Want Our Kids to Be Globally Competitive? Teach Them to Think Globally

If we expect students to compete against their peers around the world, we have to provide them with an education equipping them to do so.

But we are falling short of producing students who can think globally.

Recent data says that fewer high school students are taking Advanced Placement exams in foreign languages. American high school students who took the Programme for International Student Assessment in 2012 ranked 17th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading among the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Although what happens on the other side of the world may seem removed to kids here in America, we need to impart to them that an appreciation of international affairs has bearing on their own lives.

I lead an Arizona-based non-profit organization, New Global Citizens, to help students develop the skills needed to become engaged global citizens. Our curriculum provides lesson plans, hands-on student activities and resources for teachers to introduce subject area content with an international focus. We also have an afterschool program that helps students raise awareness about global issues on their campuses, while supporting a grassroots organization that tackles a particular issue.

One recent example of students in our program taking up a cause include students at Calabasas High School in Southern California whose New Global Citizens club hosted a two-day event to raise awareness about the millions of people in the world who do not have access to potable water. Students filled empty water bottles with cloudy water and raised $2,726, which was donated to the Global Women’s Water Initiative that works with women in East Africa on sustainable water solutions.

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Students at Tolleson Union High School in Arizona educated their classmates and local community about poverty in Ghana while raising money for the organization A Ban Against Neglect(ABAN). The goal of ABAN is to prevent single mothers in Ghana from becoming homeless. Some of the events that the students at Tolleson participated in to raise awareness included a documentary night and an event where students recited poetry and performed music.

By giving students the opportunity to address a problem in another part of the world, we develop young adults who are knowledgeable about international issues, can appreciate people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and are gaining the skills that they need to be competitive in our global society.

But more than anything, students who are involved with global issues on both a local and global level will begin to realize that there is no “us” and “them,” but only we.