Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Education Opinion

We Must Prepare Students for a Globally Interconnected World

By Gary Marx — April 02, 2015 4 min read

What’s happening in our world is stunning. Consider these startling facts:

• Of 100 people in the world, only 5 live in Northern America; 60 live in Asia.

• By 2025, our planet will host 37 megacities; 3 will be in the U.S. and 21 are expected to be in Asia. A megacity is a metro area of more than 10 million population.

• The world population is expected to increase from 6 billion in 2000 to 9.3 billion in 2050, a 50 percent increase in 50 years. Of that accumulated growth, 4.3 percent is expected in the more developed world and 60 percent is expected in the less developed or developing world.

• During the first half of the 21st century, only one continent, Europe, is expecting a population decline, an anticipated drop of 3.2 percent. On the other hand, Africa will grow an estimated 122 percent percent, the Near East 132 percent, Latin America and the Caribbean 49 percent, and North America about 47 percent.

Perspective is essential. Context is critical. The concept of a fast-changing world is not a cliché, and it isn’t fantasy. It’s a stark reality.

Read more in Chapter 11 of Twenty-One Trends

Since we are of this world, not separate from it, we face a growing sense of urgency. If it hasn’t already, international learning needs to become basic. Science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts (STEAM+) will always be important. However, if we hope to have a viable future, we’d better pay attention to the importance of international relationships, cultural understanding, languages, and diplomatic skills. We can embrace the accelerating need for international/global education or deny it, but it isn’t going away. If, as a nation, community, or education system, we don’t stay ahead of the curve, we will surely be left behind.

If Greece catches a cold, people in countries around the world start to sneeze. If a nuclear reactor goes off kilter an ocean away, we start testing for radiation. On this relatively small planet, we are interconnected.

Columnist Tom Friedman grabbed our attention with his classic book, The World is Flat. Every day, exponentially increasing computer power and telecommunication bring us together. In essence, people end up working side-by-side, even thought they may physically be across oceans, half a world away. Convergence and connectedness are a reality. Friedman wonders whether the world has gotten so flat so fast that our political systems can no longer keep up with it.

The word, globalization, often becomes a political football rather than simply a definition of what it happening before our very eyes. A Harvard Future of Learning Institute defined globalization this way: “The accelerating traffic of people, capital, and cultural products around the world. It embodies opportunities and risks for individuals and societies worldwide.”

A genetic researcher from Beijing, working at an institute in Rome, has just finished an international conference in Galveston when I catch up with her on the way to the Houston airport. A South Dakota farmer monitors weather conditions crop yields in China and Argentina to get an idea about the price he’ll get for his soybeans. These stories are becoming less and less remarkable. It’s how the world works. Here’s the driving question for schools, school systems, colleges, and universities: What are the implications for education?

What are the implications of this increasingly global society for education? Should we add global knowledge as a graduation requirement? Should world languages be a regular part of the curriculum? Should educators be better prepared to teach about the world and to be encouraged to be even more curious about people, places, and cultures beyond their own chosen horizons? Should we emphasize diplomatic skills, such as: open minds, natural curiosity, patience, courtesy and good manners, a sense of tolerance, and the ability to empathize with others, to put students in someone else’s shoes?

Should our students, all of us for that matter, become even more familiar with the importance of government, business, personal, and educational and scientific relationships among people and nations? Are we capable of thinking globally and acting locally? Do we understand the need to balance competition with collaboration to get important things done?

On this small planet, drifting through the vastness of space, we fight over territory, power, authority, religion, economic advantage, traditional energy resources, water, the environment, and a host of other massive issues. Will we be able to address these issues peacefully and thoughtfully? Part of the answer is education that gets today’s students ready for the future in a global knowledge/information age. Are we up to the challenge?

As a discussion starter, ask students to brainstorm answers to this question: “What are the characteristics of any country capable of being a good member of a family of nations?”

The opinions expressed in Author’s Corner by Education Week Press are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools
Head of Lower School
San Diego, California
San Diego Jewish Academy

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read