If we believe the world has changed, how are we supporting education that fully engages students in this changed world? More importantly, what are the intentional habits of mind or dispositions that are being cultivated in students and staff that offer ongoing learning and growth to meet the demands of an ever-changing world? In order for any school to become world-class, for 21st century learning to have purpose, and for international education to have focus, there needs to be greater clarity around the transformative aspects of what it means to live, learn, and work in the world. To be prepared for the future means to be globally competent.

Global competence is inclusive of college readiness and work readiness. To reverse the focus to college and work is to miss the point, to significantly limit student learning and contributions, and to lose focus on the transformation that is needed in the world. Howard Gardner, author of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed, has said:

“The world will not be saved by high test scores. . . . Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st we have seen all too well the incredible world-defying blunders committed by the so-called best and brightest. The disastrous Vietnam war, the unforeseen consequences of the invasion of Iraq, the financial meltdowns of 2001 and 2008—educational and financial elites bear much of the blame for these lamentable events. What is needed more than ever is a laser-like focus on the kinds of human beings that we are raising and the kinds of societies—indeed, in a global era, the kind of world society that we are fashioning.”

The good news is that there are many schools, countries, and organizations in the world that are focusing on developing global competences for students. These are systems that deeply understand that success increasingly requires the ability to compete, connect, and collaborate on an international scale. These are systems that know their students will need to be active and collaborative inventors of their future. Unfortunately a significant number of college graduates in the United States are now unemployed because they have been trained in a traditional rite of passage model that is no longer relevant.

There are schools and countries around the world that do not yet fully understand that the well-being of their students and economies, and the interdependent well-being of the world, is linked to everyone’s ability to develop globally competent students. Global competence is inclusive of the needs and issues of one’s school, community, country, and world. Therefore the urgency to develop globally competent students is now.

The most important step forward is for schools to systemically design what it means to develop globally competent students, and to put these plans at the forefront of their actions. Here are a few starting points to consider:
  1. How are globally competent students identified in your school’s vision, mission, and/or strategic areas of focus? 
  2. What is your operating definition for globally competent students? 
  3. How will you promote ongoing inquiry and discourse throughout your school on what it means to develop globally competent students? 
  4. How will leadership actively support systems that enhance global competence for all students? 
  5. How will global competence become a prominent focus within the school’s curriculum and assessments in ways that are enduring, substantive, authentic, and transferrable? 
  6. What is your graduate profile for a globally competent student, and how will this support backward design through all the other grade levels? 
  7. How will students be empowered in their own areas of inquiry, connection, and action in the world?
  8. What kinds of strategic partnerships with other schools and organizations could powerfully benefit global competence for your students?
There are many excellent resources on global competence, but a place to start is with "Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World:"