Part 3: Educating for Global Competence
There is agreement that educating for global competence needs to begin at an early age. That includes knowledge about and acceptance of people from other cultures. That is a must when considering our interconnected world and the increasing diversity in our own communities. Courses of study considered essential to educating a globally prepared student includes foreign language training, economics, geography and history, as well as a grasp of world issues. Internships, job experience and on the job training by many global companies can also optimize global competency.
Ideally all students should be able to look at the world both as a whole interconnected system, as a patchwork of individual countries, and from the perspective of the diversity within their own communities. Formal education needs to be supplemented by overseas experiences, continuous reading, and an abiding and genuine curiosity about the countries and people who share this one planet. In our high-speed lives, we will thrive as people, countries and as a planet, if we have the abilities to adapt smartly to change and that requires us to be educated to a model of global competence.
Global Competence, K-12
There are many examples of outstanding international programs that educate to a global competence model in both public and Catholic Schools in our region. One is the well-known Cincinnati Public School (CPS) Academy of World Languages (AWL), a magnet school for pre k-8. According to AWL’s website, staff and school represent 50 nationalities and languages and provide instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese and English as a Second Language (ESL). The school also serves a number of students who are English Language Learners (ELL) and has programs that celebrate AWL incredible cultural and language diversity. (www.awl. cps-k-12) Home exposure to other language skills at an early age, can make learning another language formally much easier and supplement what is offered in school.
Another example of teaching for global competence is found at Winton Woods High School, one of two schools in Cincinnati in the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN). Students in grades 9-12 are offered the opportunity to participate in the Academy of Global Studies (AGS) designed specifically to increase global competency. According to Ms. Krafka, “students come into school an hour early to take advantage of AGS learning opportunities.” This program just completed its fourth year of operation. (www.wintonwoods.com)
Ms. Krafka cites Nativity, one of Cincinnati’s many Catholic Schools, as another example of providing an education with a strong global outreach program. This k-8 school in Pleasant Ridge offers international travel beginning in the 5th or 6th grade, has had an exchange program with schools in 22 countries since l980 and has collaborated with local sister city programs in Ukraine and China. (www.nativity-cincinnati.org)
Mary Ronan, CPS Superintendent has this to say, “I know firsthand the impact that world travel can have on our young people, having traveled with a group of students to New Taipei City, Taiwan, in June 2014. This opportunity to travel internationally will influence and enhance each of their futures in unique ways. In today’s high-speed digital world, it is indeed a ‘small world’ where communication is instant and the ability to appreciate and interact with international cultures is invaluable. We want our students to acquire critical-thinking skills, be problem solvers and enter adulthood as full participants in the digital world surrounding them.”
Local Global Resources for K–12
I’m a proponent of utilizing local global resources which Cincinnati and the Tri-State has in abundance. Schools offering students the opportunity to interview immigrants and learn how and why they came to the U.S. open another window to the world. Bringing foreign nationals into classrooms through the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council is another opportunity for students. Teaching the basics about export/import and the role played by the enormous number of U.S. government and non-government agencies fighting AIDS or addressing water shortages or what it means to be a diplomat is also important to help students envision global careers for themselves. It is interesting to ask students the question, if you could have a global career, what would you like to do?
Global competence training should also extend to teachers. Teacher exchange programs set up by Sister City Associations in Cincinnati is just one example of many opportunities in our region to connect local global resources with educators.
Higher Education –Miami University’s Model for Global Interaction
Though starting global competency training in pre-K or kindergarten may be ideal, there has been an explosion of global programs in U.S. higher education. Foreign outbound instruction, exposure and training on university and college campuses with foreign students and international internships are just a few of the initiatives higher education institutions have sought to grow. While traditionally overseas study was more often than not in the cities and capitals of Europe, now students can find programs all over the global, especially in Africa and Asia and in a wide variety of disciplines.
A local example is Ohio’s Miami University, a leader in public universities sending students overseas. According to Erika Dockery, Senior Director of Development, Global Initiative and Principal Gifts at Miami University, “In 2013-14, 2434 students, or l3% of Miami’s student body, participated in study abroad. That placed MU in the top 25 of public universities sending students overseas. In addition to MU’s Luxembourg Campus, students now have access to foreign internship programs in places such as Hong Kong, Manila and Australia. In 2013-14, 45% of MU students had a study abroad experience at some point in their time at Miami. That makes us #2 in the country among public institutions for percentage of students who have a study abroad experience.”
Here is what two Class of ‘l6 MU Manila based interns had to say when Ms. Dockery asked them “how their intern experience increased cultural competency?” Alex Belman, said, “Many Americans don’t understand foreign cultures. It’s good to learn about them, but experiencing them is even better.” Michelle Johnson remarked, “Being immersed in a place that is completely different and being surrounded by people from other cultures increases our cultural competency exponentially. They want to share with us and they learn from us too.”
As President of Trans-Borders Solution and INTERPRO, for the past thirty years, and because I have worked in both the private and non-profit sectors on a wide variety of global projects, I had the privilege to counsel many college and post-college students as they searched for global careers and further education. Overall I am impressed with their global competency and their enthusiasm to work on vexing world problems. Some start their own non-profits doing overseas work or support the work of others. They see the larger world and want to make a positive contribution to its continuation.
For the undergrads interested in doing international work, signing up for a double major in some area of international study and coupling that with another major is a good idea. Why not East Asian Studies/Chinese and Environmental Studies as my son did at Denison or International Human Rights and Business or Economics and German? Having double majors, with one being an international major, expands your options for work experience and your search for and creation of ‘one-of-a kind’ work and educational experiences.
Exchange programs offered at many ages, many financially reasonable, are life expanding. Immersing yourself in another culture through longer exchange programs and overseas service programs such as Peace Corps is an ideal way to become fluent in another language and absorb the nuances of another culture. Both are life changing and confidence building experiences. Both build a foundation for the life-long learning that is global competence.
Overall I am buoyed by the exuberance of young people who want to tackle world problems. Just one example is Nathan Thomas a 23-year-old UC engineer graduate. He works as an engineer, but has a 501c3 non-profit working on solar and water issues in Uganda,
Community-Based Global Education for All Citizens
Though travel is an exceptional learning advantage, not everyone can or wants to travel the world. Nor should global knowledge or competency be thought of as only for an elite group of people who do travel and speak other languages. There are numerous global learning experiences available in our own communities and they are accessible to everyone.
I came up with the concept for, helped to found, and for years consulted with an educational non-profit that for over thirty years provided a comprehensive look at another country each year. While Middfest International brought in trade officials, diplomats, artists, performers, journalists, scholars and authors from other countries, it also worked with featured country foreign nationals and groups in the Tri-State. While it included K-12 programs and teacher training, programs were designed to appeal to and inform all citizens and at its peak reached over l00,000 people each year. There are numerous opportunities for all of us to learn about our region’s international heritage, our trade ties with the world and global businesses in Cincinnati.
All our local universities have strong international components, foreign students and agreements with other countries. Organizations such as the Foreign Policy Leadership Council and the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council regularly bring international visitors and experts to Cincinnati to speak and to interact with citizens. Our numerous foreign chambers of commerce hold meetings and conferences to educate people about business opportunities and the economic status of countries all over the world as does the Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center here.
Local museums, libraries, international festivals, immigrant groups and global non-profits offer excellent opportunities to learn about the world through your own community resources. Check out the global resources in our community on the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council, Global Cincinnati website (www.globalcincinnati.org) which lists over a hundred international organizations working on global commerce, development work that addresses the world’s problems, and education.
By Deborah E. Schultz, President Trans-Borders Solutions
Advisory Board Member, Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council