Op-Ed: Teachers Must Foster Global Competence in Students

intl opedWhen members of the Connecticut state’s Educator Preparation Advisory Council (EPAC) consider the essential competencies required for teachers, they must emphasize teachers’ abilities in building global competence in students.  In the 2010 MetLife Foundation survey of American teachers, 63% of teachers, 63% of parents and 65% Fortune 1000 executives believe that global competency is absolutely essential and very important to student’s future success. Likewise, it is essential for Connecticut’s success.

According to a study by the Asia Society and National Geographic Society, the vast majority of American students are not ready to compete in an increasingly globalized economy, or to assume leadership in world affairs. As illustrative examples of a lack of basic global understandings: over half do not study geography, economics, or non-western history; more than half significantly over-estimate the population of the United States; and young Americans are next to last in a nine country survey of knowledge of current events. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results of December 2010 indicate that, among students from 70 countries, American students ranked 31st in mathematics, 17th in reading, and 23rd in science. In Connecticut, our own range of student performance on NAEP and our statewide assessment indicates there is a need to consider serious questions about college and career readiness for all students to succeed.

President Barack Obama stated: “The source of America’s prosperity has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today. In a 21st-century world where jobs can be shipped wherever there’s an Internet connection, where a child born in Dallas is now competing with a child in New Delhi, where your best job qualification is not what you do, but what you know — education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it’s a prerequisite for success.”

In a recent joint letter to the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Asia Society, Global Teacher Education, Longview Foundation, and NAFSA—Association of International Educators argues that “we must consider how actions and decisions of citizens and leaders in one country can impact those across the world in unprecedented ways.  Our globally interconnected economy is a reality for teachers and students as much as it is for companies, entrepreneurs, families, government leaders, and charities.”

The letter further demands that teacher preparation programs “regularly create the opportunity for their students to explore and consider issues of globalization in a range of content and pedagogy courses” and “issues of global learning are not negotiable, but rather a fundamental element of the next generation of standards.”

The EPAC should be one of the first states to enact the recommendations jointly proposed by the Asia Society and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that teacher preparation programs should “integrate international learning opportunities and substantially strengthen requirements and support for developing the capacity among prospective teachers to teach for global competence” in all subjects.  The state should “encourage scholarly research and program evaluation” including “measuring the impact of diverse approaches to integrating global competence in K-12 curriculum, assessment, and instruction” and “examining the role of global competence education in school improvement.” Such a decision would bring not only a significant change to programs, but also to student experiences for every child in the state.

Global education is more than learning about other countries, it promotes self-reflection regarding one’s own community and culture.  Teachers play a critical role in promoting reflective thinking and civic engagement through the values and messages they convey about cultural norms.

As such, programmatic outcomes may include: understanding of one’s own cultural identity; learning from diverse cultures; understanding the world as one interdependent system; understanding prevailing world conditions, process of change, and emerging trends; developing skills for constructive participation in a changing world. In making this a priority, the committee would be investing in the civic, economic, and governmental future of Connecticut.

We believe that the EPAC’s leadership in ensuring our teachers are prepared to build global competence in our children will demonstrate its members’ commitment to our state, to our nation, and to the next generation of teacher educators and learners.

Dr. Peter Nicholls and Dr. Yuhang Rong also contributed to this article.

Dr. David M. Moss is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, a University Teaching Fellow, and the Interim Director of Teacher Education for the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.  Dr. Peter J. Nicholls is a Professor of Educational Leadership at the Neag School of Education, and formerly served as the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University of Connecticut.  Dr. Yuhang Rong is the Assistant Dean for the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, and chairs the Global Diversity Committee of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. 

This appeared in the CT Post Feb. 9, 2013.