School & District Management Opinion

The State of Global Competence

By Heather Singmaster — March 15, 2013 3 min read
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Last week Heather Singmaster reported on the shortage of opportunities for students to learn a foreign language in this country. This week she looks at states that are showing support for not only language learning, but for a fully integrated, globally competent education.

North Carolina has been at the forefront of providing a globally competent education for its students for a long time. The state supports teachers with professional development, works with legislators on policy, provides exchange opportunities, offers world language programs, and much more. But as the new report by the North Carolina State Board of Education, released on January 8, points out, having a number of strong programs and significant district initiatives in place “won’t cut it.” A coordinated and comprehensive strategy is required.

Preparing Students for the World: Final Report of the State Board of Education’s Task Force on Global Education, outlines five recommendations:

  • Robust and cutting-edge teacher support and tools
  • Leading-edge language instruction
  • New school models focused on international education
  • District networking and recognition, including a global ready designation for schools
  • External partners to move this agenda

Sustainability is also a focus, both financial and social—highlighting the need for consistent communication to all stakeholders around the importance of global knowledge. The report ends with concrete actions that can be taken by the school board in conjunction with the state Department of Public Instruction.

Sixteen days later, across the country, Global Washington released a report outlining the state of global education in Washington, providing a rationale for global education, highlighting best practices, and presenting recommendations for improvement. This report is a part of the Global Education Initiative, a program of Global Washington that has gathered feedback from more than 1,000 parents, educators, and business leaders in Washington State with the aim of improving global education from preschool through the graduate level.

The Initiative found that although the state of Washington is one of the most globally connected in the U.S., it currently lacks a comprehensive commitment to global education. The report found a significant gap between the state’s economic pillars and its educational foundation. Washington’s economy is one of the most globally connected in the country and 40% of all jobs in the state are related to international trade. To be competitive economically, Washington businesses need globally and linguistically competent leadership and workers more than ever.

The recommendations for Washington are similar to those of North Carolina: build statewide support, integrate global competence systematically, increase focus on language learning, prepare globally competent teachers, and create strong partnerships.

Back east, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont is focused on creating a workforce that will allow Vermont to continue to compete in the global economy. His State of the State address focused solely on education, highlighting the growing list of companies across the state with job openings and the ability to expand, but with no workers possessing the 21st century skills to meet the demand. New companies from South Korea and Germany are establishing branches in Vermont, but Shumlin worries about supplying them with the pipeline of qualified workers they will need. Technology is cited as the great driver of change—creating products and jobs and changing required skills and educational practices.

He proposes a range of educational reforms, from increased access to early childhood education to early college initiatives to college affordability. Additionally he calls for a Personal Learning Plan, to “help guide each student’s education and also tie educational goals to career opportunities, making school more relevant,” something increasing in popularity in states across the country. He also calls for increased use of career and technical education centers around the state to allow students to update their skills to those being demanded in this global environment.

Bill Harrison, Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Education, wrote in their report,

It would be naïve to fall into the trap of believing that North Carolina can be harbored from globalization and still prosper in the coming decades. It would be equally naïve to believe that North Carolina can prosper without public schools and public charter schools embracing global changes in their preparation of students for life after school."

You can substitute any town, county, or state for North Carolina in that statement—no one is sheltered from the affects of globalization and the need for a globally competent workforce. Those with the foresight to recognize it will be the most prosperous.

To learn more about state initiatives to promote global competence, click here.

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