Monday, March 22, 2010
Global Competency and Why Schools Resist
One of the questions that will need to be addressed if we are to make progress in the area of global studies is the question--what do we mean by the term "global competence"?
The topic came up at a recent symposium hosted at CoSN. Alexis Menten, assistant director of the Asia Society, used the term when describing the skills that that today's high schol graduate will need:
“We’ve seen a sea change. The world has changed, so the education system also needs to change,” she said during a panel discussion explaining why global competencies are critical for today’s students. “Students need to graduate from high school not only workforce-ready and college-ready, but they also need to be globally competent.”
How to make it possible? Many more teachers are looking to use Web 2.0 tools to make this happen. For example --Sasha Connors, an English teacher at Burlington County Institute of Technology in New Jersey,uses iEARN and Skype comments that the reason why these tools are so educative is that they can cut through the media stereotypes.
“I had seen students form opinions based on what they see in the media. They had a limited knowledge of how the world works,” she said. “Web 2.0 allows students to interact with students from around the world. Skype allows meaningful global exchanges.”
The great benefit is so often ignored that by interacting with other countries such as in the case of Sasha Connors, they not only gain a better understanding of other countries such as India and Afghanistan, "but of themselves as Americans."
But the sting in the tail is that there are so few teachers like Ms Connors --she comments that she is her school's only teacher making such global technoolgy enabled connections. Fernando Reimers goes further, in an excellent article on the topic of global competency, unpacking some of the deeply embedded issues that prevent schools from taking global competency seriously. He provides some results from a survey of 150 school principals he recently administered:
"Fewer than one-half of respondents reported that their schools offer opportunities to develop global competencies, with similar percentages reporting opportunities to infuse global competencies throughout the curriculum or participate in project-based learning. Although a somewhat higher percentage reported that their schools provide opportunities for foreign language learning to students and teachers, only one in four principals reported opportunities for students or teachers to travel abroad. Support in this area is also limited: Only one in four principals reported adequate opportunities for teacher professional development in global competency, and only one in five reported partnerships with universities or other organizations to support the development of global skills in their schools."
Among the issues Reimers identifies is "not simply figuring out which specific activities contribute to fostering aspects of global competency, but also finding out how to integrate those activities into the regular work of schools and how to align them with existing curriculum, assessment, and opportunities for teacher professional development."
Clearly we need to keep our focus on this set of problems and with the thoughtful leadership of groups like OECD, the Asia Society and thinkers like Reimers we may see some progress made in the next few years on this question of how to move schools ahead in developing globally competent graduates.