It is undeniable that our world is more interconnected than ever. In today’s global society, students benefit from the ability to communicate and work with a wide variety of people from diverse corners of the globe, all with varying perspectives and experiences. Technology is connecting classes as young as kindergarten and preK from Canada to Japan to Finland, and yet the digital divide is more striking than ever. According to the 2010 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, an almost unanimous 98% of educators and 99% of school principals surveyed believe that global competence is important for students’ futures.
But- what is global competence? How can schools begin to understand global lessons in the context of elementary schools? How is global competency measured?
Let’s look at different descriptions that support global competency.
The Maastricht Global Education Declaration from 2002 states that
Global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the globalised world and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and Human Rights for all.
Global Citizenship is described by Oxfam as
enabling young people to develop the core competencies which allow them to actively engage with the world, and help to make it a more just and sustainable place. This is about a way of thinking and behaving. It is an outlook on life, a belief that we can make a difference.
Oxfam’s Curriculum includes 3 major sections: values and attitudes; skills; and knowledge and understanding; each are broken up into age groups from children in preK through the end of high school.
Each of the 3 sections are broken up into specific categories. For example, the values and attitudes include a value and respect for diversity, and a concern for the environment, while skills include cooperation and conflict resolution and the ability to challenge injustice and equalities.
Global competence is defined as
the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues, an appreciation of and ability to learn and work with people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, proficiency in a foreign language, and skills to function productively in an interdependent world community.
The NEA mentions 4 critical elements of global competency: international awareness, appreciation of cultural diversity, proficiency in world languages, and competitive skills such as high-level thinking skills that enhance creativity.
Global Teacher Education states that global competent students have:
“knowledge of and curiosity about the world’s history, geography, cultures, environmental and economic systems, and current international issues”
They also mention the importance of language skills, so that students are able to communicate across cultures and understand perspectives from around the world.
The most complete definition of global competency in my opinion is the EdSteps Global Competence Matrix (in partnership with the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning), comprised of four key ideas to be used at any level, in any subject area:
- Investigate the World
- Recognize Perspective
- Communicate Ideas
- Take Action
The first step in the process is to identify an issue of global significance, such as hunger, civil rights, or protecting endangered species. Students should use a variety of sources and media in their investigation in order to draw a conclusion.
Next, students should weigh their own attitudes, while recognizing the points of views of others, especially with regards to culture beliefs and experiences of those involved. Walking in another’s shoes comes with practice; thinking about how others would feel or the reasons behind their actions helps people make better decisions because they’re able to show compassion and empathy in their teamwork.
The third component is the use of a variety of media and technology to communicate the students’ ideas and reach a wider audience outside of their peers in class. This step is often a difficult step because of the overwhelming enormity of the options available today- but deep down we know that must embrace technology or be left behind.
Finally, taking global competency further means putting into practice what the class has learned by taking action and making a positive contribution to the world. This service learning constituent not only puts empathy into practice, but also shows students their importance and place in our connected world.
Global Competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Examples of such issues are environmental sustainability, population growth, economic development, global conflict and cooperation, health and human development, and human rights.
Check out the full Global Competency Matrix from EdSteps here.
These definitions are just the beginning of developing and incorporating global education into schools. To read more about how your school can empower and support your teachers in globalizing their curriculum, see my new book Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners. Written with acclaimed author Homa S Tavangar (of Growing Up Global), it is packed with hundreds of ideas you can implement today, from educational technology that connect your classroom to kids from around the world, global learning in every academic subject area (including Common Core aligned lessons), to professional development opportunities, dozens of service learning examples, and a multicultural reading list with over 300 titles. If you’d like to take your students on a global adventure- right from your classroom- this is the book for you.