What do globally competent students look like?

This post is part of a blog series written by Participate(@participate) on global education and equitable preparation in the classroom originally published on Getting Smart (@Getting_Smart.) Join the conversation on Twitter using #globaled.

All of our futures are increasingly linked to the challenges of the global community. The world’s population is predicted to grow from our current 7.3 billion to 8.5 billion in 2030 and to nearly 10 billion by 2050. Such population growth will affect a host of global issues including pollution, disease management, and depletion of energy, food and water resources.

For students to participate effectively in this changing world, they must understand it. The 21st century student will sell to the world, buy from the world, work for international companies, compete with people from other countries, manage employees from other cultures, collaborate with people all over the world, and solve global problems.

9 in 10 students recognize that jobs are becoming increasingly international in nature and believe they would be stronger employees with a better understanding of different cultures.

The mission of the United States Department of Education is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Few would disagree that achievement, preparation, competitiveness, excellence and equal access are worthy aspirations for the educational systems serving students today. While specific definitions for those terms vary and strategies to achieve them are vast, there is a sustained expectation in the U.S. for elementary and secondary education to effectively prepare students to make their way through successive grade levels, college, jobs and the world in general.

For students to participate effectively in this changing world, they must understand it.

In education, global competitiveness can be characterized as the set of skills and factors that support individuals’ personal and professional productivity in their communities and in the world. Being globally competitive today requires developing global competence. Equipping students with specific hard skills to compete in a global job market is important, but cultivating their abilities to effectively share ideas and communicate across cultures in appropriate and respectful ways is critical.

Existing and emerging K–12 educational efforts — including 1:1 technology initiatives and language, International Baccalaureate, STEAM, and cross-cultural exchange programs — promote students’ global competence. But, while these efforts are growing in popularity, they are still not available to a majority of students.

All students — regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status and cultural backgrounds — are equally deserving of educational experiences that prepare them to be globally competent. So how do we as educators continuously create opportunities and deliver instruction that ensures global competence for all? One option is to provide students with instructional practices that consistently engage global content, multicultural perspectives and problem solving across subject areas.

A simple term for this is global education.

The most successful global education approaches recognize the attitudes, skills and knowledge students need to navigate, contribute to and flourish in the world — and they integrate activities that purposefully resolve opportunity gaps among students on a daily basis. In the following weeks, we will look closely at the characteristics of globally competent students and address how our K-12 education institutions can utilize global education practices to equitably prepare all students for success.

While the definition of global competence is dynamic, these soft skills and characteristics are widely seen as what students need to be globally competent today.

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