School & District Management Opinion

Wisconsin’s Global Education Achievement Certificate

By Anthony Jackson & Gerhard Fischer — September 21, 2013 4 min read
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Wisconsin will start to offer high school students a Global Education Achievement Certificate (GEAC) to those who successfully complete coursework and co-curricular experiences that foster the development of global competencies. This is the first program of its kind. I’ve asked program architect Gerhard Fischer to describe how Wisconsin has made this Global Scholar honor available to students statewide.

Reactions to a recent press release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announcing the new Global Education Achievement Certificate (GEAC) have been quick and positive. Media coverage in print and radio has been encouraging, and a number of school districts inquired immediately about the process of implementing this voluntary new learning pathway for their students. Prior to the official press release, the Certificate was endorsed by all major Wisconsin education associations (principals, superintendents, curriculum directors, world language teachers), the Wisconsin School Board Association, and by business organizations such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Technology Council. The support of this broad coalition demonstrates the growing recognition that all students need opportunities to learn about the world and to become globally competent citizens.

What does the GEAC Entail?

The pathway toward the designation of Global Scholar is structured like certificate programs at the collegiate level. Similar to these programs, the GEAC does not require the creation of new courses. Instead, completion of the GEAC will be possible within existing curricula and approved courses offered at all high schools in Wisconcin. The GEAC engages students in global learning without losing focus on the Common Core and 21st Century Skills.

The specific requirements include four credits in one world language and four credits in other coursework with global implications. Students are also required to review and reflect on at least eight works of international cultural media, including at least four books, and participate in co-curricular and other school-sponsored activities. Those activities may include study abroad, hosting international students, being an active member of a language honors society, and many other similar activities validated by the school. Twenty hours of community service with global connections cap this rich pathway for future Global Scholars.

Interest, Need and Purpose

“We need students who are knowledgeable about the world and who have an understanding of how other cultures work and how other people think,” says Wisconsin state superintendent Tony Evers. And Miles Turner, retired executive director of Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, adds: “If we as leaders in American public education can’t be aware of the importance of intercultural relations and intercultural knowledge, we are failing our students.”

Wisconsin’s schools have created many opportunities for students to become global scholars. GEAC is the next step in acknowledging the need and value of educating globally competent students and citizens.

Educating for Global Competence

The Global Education Achievement Certificate is based on the definition of global competence and the concurrent global competence matrices in the publication Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World.

The evaluation of appropriate coursework and other required activities toward completion of the certificate should be evaluated based the ability to

  • Investigate the world beyond their immediate environment.
  • Recognize their own and others’ perspectives.
  • Communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences in more than one language.
  • Translate their ideas into appropriate actions to improve conditions, i.e. they have taken action.

Focus, Cohesion, and Identity through Global Education

Establishing the pathway for future Global Scholars gives schools an opportunity to examine existing curricula through the lens of global issues and adds cohesion to a fascinating pathway for students. The Global Education Achievement Certificate does not compete with other initiatives, such as STEM education, but emphasizes and highlights the realities of learning and working in a global context. Scientific research and its real-world applications are global just as the world economies, the arts, and the world of human thought in the humanities. The discovery of this world is fascinating and must be an integral part of our students’ education. The GEAC gives purpose and cohesion to sometimes disparate parts of existing curricula. Its adoption by local school districts will be a major step toward educating globally competent students, our future Global Scholars.

Gerhard Fischer is the international and world languages education consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Follow Gerhard Fischer and Asia Society on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning 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.